Saturday, February 1, 2014

Rick Warren's, and American evangelicalism's, "huge lie"

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.
-- Rick Warren
Evangelicals have taken a lot of heat for their continual disparagement of gay men and women, for their vicious, violent and absurd rhetoric, and the very real consequences it has for people. A rebranding scheme has long been under way, not to change the substance but the presentation, in order to convince people that it's not the sinner they hate, but merely the sin (a load of nonsense, if ever there's been one). Pastor Rick Warren's quote (above) is a congenially stated take on it, and it shows up quite often when a discussion of gay rights is underway.

Images like the above, which so far has garnered over 630,000 likes, nearly a quarter of a million shares, and reached 34 million people, tend to circulate as an excuse for bigotry: I'm not a bigot, I'm actually a compassionate, loving but principled person who refuses to sacrifice my principles because of nonsense and lies.

Now -- if one is willing to ignore the use of loaded terms like "lifestyle" -- Warren's assertion seems, on the face of it, true, or at least agreeable: there are plenty of people we disagree with, without hating them. And compassionate is always laudable. The problem isn't with what he states, that you can love someone without disapproving of some aspect of their lives; that you can disapprove of something about a person without hating them, and that you can be both compassionate and convicted. The problem is what he implies, and how his statement is applied. When you falsely conflate "disagree[ment]" with a "lifestyle" with actively attempting to deprive someone of the same rights that you enjoy, attempting hamper or impede a person's life or "lifestyle" until they conform to yours, etc., you are simply not being honest.

First, it's more than a question of "agree[ing] with everything [people] believe or do". There is a tremendous difference between agreement and actively working to prevent something. I may not agree with people who force their children to eat broccoli (the barbarism!), but I wouldn't presume to interfere -- much less prevent broccoli eaters from marrying, having families, or living. I wouldn't attempt to convince the public that broccoli eaters are a threat to our society, to children, and to the fundamental well-being of our nation. These are all things that evangelicals do in regards to gay people; Rick Warren himself is guilty of more than a few. The epic levels of understatement, then, should raise serious concerns as to Warren's honesty here.

Warren doesn't simply stick to understatement, though. He embraces full blown duplicity in his first line. Phrased in the negative, evangelical opposition to gay rights is not simply a matter of "disagree[ing] with someone’s lifestyle" (do note the duplicitous use of the loaded term "lifestyle", as if gay folks can just make a lifestyle change and get their act together, like a job-hopping kid putting off college who must finally make plans for his future). Again, though, this is beyond a matter of agreement or disagreement. These are mild terms, that in no way encompass the level of hostility and active opposition to homosexuals by evangelicals (including Rick Warren, whose version of "love" in action included a prolonged refusal to simply acknowledge that killing gay people was bad).

Again, I might disagree that forcing a child to eat broccoli as part of your healthy lifestyle is a good idea, and we might all the same maintain a cordial, loving relationship despite that disagreement -- but what I do as a result of my disagreement is going to be the deciding factor. If I keep it to myself, because, really, it's none of my business, or even let you know and then let it go, chances are good that we'll still be friends. That's going to break down, though, when I begin to insist that you shouldn't be allowed to marry, raise (or be around) a child, and further imply that you're a threat to society. If I leave it at, "yeah, that's not my thing," it's plausible to say that there is no evidence that I am unloving, uncompassionate, etc., toward you. As soon as I start attempting to curtail your rights, though, that trope goes out the window.

Despite the loaded language, on the face of it, Warren's assertions can be more or less true: you can disagree about things and still respect and love people. It's not a given, however, and it is relative to the situation. Furthermore, disagreement itself is not necessarily unloving, but what one chooses to do with that disagreement might -- or might not -- be. It becomes a lie, however, when one hides behind mere disagreement as a cover for active persecution. In the light that Warren meant and his followers mean this, it is simply a lie: depriving a person of the right to marry, raise a family, hold a job, exist without persecution, live without fear, etc., simply because they're attracted to a person of the same gender, is not compassionate. It is not loving. It is not merely a matter of polite, compassionate "disagree[ment]". It is just about as unloving, as bigoted, as uncompassionate and as cruel as you can get.

Sorry, Pastor Warren. The huge lie that our society has accepted is one that you and folks like you have been perpetuating for far too long: that you can be a bigot, a fool, and a fanatic and still lay claim to a moral high ground.


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    1. I ask the same question, why, when there is so much hatred directed against gay people, would anyone choose to be gay?!

      Of course, it's easier to whip your congregations into a righteous furor about "others" than it is to get them to focus on something else. So, give people an "enemy" that's not too close to home, and there you go. The tithes keep coming in, and they never have to look too closely at what you're teaching because it doesn't affect them, personally..

  2. I've never heard an evangelical, a Catholic, mormon or main stream protestant speak the way you suggested. Christ's love and acceptance is for all who come to him. If you are attending such a church, it might be time to go elsewhere.

    1. Norma, really? You've never heard a "Christian" person talk about denying people their rights? You must have lived in a cave for your entire life. And in case you're wondering, "Christian" is in quotes because actual followers of Christ would not espouse the views that these people do. There are literally millions of them out there, hundreds well known, but start with the American Family Association or the Family Research Council for fake "Christians" foaming at the mouth to deny people their rights and demonize them.

  3. Rick Warren's "two lies" statement is often taken out of context. He was actually discussing inter-faith activities that he and his church were involved in, such as sharing a meal on a Muslim holiday.