Sigh. Rick Warren did an interview with Christianity to Today to talk about gay marriage, the inauguration, the recession, and himself. In fact, it was mostly about him talking about himself. He is, after all, a personality. His churches and ministries are a mixture of a cult of personality and charisma that he reinforces through his speaking tours, his interviews, and his constant attempt at weaseling himself out of being labeled and being called out for what he does. He walks the fine line between integrity, commitment, and being a charlatan. His actions, and his mouth, tend not to agree with each other and he demands, and expects, that “others” will give any statement or action he does the benefit of any doubt. Everything he does is a positive gray and if it’s not seen as such, it is his detractors who are at fault, who are misinterpeting him, who are flawed. A rock is never just a rock it seems.
Rick Warren and I stand opposed on quite a few issues. We look at the same scripture, at the same religious traditions, at the same beliefs, at the same Trinity and His history with all people, and we come to different conclusions. That’s fine; Christianity is bigger than both Rick Warren and I. Where he sees literalism as religious tradition, I see cultural behaviors interfering with the work of the Holy Spirit. Where he sees a war between secularism and religion, I see a cultural struggle between science, the evolution of society, and the struggle with other. Where he sees persecution and reverse discrimination, I see a failure to approach oneself as critically as Scripture demands. Where he sees the story of the community of John’s expulsion from the synagogue as a required constant in the proclamation of the Gospel, I see a belief and faith structure that doesn’t realize that it is the synagogue. Where Rick Warren sees seekers as the primary mode of human existence, I see a failure to remember the young man who fled naked from the garden.
And on this day before Good Friday, I’m reminded of Peter’s 3 denials which I think Rick Warren, and his ilk, would do good to remember. Peter, standing tall, had no problem telling Jesus that Peter would not deny Jesus even if it lead to Peter’s death. Rick Warren always falls back on what “love” is. He, like many of the evangelical right, come under the misguided notion that “love” is less action and more a righteous of statement. He is right that we are commanded to love but he is wrong in believing that just by saying that, he does love. He is wrong when he believes that he is outside the political system when he brings presidential candidates to his church. He is wrong when he tries to act independent from his cultural surroundings when he, in reality, is merely an expression of it. He is wrong in embracing diversity while caught in a lie about his support for Proposition 8. He is, in a sense, trying to falsify who he is, where he stands, and what makes him who he is and how he is viewed on a national stage. His mind is turned toward human things.
Rick Warren comes out and lies, saying “You can discuss any issue except sexuality. That’s off the table. It’s the one area that is taboo.“. Coming from a member of the evangelical right, I find that to be very funny. Proposition 8, the gay marriage bans in 26 states, the fight against feminism, and even today’s attempt in Iowa of republicans in the state house trying to strong arm a gay marriage amendment, shows that sexuality is not off the table. It never has been and never will be. For almost 2000 years, Christian churches have been talking about sex. For 10,000 years, modern civilization has as well. We, as a species, like talking about sex. What Rick Warren is really saying is that sexuality is taboo because people disagree with him and they won’t shut up about it. For someone who believes that disagreements are not a sign of an inability to love, that is a very curious statement to make.
Rick Warren struggles with what we all struggle with, the idea that it is difficult to look past the film covering our eyes. Our cultural heritage, our language, our societal training, our parents, our families, our loved ones, our peers, and our little private worlds of individuality, all make it difficult to love as God loved us. Today, as Christians reflect on the Last Supper, it’s time to really embrace the new commandment that we were given. Look beyond our own private enterprise and turn to those that Jesus turned too – the rejected, the minorities, the outcasts, the sick, the poor, and the unrighteous. And not to make the mistake of Rick Warren and to miss the fact that us Christians, as the super majority religious belief system in the United States, are not just the persecuted but also the persecutors. We reject, we cast out, we separate, and we judge. And until we acknowledge that, believe it, and understand it, we will always make the mistake to create our own definition of love, a definition that falsely reflects human things at the expense of what comes from us above.