Recently I shot out a tweet to Rick Warren that I… half regret. I say half regret because the second half, in which I said, “who have you become?”, was unfair. The first half, asking him why he still hasn’t responded to the Human Rights Campaign’s call to again condemn and reach out to those in Uganda in an effort to stop the Kill-the-Gays bill from passing, is still very concerning to me. But there are many things I do not know. For instance, he may be doing it covertly and sees a public condemnation as the worst path to reconciliation. You attract bees with honey not vinegar.
But after thinking about that tweet and who Rick Warren is, I came to the conclusion that I had written him off as a Boogeyman. My timing is also in sync with many other organizations and blogs have come after him. His perceived silence and stupid comments regarding the LGBT community (Piers Morgan the other night when he compared homosexuality to arsenic).
But many of these writers don’t know how the inner rings of conservative Christianity work, and many do not see how, in the grand scheme of things, Rick is further along than his peers.
1. He Regrets 2009- Publicly
When Proposition 8 was up for a vote, Rick Warren released a video expressing his support for the measure. What many of us didn’t know was that it was a video only for his church. He wasn’t working in conjunction with the National Organization for Marriage or the GOP.
Recently he said that if he could do it over again, he wouldn’t have made the video. A humble admission.
2. He battles ignorance
Boogeymen love ignorance. It’s what feeds their followers and creates a reality separate from those pesky facts and reasonable people.
Earlier this year, Christian radio host Bryan Fischer, called HIV “harmless” and not the cause of AIDS. And then he basically went back to the AIDS-to-gays is as God-to-judgment analogy, a grotesque theological belief. Even more, he didn’t think AIDS victims were the type of people Christians should care about. Warren’s wife was first to condemn Fisher, calling his remarks, “indefensible”.
Later on they released a joint statement saying:
“People living with the virus are people that Jesus created, loves, and died for. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan teaches us that when you find someone bleeding on the side of the road, you don’t say ‘Was it your fault?’ You just help them in love! Let’s be very careful about what reality we deny; lives are at stake.”
Rick and his Church launched the PEACE Plan as a way to use their treasure and influences to change the world for the better. The acronym goes: Promote Reconciliation, Equip Servant Leaders, Assist the Poor, Care for the Sick, Educate the next generation. So far this program has been wildly successful and has brought many folks around the world to Christ.
When an individual is married to someone as wonderful as Kay Warren, they are probably not a boogeyman. Kay Warren is a champion for finding the cure to HIV/AIDS. She has been a relentless advocate on issues within Africa and around the world. Kay is not simply the woman behind the man, but a force to be reckoned with in the dumpster of poverty and disease. The world is better because of her.
5. He doesn’t use the pulpit to belittle others
Pastor Warren only discusses his views on homosexuality when he is asked, which happens to be a lot since it is the most divisive issue in the church today. He doesn’t hit the gay community from the pulpit and the only time his platform was used as a way to push back gay rights, was in 2009 which he has regretted doing.
6. He is a Bridge Builder
Pay attention- this one is important.
I watched an episode of HuffPost Live this morning, where the interviewer asked about the controversy (in culture) about his views on homosexuality. Warren rightly pointed out that if he disagrees with some on this issue he gets called a hater or a homophobe. Which makes no sense to him because he doesn’t hate anyone nor is he “afraid” of gay people.
The pivotal point came when he said that he bases his views on Bible, while others base it on other things like the world and culture. At this moment, the interviewer interrupted him and said, “other people base their beliefs on the Bible too, but have a different interpretation.” Instead of doing what I thought he was going to do, roll his eyes or skip on to something else, he said this:
“that is very true. What we need are the kind of conversations you and I are having right now. Non inflammatory, non flaming throwing, not saying ‘you must be a bad person because you disagree with me’ in fact, you can’t convince me to agree with you if you’re saying I’m a bad person… we’re losing our civility in civilization.”
THIS IS WHAT MY BLOG IS ABOUT! I love that he said this, because it is so reflective of a heart pursuing reconciliation. That we should never forget the difference between righteousness and rudeness. It is one of the best statements, I believe, he has made on this issue.
And some may argue that what he said doesn’t take much to say, but when you think about the other power players in the conservative Christian community who are so rigid in their loyalty to doctrine, this could potentially become a chink in his armor. That is, if they choose to attack him on it.
Pastor Warren is not perfect, neither am I and neither are you. He has said stupid things about sexual orientation, made ridiculous equivalents to homosexuality, and he will probably continue to do so. But he is not the Boogeyman. He is a faithful pastor who actually has a desire to engage in a meaningful dialogue on the most controversial issue facing the Church today. And he’s learning quickly how to do so in a manner that makes grace and love a top priority.
As I said in my post about Mark Driscoll, just because I think Pastor Warren has said destructive things, doesn’t mean his intent is destruction. And even further, he’s a huge net positive for the world. He chooses to take action instead of cheap shots.
No Boogeyman here!