You almost feel sorry for Rick Warren. As Hemant among others has pointed out, he was recently caught making statements that could charitably be called misleading and uncharitably called bald-faced lies. He claimed to have never endorsed Proposition 8 but everyone found a video that showed him doing just that. As far as I can understand, his excuse is that his video telling people to vote for Proposition 8 wasn’t an endorsement. (No, it doesn’t make sense to me either.) Now he’s making excuses not to go on ABC’s This Week, citing exhaustion.
But things must be particularly bad when one of Rick Warren’s supporters starts calling him out on his bad excuses. Warren blamed Beliefnet founder Steven Waldman for phrasing a question poorly, saying, “I was asked a question that made it sound like I equated gay marriage with pedophilia or incest, which I absolutely do not believe.” Waldman responded in a post sarcastically entitled “Why Rick Warren’s Controversial Words on Gay Marriage Are Entirely My Fault”:
Judge for yourself. Here’s the full exchange:
“WARREN: The issue to me, I’m not opposed to that [some partnership rights] as much as I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
BELIEFNET: Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?
[WARREN:] Oh , I do. For 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion – this is not a Christian issue. Buddhist, Muslims, Jews — historically, marriage is a man and a woman.
Had he wanted to clarify that he didn’t equate gay marriage with those other relationships he might have slightly altered the wording from “oh, I do” to something like, I dunno, “oh, I don’t.” That might have been clearer.
This whole controversy could have been easily avoided if he’d taken a modicum of responsibility and said, “I’m sorry. I did accidentally imply that homosexuality and these other relationships were morally equivalent. That’s not what I believe, and I apologize for implying that.” Instead, he’s blamed other people for distorting his words.
Now, Steven Waldman is not my favorite person in the world (he doesn’t even crack the top 10), but I admire how he handled the situation. After criticizing Warren for failing to take responsibility, he ends his post saying “Having not learned my lesson, I want to close with another defense of Rick Warren. Despite his lack of self awareness on gay marraige [sic] (and the pain he’s caused gays), I still think that he deserves to [sic] great credit for his extraordinary work in fighting poverty and disease in Africa. This man is saving thousands of lives and we should keep looking at the full Rick Warren.”
Indeed. Let’s give credit where credit is due and blame where blame is due. Rick Warren has flaws, and those deserve condemnation. His excuses are wearing thin and his views on homosexuality are harmful. But he is also doing good works, and let’s not forget those.