Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Saddleback Takes Down Their Anti-Gay Statement

I am fascinated by the Rick Warren controversy. President-elect Barack Obama invited a preacher to say a prayer at his inauguration, a very conservative evangelical preacher. This preacher, like most evangelical preachers, does not accept homosexuality and does not believe gay people should be allowed to marry. He seems to support the legal rights that can be granted by a civil union but defines marriage in a narrow way that does not include same-sex couples and other variations on the theme. To him, marriage is one thing, it's one man and one woman. I am pretty sure that Rick Warren and I would disagree on every topic under the sun, but I am not going to judge whether he is a hater or not. Really, I don't know, I never heard of him before last week and neither did you, we just don't know anything about him. He is a powerful American, a preacher with a huge church, this reminds me of when presidents used to have Billy Graham say prayers at public ceremonies. I'll bet you'd find out ole Billy didn't care much for gay people either.

We are just emerging from eight years of polarization, with the Republican administration doing all it could to drive wedges between groups of Americans. The new president wants to close the gap, he wants to bring people together, and he has invited this preacher as a gesture toward that. At the same time, several states just passed anti-gay referendums of one sort or another, and Rick Warren was part of the effort in California. So while the new president is promising to implement policies that make life better for LGBT people, he is inviting an anti-gay leader to speak at his inauguration. Obviously, a lot of gay people and people who care about the issues are offended, and it's not hard to see why.

This is a classic framing problem, how you react depends on what viewpoint you decide to adopt in defining it. You can look at this in light of lesbian and gay issues, or you can look at it in terms of polarization in our nation. The Rick Warren benediction is a perfect microcosm, here we see why there is a problem and why it is hard to solve it. If we are going to bridge the gap, then people with different beliefs will have to show respect for one another. Rick Warren has shown a disgraceful lack of respect for LGBT people, yet to unite Americans one side or the other is going to have to extend an open hand. You can see the Obama's invitation to Rick Warren to say a prayer as surrender and failure to uphold his stated principles, or you can see it as magnanimity that will lead toward healing. It's both, and it's neither.

I don't care if you agree with me or not but I will say what I think so we can talk about it. I think if we resolve the polarization, the other issues will resolve themselves. I think we need to make an effort to reach out to the other side, to win them over with warmth -- you are not going to beat the puritans in an argument, because they aren't using facts and reasoning, they rely on authority, faith, intuition. I think Obama did the right thing, of course I can't stand people like Rick Warren but there are a lot of Americans like him, and if we are going to unify we need to behave respectfully toward those people, just by definition. It's just a prayer, this preacher is not going to be on a panel that sets policy. Obama's policies will be progressive and good, he's just invited a conservative preacher to come to the inauguration and ask God to bless the country.

Something interesting happened.

Warren's Saddleback Church had a web site that said:
Because membership in a church is an outgrowth of accepting the Lordship and leadership of Jesus in one's own life, someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted at [sic] a member at Saddleback Church. That does not mean they cannot attend church -- we hope they do! God's Word has the power to change our lives.

It's sad to think of a gigantic church full of people believing that Jesus would not save the soul of a gay person, but there you are. You know it's out there, they just said it out loud.

Thanks to AmericaBlog for noting that Saddleback Church has deleted this anti-gay wording suddenly. It's just gone. Disappeared yesterday, apparently, or the day before.

AmericaBlog's John Aravosis comments this way:
So does Rick Warren now welcome gays, all gays, as members of his church? Or is he simply embarrassed of his views - embarrassed of God's views, per Warren's own admission? And if Warren is embarrassed of God's views, then what is he doing as a public spokesman on religion?

Look, this is like if in the sixties a restaurant owner took the "whites only" signs down. It appears that Saddleback Church has re-thought its policy and dropped the rule that gay people can't be members. And what's wrong with that? Why is Aravosis still complaining? Of course, you know as well as I do that the Saddleback guys don't like gay people, but who cares? I'm sure there was a lot of pressure with the controversy and everything, and that statement was a little bit blunt, it was the 2008 version of the "whites only" sign. And they took it down.

If under Obama we can establish a dialogue between left and right, between gays and Christians, if Americans can start talking to one another, I think you'll find that a lot of our other problems will go away. For our side to be adamant about this is exactly like George Bush refusing to negotiate with some "Axis of Evil" country, it's exactly the same thing. No, you're not going to agree with somebody like Rick Warren, but nothing can get better if we can't show some respect for one another. Saddleback took down their anti-gay statement, and that's progress. Our side needs to show a little love, too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Huffington Post reports that Rick Warren supports Civil Unions and full rights, just not the title of marriage.

At this point in American history, that's good enough for me. Other things such as the military policy, trans-inclusive ENDA and hate-crimes, lgbt supportive school curricula, among others, are more important to me, and many members of my community, than the label 'marriage.'

December 23, 2008 10:52 AM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Jim said "Saddleback took down their anti-gay statement, and that's progress. Our side needs to show a little love, too.".

Taking down the statement isn't love, its just less hate. It is progress, but until he apologizes for saying gay marriages are the equivalent of pedophillic marriages its precious little progress.

December 23, 2008 11:26 AM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Warren is modifying his web site not out of any genuine repentance for his wrong-doing, but because it was the politically expedient thing to do. His real attitude towards gays is demonstrated by
videos of interviews that the Warrens did last year where they admitt that they didn’t care about HIV/AIDS when they thought it was just a “gay disease”…


Fox News: Hannity & Colmes - Warrens Address AIDS

12.20.07 09:00 pm - Pastor Rick and Kay Warren talk about their work with AIDS and Kay says, “I thought it was a gay disease. And for me I thought that meant I didn?t have to
care. And I was so wrong.”

ABC: Nightline - Kay Warren on AIDS

12.14.07 11:42 pm - Kay Warren, wife of pastor Rick Warren, admits she did not respond to the AIDS crisis immediately because it “was tied with homosexuality,” but now says all people with HIV/AIDS should be treated with compassion.

December 23, 2008 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Priya, these quotes make it sound like these people are learning to be more tolerant of homosexuality.

December 23, 2008 11:37 AM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

You could be right Mantu. By the same token the KKK has moderated its language, claiming that it does not hate blacks, that it supports black equality and so on. Should we take this as a sign that we "should establish a dialogue" between them and us?

December 23, 2008 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should black people and the KKK talk to one another? --Absolutely.

December 23, 2008 1:32 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

While Warren may be moderating his tone of late he still has a very long way to go:


In 2006 - 2007, Archbishop Peter Akinola led the charge for a bill that would:

"provide for five years’ imprisonment to anyone who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,” “performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage” or “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private.”"

Akinola must have really impressed Rick Warren because on April 30, 2006, Warren wrote a piece for Time Magazine in which he acknowledges his anti-gay activism and said

"New African, Asian and Latin American church leaders like Akinola, 61, are bright, biblical, courageous and willing to point out the inconsistencies, weaknesses and theological drift in Western churches.

With nearly 18 million active Anglicans in Nigeria, Akinola’s flock dwarfs the mother Church of England’s membership. And since he is chairman of the 37 million—member Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, when he speaks, far more than just Anglicans pay attention. Akinola has the strength of a lion, useful in confronting Third World fundamentalism and First World relativism.

I believe he, like Mandela, is a man of peace and his leadership is a model for Christians around the world.".

December 23, 2008 1:37 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Mantu said "Should black people and the KKK talk to one another? --Absolutely.".

So, you'd have had no complaints and not thought it unusual if Obama had asked the Grand Wizard of the KKK to give the invocation prayer?

December 23, 2008 1:39 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

It turns out that Saddleback is NOT taking down their anti-gay statement after all - they are merely converting it to audio:


December 23, 2008 3:22 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...

Jim and Robert are under the impression that Rick Warren supports civil unions. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, there is no real evidence for this. It is true that conservative writer John Leo so suggested on Huffington Post (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
_b_152166.html), but I can find nothing out of Rick Warren's mouth to that effect. If he did make such a statement, I suspect he would get the same treatment as that meted out to Richard Cizik, who recently came out for civil unions and was immediately fired as spokesman for the National Association of Evangelicals.

If Pastor Warren did say he was in favor of civil unions and retracted his suggestion that same sex unions have the same moral (as opposed to theological) status as polygamy, incest, and pedophilia, then that would be great progress. But let's not let him elide past these issues by smiles and hugs.

Still, Jim raises very good points. If Obama's selection of Warren to give the invocation at the Inauguration combined with the legitimate backlash against the selection leads Warren -- who is a very influential person -- to publically reassess his asseement of gay people and their families, then the angst caused by the selection will have been worth it.

I'm not holding my breath on this, but, as I may have mentioned before, I'd be happy to have lemonaide result from this lemon.

PS: One other thing. This is not a matter of gays versus Christians. It is a matter of gays versus some Christians (who I hope will eventually see how un-Christian their views about gay people are).

December 23, 2008 4:21 PM  
Blogger BlackTsunami said...

Well I was moderate until I hear that Warren posted a video attacking lgbts for causing him problems.

That just tears it for me. I still commend Obama for trying to reach out but for Warren to have said the things he said about lgbts and gay relationships and then expect us to sit back and not say a word is stupid.

This situation is obviously getting to him and rightfully so.


December 23, 2008 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


January 01, 2009 9:57 AM  

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