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