The Newer, Gay-Friendlier Rick Warren (Same as the Old Rick Warren with new packaging)

Timothy Kincaid

December 23rd, 2008

Rick Warren has been criticized recently at Box Turtle Bulletin for doing and saying some pretty disgusting things about gay couples recently. Our scrutiny increased after President-Elect Obama selected Warren to offer the invocation at his inauguration.

We were not alone in our criticism. The blogosphere, along with mainstream media, have run with the story (or at least part of it) challenging the Obama administration in its relationship with the gay community before he has even taken office and tarnishing the shiny-friendly image of Rick Warren’s brand of Evangelical Christianity.

So Rick Warren has taken his love show on the road. Over the past week he has been denying that he’s homophobic, laughing off complaints, declaring his civility, and chatting up Melissa Etheridge, and even changing his church’s website.

But sadly, most of Warren’s efforts have not been directed at healing the hurt he has caused. Instead he seeks to defend himself and dismiss the concerns of the community.

On Monday, Warren posted to his church’s website a video in which he purports to clarify his statements and give perspective. He does state in the video that he does not think that gay relationships are the moral equivalent of incest or pedophilia or polygamy.

But mostly it’s just a denunciation of journalists and bloggers and anyone else who dare criticize Rick Warren.

In the video he reimagines his interview with Beliefnet in which he compared gay couples to incest, polygamy, and pedophila. As he retells it, he also objected to unmarried couples living together and commonlaw partnerships.

This didn’t fly with Steve Waldman, the Beliefnet writer who interviewed Warren.

In his December 22 video Warren had an opportunity to do something quite straightforward and healing: clarify, take resonsibility and, ideally, apologize. He did clarify but did not, in my view, take responsibility. He could have simply said, “it came out in a way I didn’t mean and I apologize for those who I hurt because of that.” It wouldn’t have required him to back off his position on gay marriage one iota. Instead, he blamed the media and misremember or mischaracterized what he’d said.

Rick Warren is probably not an evil guy. And he probably doesn’t go about his day thinking of how to make the lives of gay people more difficult.

But Warren is like many preachers I have known. He is convinced that God has called him and that this entitles him to stand above criticism. He’s become accustomed to being a leader of his flock (at 22,000 an awfully large flock) and having his word equated with Gospel.

To Rick Warren, admitting that he has done others wrong is akin to admitting that God is wrong. And why should he back down? God is on his side.

Sadly, the history of Evangelicalism is full of those who were convinced that conquering their personal moral failings were secondary to God’s Work, who were certain that God performed as they declared, and who discovered that pride comes before a fall.

Rick Warren would be well served by publicly repenting for his sin against gay couples and seeking a life of humility in which criticism is weighed for its worth and complaints are not laughed away.

David C.

December 23rd, 2008

Rick Warren is exhibiting all the characteristics of a politician. He’s beginning to position himself as a power broker. Funny how the long arms of Obama extend as far right and left as they do. It’s the kind of reach that will allow him to make a start toward ending the Culture War, reestablishing confidence in markets, and bringing the whole country together to meet the increasingly complex challenges we face as a nation.

I think that by now nobody should be surprised that Obama selected this man to give the invocation at his inauguration. Obama has an instinct for politics that is lost on most progressive thinkers. Evangelicals played crucial roles in the setting of policy at key times in the last decade, and Obama would not be worthy of the office if he lacked the perspicacity to observe that he must start to open up a dialogue with them. Pulling in a charismatic with a large following is a good way to capture share in the marketplace of ideas. A lot of things have to change, and the more interests he can engage early and get pointed in the same direction, the sooner the divisions between them will simply disappear.

By jumping on the Warren selection for the inaugural invocation, progressives have in a number of ways called attention to the Rick Warren phenomenon. It’s no accident that Warren starts “cleaning up” his image. He’s preparing himself to assume the role of moderate leader and potential middle-man between Obama and the more ardently conservative evangelicals. This brings Obama squarely into the culture war as the commander in chief of the US to truce with those waging war to advance their short list of moral hot-button issues. Keep in mind these “issues” were enough to deliver Bush a second term in 2004 when Carl Rove successfully engineered a strategy to use gay marriage as a wedge. Obama has to be thinking in two-year increments and not overreaching while moving quickly to get the country back in operating condition.

Progressives are going to have to weigh in meaningfully after Obama becomes President. By then, the Warren participation in the inauguration will have played out, and they will need something substantiative to bring to the table they have finally gotten a seat at. That means understanding that the influence of spiritual leaders is currently playing a role in the development of policy both in the US and abroad.

RomeoandJoe

December 24th, 2008

Can a leopard change it’s spots? This guy is such a megalomaniac that he will say anything to hold on to what he thinks is power. We are not Christophobes we are Rickophobes!
He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing…and I’m waiting anxiously for his eventual public breakdown and confession to so horrible ‘sin’ he has committed in some sleezy hotel room.. He ‘doth protest too much’…
Is Obama strong enough to admit his mistake?
We do not want RICH/HARD WARren as our next nation pastor.

Craig L. Adams

December 25th, 2008

What you’re saying here about the way Rick Warren has responded to criticism rings true for me. In a way I hate to say that. I’m no big fan of Warren, but I like the idea of Obama reaching out to evangelical Christians, and Warren seems to be the most visible one around. But, that quote from Steve Waldman is right-on. It puts into words something I’ve been feeling about this for a while. Warren is defending himself and his ministry. And, that’s all.

rusty

December 25th, 2008

With Rick Warren in the National Spotlight, coupled with his feeble attempts to put a new spin on his ‘evangelical mission’, has been a true gift for the holidays.

Prop 8 is in the news again, GLBT folk have more press, and Obama is having the opportunity to bring more onto the fence of indecision.

Please, count our blessings. . .In biblical terms, Obama can give us the fish or we can take it upon ourselves to learn to fish. In other words, let’s not forget the lessons learned from the dismal Prop 8 Fiasco.

rusty

December 25th, 2008

‘this’ has been a true gift for the holidays. . .

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