Rick Warren talks to Christianity Today, remains completely unsexy while doing so

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.

The End of Christian America

The End of Christian America is, of course, not about the end of Christian America. It is about the end of the evangelical right’s dream and vision of their Christian America which is rightly identified as one of the temptations that Jesus said no to but one that the Church said yes too. As much as I agree about this article, I can’t help but question how much of our religious and cultural history is tied to the fact that we value rebellion, stressing it even more than the article above.

It reminds me of a story I read on another blog about how a mega church had discovered that their young people were now seeking high church services – services that were the opposite of the services their parents were participating in. The pastor of that story had success learning about liturgy (which was something he never heard of before). He went to discuss his findings at a conference only to be confounded by others from high church services who’s young people wanted low church/contemporary services. The pastor said that young people were “complicated”. Or maybe it has less to do with complication and more to do with our inherent desire, as young children, to seek out what is different from our parents.

The trick, of course, is that most revert back to their parents in some way as the years go by. But Americans have always valued the young and as our young generation now looks different than the old – more multicultural, more brown, less family oriented (even though the religious right tried to create a generation against that; they failed), the gen xers and millennials are now reverting away from what their parents wanted. And why? Because not only does America value rebellion (within a specific guidelines of course), America also tends to rewards them as well with a stable life. Societal mobility does not only mean that one is no longer limited to the status of ones birth – it also allows one to escape and move beyond the status of their childhood and life. As mainstream Protestant Christianity faded from the public eye and was replaced by the evangelical right, a large generation has begun to rebel away from their evangelical right traditions. And with the cultural makeup of the United States changing as well (when a town like Irving Texas has 70% of their elementary school students of hispanic descendent, that is a large cultural shift), there are currently other cultural and societal shifts that can consciously and subconsciously occupy our time.

The Evangelical Right’s political muscle broke in 2006 and started to fade as quickly as it had appeared. And it’s definition of what religious tradition is in the United States is going to fade as quickly as every other blowback has in the US tradition from various other Great Awakenings. The culture wars of the last decades does not necessary have to be defined by morality, judgment, class or race. It is, actually, defined by the fact that Americans are focused on the individual. We dislike “others” telling us what to do. And that, like the author says, is the United State’s real religion which is something that many people, on both sides of the aisle, don’t want to agree on because if everyone hates “others”, then we’re all the same. And if we’re all the same, the demons of our society are far too close to home.