Shuck and Jive

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Rick Warren Continues to Play the Victim

Yesterday I posted on Rev. Rick Warren. I received a complaint via e-mail that I wasn't treating him as a Christian brother. Today I was sent a link to this interview in Christianity Today. Here is the relevant portion:

You told Larry King last night, "During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never — never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop. 8 was going." But just before the election, you filmed a video for your congregation and said, "If you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8."

What I was trying to say is, those who obviously opposed my viewpoint on the biblical definition or the historical definition of marriage were trying to turn me into an anti-gay activist. The truth is, Proposition 8 was a two-year campaign in the state, and during those two years, I never said a word about it until the eight days before the election, and then I did make a video for my own people when they asked, "How should we vote on this?" It was a pastor talking to his own people. I've never said anything about it since. I don't know how you take one video newsletter to your own church and turn that into, all of a sudden I'm the poster boy for anti-gay marriage.

Obama called me the first week in December and asked me to do the invocation [prayer]. I made a commitment to say nothing to the press about it until after the inauguration. For nearly 40 days or 50 days — I called it 40 days of persecution (laughs) — I took all kinds of flak and never responded back.

The only response that I made was, I wrote an e-mail to all of the gay leaders that I know. I have many friends who are gay leaders whom we've worked with on AIDS campaign on health, poverty, and disease. The guys that I knew, I apologized to them.

In a Beliefnet interview, which was an hour long, Steve Waldman asked me about gay marriage. I said I believe marriage, that term, should be reserved for a man and a woman. I'm not saying same-sex couples don't love each other. I gave some examples of what I think shouldn't be considered to be marriage, like an older guy with a younger woman. Then [Waldman] said, "Are you saying that those are the same thing?" I said, "Oh sure." It made it sound like I was equating homosexuality with pedophilia and incest. I don't believe it, never have, and never would.

I don't believe that, but because I made a commitment to not say anything about it, people just ran with it. They were looking for a new poster boy. There's a lot of hatred out there. People don't realize that you don't have to agree with somebody to love them. I am commanded to love everybody. I can disagree with people, but I'm not free to not love them.

Rev. Warren is claiming he is not an anti-gay activist. I agree. So why is he having all of these interviews (Larry King, Christianity Today) to show people he isn't? He said the video in which he said, "If you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support proposition 8," was a "pastor talking to his own people."

True enough. Except that "his own people" includes a 20,000 member congregation, now at several locations. All of his services are on-line. His Easter service will be broadcast on Fox News. He hosted a nationally televised conversation between the two presidential candidates. He has written best-selling books. Not only that, Warren is a powerful, influential, national (perhaps international figure) who has access to the corporate media and to the halls of power including the President of the United States. In the span of 24 hours he has interviews on Larry King and in Christianity Today. I am tickled when I get an interview in the Elizabethton Star. He is not simply a country preacher talking about his views at the church potluck.

I agree that he is not an activist or that he sees himself as such. We think of an activist as someone who writes a blog, organizes a meeting, passes out flyers, makes phone calls, and so forth. He doesn't do that. He doesn't need to do that. All he needs to do is what he did. He posts a homey video on his church's website that the entire planet (including California) can see just a few weeks before the vote. It had influence. Huge influence.

Now he plays the victim, "there's a lot of hatred out there." Rick, let me spell it out for you. You are a powerful, influential figure. You took a side. There's nothing wrong with that. But in so doing you stepped in a hornet's nest. Now take your stings like a big boy.


  1. As Christians should we be trying to sting one another? I understand that we have disagreements. The Apostles disagreed, the disciples argued with each other. Yet at the end, they and hopefully we, all realize that we are serving the same Risen Lord who prayed for our unity.

    As we prepare for the Easter Week celebration, perhaps we can lay aside our own political agendas, and instead pick up branches to lay in the path of our Lord.

    If we cannot treat each other with Christ like attitudes, how will we be able to minister to others?

  2. "Political agendas" is a pleasant euphemism. It's as if we're talking about tax policy, or whether or not a particular area of town should be designated a historic district. Instead we're talking about justice, equality, love, and reconciliation.

    Calling a minister like Warren to repentance for his lies is indeed treating him with a Christ like attitude.

    Sting one another? Nah. This is just telling the truth. Telling the truth ought not be labeled as "stinging" someone, or a "political agenda."

    I think it's interesting that the problem here is being spun as "stinging someone" rather than condemning Warren's obvious lies. How can there be unity in the face of such lies?

  3. mmm...seems to me the issue is not so much what am I 'supposed to do" or 'how am i supposed to behave,' BUT rather: the reality IS: if u put yourself (and opinions) 'out there,' don't be surprised that there are others 'out there' who will disagree with you AND let u know it. thanks, john.
    plus i love the phrase 'hornets nest...getting stung!'

  4. It's just the same as the Whitehouse lying about Obama bowing to the Saudi Arabian King.

  5. You mean because lying is wrong? Yeah, of course.

    Was there a point there?

  6. It goes further than this. Warren let his church be used for prop 8 supporters meetings and rallies. He contributed large amounts of money to the cause. He was very open about his support for Prop 8 even before the video endorsement, which we knew would see wide distribution and was specifically timed to have as much impact on the vote as he thought possible. Whatever HE thinks the definition of an activist is, he was clearly engaged in activism for prop 8. However you twist it now, the man is dissembling.

  7. I hope that you can back up the claim that Warren contributed large amounts of cash.

  8. I'm actually not aware of any cash that Warren donated specifically to Prop 8. I've looked through the donor lists and the Center for Responsive Politics and not found his name as an individual donor.

    However, all that says is that he probably did not individually donate. There's no way of knowing whether or not he donated to other groups that then donated to prop 8.

    While we're exposing his lies, it's important to be as accurate as possible.

  9. Yes it is important to be as accurate as possible.

    I am still wondering at what point one becomes an activist?

    By voicing one's support for an issue or a candidate, does that then make one an activist?

    Is Obama an activist for traditional marriage, because he has voiced his support for traditional marriage?

    Isn't that the crux of this whole thing? One video shows Warren voicing his support for Prop 8 and on Larry King, Warren says he is not an activist nor was he an activist for Prop 8.

    Where is the lie?

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  11. What Warren said, from the transcript, "During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never -- never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going."

    Never once issued a statement or an endorsement?

    How about this: "Let me just say this really clearly. We support Proposition 8. And if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8."

    Or how about this, from an email he sent regarding a question he received on Prop 8:

    "The week before the -- the vote, somebody in my church said, Pastor Rick, what -- what do you think about this? And I sent a note to my own members that said, I actually believe that marriage is -- really should be defined, that that definition should be -- say between a man and a woman."

    Never once issued a statement?

    The issue isn't whether or not he was an "activist" whatever that means. The issue is that, as the video endorsement shows, he did indeed endorse Prop 8, and he did indeed make statements about it.

    Those are the lies. Pretty clear, if you ask me.

  12. If one is going to use the apostles as a model for how Christians should treat one another, then a look at Paul in his letter to the Galatians should provide an example. Mincing no words, Paul attacked Peter in the strongest terms, accusing him of being a hypocrite.

  13. You know, Living, I may not be Christ-like, but save the saccharine piety.

    Fact: Warren is the most powerful and influential preacher in the U.S. today.

    Within 24 hours he is being interviewed by national media-- twice!! What does he do with his time? He defends himself! Against what? Against accurate charges that he used his influence to promote proposition 8.

    He claims he didn't by playing word games with the word activist.

    "Who, little ol' me? Little ol' me? I'm just an aw shucks preacher. Why are you meanies picking on me? I am no activist."

    I wouldn't have written anything. I forgot about him--until he goes on national news--TWICE!

    The funny thing is, I have a soft spot for this guy. I actually think he is going to come around on equality.

    It will be great when he does. He is not there yet by a long shot.

    To be charitable, I really don't think he understands what it means to have this influence and power at his fingertips.

    He is either naive or deceptive.

    Perhaps he really does think of himself as a humble country preacher. Maybe he doesn't understand that with his level of influence that stating an opinion (and he did more than just that) has huge, huge effects.

    He could have done (and still can do) this:

    "Yes world, I did use my influence to pass proposition 8 because I believe marriage is between one man and one woman."

    That is an honest statement about what he believes and how he acted on that belief.

    Or he could say,

    "Yes world, I did use my influence to pass proposition 8 and I feel badly about that. I was wrong. I am changing my mind and I now support marriage equality."

    That would be awesome.

    But he does neither.

    He dissembles. He claims he didn't use his influence (by hiding behind the word activist) while at the same time still promoting discrimination and then covering it over by saying how much he loves everybody.

    I support lgbt rights. I say that I support lgbt rights. I use whatever influence I have in that support. I admit that I do it.

    Over the course of my ministry I have lost church members over it. Fine. I have lost friends over it. Fine. Some people don't like it. Fine. That is the price you pay for following your conscience. Rick Warren needs to learn that there is a cost to following his.

  14. Yup, he's lying.

    But why? It's such an obvious black and white lie. And he's got nothing to gain by it.

    Maybe he's just loosing his mind. It would be a shame. He's kind of young for that.

  15. Nothing to lose over it? Oh, there's plenty to lose. I'll bet Rick Warren would lose many more "friends" by a change of conscience than he is willing to lose. Like Jesus's not easy to follow could get crucified.

  16. Good point, Donald.

    When Rick Warren's consciousness is raised and he comes to the position of embracing equal rights for lgbt persons he will have a big decision to make.

    Will he go public with his change in views?

    If he does he will likely lose his religious empire. Many of his followers will turn against him as well as his colleagues.

    But he will gain his soul and he will save lives.