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Posts for December, 2008

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2008

Rick Warren claims he’s not a homophobe because he has “many gay friends” and has “eaten dinner in gay homes.”  And yet, he still believes that his friends’ relationships are no different morally from child rape, incest or polygamy.

I wonder. How many child rapists, polygamists or incestist (to coin a word) has Warren broken bread with?

Debate Over Rick Warren Continues

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2008

Hillary Rosen appeared on Anderson Copper’s AC360 on CNN to talk about Obama’s selection of Rick Warren, where she called this selection an “outrageous mistake.” She’s clearly angry about this choice. Good for her.

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Outrage over Warren’s recent comments in which he equated the relationships of his “many gay friends” to child rape, incest and polygamy were just reaching its peak when the Obama team made the announcement. The inaugural committee has already issued their talking points. They go like this:

  • This will be the most open, accessible, and inclusive Inauguration in American history.
  • In keeping with the spirit of unity and common purpose this Inauguration will reflect, the President-elect and Vice President-elect have chosen some of the world’s most gifted artists and people with broad appeal to participate in the inaugural ceremonies.
  • Pastor Rick Warren has a long history of activism on behalf of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. He’s devoted his life to performing good works for the poor and leads the evangelical movement in addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis. In fact, the President-elect recently addressed Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health to salute Warren’s leadership in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and pledge his support to the effort in the years ahead.
  • The President-elect disagrees with Pastor Warren on issues that affect the LGBT community. They disagree on other issues as well. But what’s important is that they agree on many issues vital to the pursuit of social justice, including poverty relief and moving toward a sustainable planet; and they share a commitment to renewing America’s promise by expanding opportunity at home and restoring our moral leadership abroad.
  • As he’s said again and again, the President-elect is committed to bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground. That’s the only way we’ll be able to unite this country with the resolve and common purpose necessary to solve the challenges we face.
  • The Inauguration will also involve Reverend Joseph Lowery, who will be delivering the official benediction at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery is a giant of the civil rights movement who boasts a proudly progressive record on LGBT issues. He has been a leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, gay or straight.
  • And for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.

There are a number of pastors who can disagree without being disagreeable. Pastor Warren just doesn’t fit the bill. I cannot allow my relationship to be considered “equivalent” — his assented characterization — to child rape or incest. A man who hold such profound animosity with his fellow Americans to say such a thing has no place in this celebration.

Rev. Joseph Lowery is an excellent choice to deliver the benediction, but that doesn’t excuse Warren’s selection for the invocation.  “Balance” isn’t achieved, for example, by having a segregationist and a civil rights worker, or an anti-Semite with a Rabbi. There would be no justification to have a segregationist or an anti-Semite as part of the program to begin with. Nor is there any for having Warren at the podium as well.

But hey, thanks for including a band in the parade.

HRC and PFAW Respond To Rick Warren’s Selection For Inaugural Invocation

Jim Burroway

December 17th, 2008

The Human Rights Campaign sent this open letter to President-Elect Barack Obama:

Rev. Warren cannot name a single theological issue that he and vehemently, anti-gay theologian James Dobson disagree on.  Rev. Warren is not a moderate pastor who is trying to bring all sides together. Instead, Rev. Warren has often played the role of general in the cultural war waged against LGBT Americans, many of whom also share a strong tradition of religion and faith.

We have been moved by your calls to religious leaders to own up to the homophobia and racism that has stood in the way of combating HIV and AIDS in this country.  And that you have publicly called on religious leaders to open their hearts to their LGBT family members, neighbors and friends. 

But in this case, we feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination.  Only when Rev. Warren and others support basic legislative protections for LGBT Americans can we believe their claim that they are not four-square against our rights and dignity. In that light, we urge you to reconsider this announcement.

People for the American Way also denounced the selection:

…[T]he sad truth is that this decision further elevates someone who has in recent weeks actively promoted legalized discrimination and denigrated the lives and relationships of millions of Americans.

Rick Warren gets plenty of attention through his books and media appearances. He doesn’t need or deserve this position of honor. There is no shortage of religious leaders who reflect the values on which President-elect Obama campaigned and who are working to advance the common good.

Rick Warren To Deliver Invocation at Inauguration

Jim Burroway

December 17th, 2008

The New York Times’ Katharine Seelye is reporting that Rick Warren, the pastor at Saddleback Church, has been chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to deliver the invocation at the inaugural ceremony.

This is the same Rick Warren who recently said that the relationships of his “many gay friends” are no different from child rape, incest or polygamy. He also jumped on the paranoia bandwagon surrounding same-sex marriage by falsely claiming that Prop 8′s failure somehow would have overturned the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion. (It can’t. No law or state constitution can.).

Warren himself has acknowledged that the only difference between himself and Focus On the Family’s James Dobson is just “a matter of tone.”  So given President-elect Obama’s stated commitment to bringing the country together, it’s hard to fathom the reasoning behind choosing such a divisive figure. What’s worse, this decision to include Warren revives memories of the controversy surrounding ex-gay advocate Donnie McClurkin’s partication in an Obama campaign event in South Carolina during the primaries. This announcement will certainly be taken as another punch in the gut.

More details and reactions to follow, I’m sure. You can count on it.

Update: Are you looking for someone to email to express your outrage? Well, a well-placed source just provided these email addresses:

You can also contact Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office. She chaired the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and made the announcement.

Update: People for the American Way respond.

Rick Warren Exploits Paranoia To Defend Prop 8

Jim Burroway

December 16th, 2008

Rick Warren — you remember him. He has all of those “many gay friends” — said this about why he supported California’s Prop 8:

…There were all kinds of threats that if that [Prop 8] did not pass, then any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn’t think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships. And that would be hate speech. To me, we should have freedom of speech. And you should be able to have freedom of speech to make your position, and I should be able to have freedom of speech to make my position. And can we do this in a civil way?

This is unadulterated nonsense. First, a civil marriage law does nothing to impinge on what a pastor can preach. Divorce is very common, but you can waive all the divorce decrees and new marriage licences in front of a Catholic priest’s face and he’s not going to marry anyone unless the Vatican has granted an annulment. And he’ll be happy to explain it to the couple in his office, at the pulpit, on the Internet, or anywhere else. It’s not hate speech.

And what if it were considered hate speech? No problem there either because in the United States, hate speech is not against the law. And it can never be against the law as long as the First Amendment is in effect. We already have laws against discrimination based on race and religion, but even with those laws, Rick Warren can be as anti-Semitic and racist as he wants to be. He’s neither of those things, but if he wanted to be, he could. And the law would protect him.

I suspect Rev. Warren knows that. But he’d rather stoke the paranoia of his fellow evangelicals than actually discuss the issue “in a civil way.”

Some of Rick Warren’s Best Friends Are Gay…

Jim Burroway

December 16th, 2008

– and he’s even eaten dinner in their homes! — but Rick Warren views their marriages as being equivalent to incest, child rape and polygamy:

Rick Warren: But the issue to me is, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

Steven Waldman: Do you think, though, that they are equivalent to having gays getting married?

Rick Warren: Oh I do.  …

… Most people, you know… I have many gay friends, I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes, no church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church. Kay and I have given millions of dollars out of “A Purpose-Driven Life” helping people who got AIDS through gay relationships. So they can’t accuse me of homophobia. I just don’t beleive in the re-definition of marriage.

Rev. Warren used his pretext of “many gay friends” and the work that Saddleback Church has done for ”people who got AID through gay relationships” to say, “they can’t accuse me of homophobia.”

But it seems to me that if a friend of mine said that my relationship was no different than having sex with my brother or sister or a young child, that person would no longer be my friend. And I’d most likely call him a homophobe.

I wonder what Rick Warren’s “many gay friends” think?

Click here to read the full transcript

Saddleback Church To Welcome Gay Dads?

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2008

Not quite. But that’s one half of two conflicting messages coming from Timothy Egan’s New York Times blog. Egan reports that:

This Father’s Day, one of most popular pastors in America will open his megachurch to homosexual dads, an event that would usually signal an extreme weather alert from old guard Republican evangelical leaders.

But by welcoming gay fathers into his Southern California flock, Rick Warren, author of the “The Purpose Driven Life,” is not just living up to the highest standards of Christian fellowship, he’s turning the page on a particularly embarrassing part of our politics.

Which would be great news, if the story were accurate. Egan uses that story to launch a celebration of conservatives generally appearing to abandon the culture wars. But then after he’s done celebrating, Egan has this little postscript appended to the end of his post:

POSTSCRIPT: Following news of the plan by gay fathers to attend Saddleback Church this coming Sunday, the church’s pastor, Rev. Rick Warren, has issued a statement clarifying the church’s role. “We did not invite this group, and I will not be meeting with them,” he said, adding that he had a previous commitment and would not be in church on Sunday.

So much for celebrating.

Why Does Focus Fear the Snakeywolves?

Timothy Kincaid

January 23rd, 2008

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This spring, Soulforce will follow their successful campaign to bring awareness to conservative campuses with a campaign to bring Good News to evangelical mega-churches. They have identified six pastors and churches that they wish to approach and seek dialog:

• Rev. Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas
• Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas
• Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland
• Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia
• Rev. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois
• Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California

They have sent letters to each of these pastors

The letters inform each pastor that a delegation of families with two moms and two dads, as well as supportive heterosexual-parent and single-parent families, plans to visit each church. The letters invite their congregations to collaborate in creating opportunities for meaningful conversations. Over the next several weeks, staff from Soulforce, UFMCC, NBJC, and COLAGE will negotiate peaceful forums with members from each of the congregations.

Some might think that such efforts are futile, but history shows us that it if we don’t speak to those who oppose us we cannot have any hope of influencing them. And we have also seen some who have been willing to allow God to shift their thinking on issues surrounding sexual orientation.

Polls have also shown that those who are familiar with gay people are far more likely to support gay civil equality. We also know that it is far easier to condemn the person whom you don’t know than it is to look someone in the face and offer them cruelty.

Perhaps it is the potential for true communication that has frightened Focus on the Family. FOTF’s Caleb Price has sent out a warning against the churches meeting with or listening to Soulforce. And Price expresses his concerns in the most fearful and demonizing of ways.

“As with any temptation to disregard God’s clear word on any given matter, this attempt by Soulforce and their allies is a classic example of what we see in Genesis Chapter 3, when the serpent tempts Eve by [asking] ‘Did God really say …?’” says Price. “And I think perhaps the biggest lesson we can take from that account is it’s best not to talk to snakes. Scripture clearly teaches that there will be a great falling away in the last days and there will be wolves in sheep’s clothing who will try to enter into the fold and deceive even the elect.”

Portraying Soulforce as snakes and wolves (or perhaps snakeywolves), Price seeks to keep churches from seeing Soulforce’s members as human, as children of God. Accusing them of being tempters to a false doctrine, Price aligns Soulforce with forces of evil.

“These churches that have been targeted by Soulforce need to be clear about the real agenda behind these staged actions,” he says. “It’s not for dialogue and greater understanding — it’s to tempt them to embrace a false doctrine, which will keep many from the gospel message of hope and transformation for those who are trapped in homosexuality.”

However, there is hope that with such obvious and blatant fear-mongering, Price’s efforts may not be effective. We have faith to believe that some within the mega-churches will be able see beyond snakeywolves and emissaries of Satan and will hear the message brought by sincere and devout Christians seeking to spread the Good News of a loving and inclusive God.

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