I saw on Twitter last night a clip of Rick Warren being interviewed by Chelsea Clinton on Rock Center with Brian Williams. The topic was gay marriage. After watching the clip I had a few thoughts:
Early in the interview Warren noted, “[People] all don’t have to agree with someone to love them…if I don’t agree with you that means I hate you or am ‘phobic of you, etc.”
I couldn’t agree with that statement more. As I’ve said a million times, the biggest misnomer in contemporary society is that we have to agree in order to love well. However, the biggest variable in that statement is what Warren, or myself, or anyone else defines “love” to be? My version of love? Incarnational relationship where there is no separation between living your faith in daily life while simultaneously living in the tension of relationship with a variety of my LGBT brothers and sisters in the neighborhood – holding me accountable for the authenticity of what we have together.
Before I go further, let me set the record on a few things: I know Rick Warren and his wife Kay, not well, but I have had a few interactions with them over the years in a variety of settings – from their local Saddleback church community to DC intersections regarding government work to being very good friends with two former pastors at Saddleback.
Now, the problem I have with what I perceive as Warren’s version of “love” is that he has no accountability in regular interactions with LGBT people. I have said to both he and Kay that it is problematic that they insist on flying thousands of miles to Africa to give tens of millions of dollars to help with HIV/AIDS, and yet for the most part ignore their own local HIV/AIDS community in Southern California. I have worked closely over the years with the lesbian who runs an HIV/AIDS clinic just down the street from Saddleback, and to this day she cannot get even a meeting with Rick or Kay. I am not suggesting that the Warren’s move to Long Beach or West Hollywood like I have to Boystown, but no one will ever take their word “love” seriously without them removing themselves from the walls of their church and start investing into their local HIV/AIDS community, like they do in Africa, for a topic I genuinely believe they care deeply about. What I question though, do they care deeply about HIV/AIDS with only Africans who will not talk back to them and take their assistance no-questions-asked? Or do they care deeply about HIV/AIDS period–specifically with their local HIV/AIDS community that has much distrust towards them and will definitely talk back…
Next, Warren noted that “Jesus loves us but doesn’t approve of everything I do.” Following that logic, this should mean if a LGBT person, whom Jesus loves, decides to enter into a committed monogamous relationship with someone of the same sex, and then decides to solidify that relationship through a commitment ceremony, regardless if Warren approves of it or not (or where he believes Jesus’ approval falls), that LGBT couple is still loved by Jesus. Then, just as Warren, who is loved by Jesus, continues to “sin” with Jesus still loving him while he is cognizant of his sin acts, how then can Warren dictate to another people group what they shouldn’t do, even if he believes LGBT relationships are sin, because according to his logic (and conservative theology) Jesus loves LGBTs even if they are cognizant of their sin–just as Warren is of his. So, within the construct of theological sin and free will, what then separates Warren and his daily interactions from LGBTs? Nothing. The question then becomes, what then gives Warren the dictation power over a theological construct no different than his own ongoing experiences?
Third, the last segment of the interview was Warren talking a lot about the word marriage. At one point he said, “civil unions might be a term [LGBTs] could use [that Christians could agree to].” I fully understand the conservative argument for defending the term marriage: “Marriage is a biblical term, and thus, should not be separated and redefined from its biblical roots.”
Ok, now contextualize that to contemporary society and the conservative argument about the term “marriage” vs. “civil union” is ultimately a linguistic semantic whose outcome provides the same result, regardless of what it’s called: 14th amendment protection and equal legal protection, among others.
I totally believe in the freedom for social, theological and political conservatives to have strong convictions that marriage is only between one man and one woman (and visa-versa for liberals). That is the freedom we have in this fine country of ours; and I genuinely mean that. But what I don’t think fruitful from the conservative perspective is the linguistic argument. On a scale from 1-10 on the cultural effectiveness of said argument, I would have it hover around a 1 or 2. No one other than conservative Christians believe that linguistic argument is legitimate.
But unfortunately our society seems to only function in a system that loves to present their arguments only to others who already have a high level of buy-in to their specific worldview. Hence, Rick Warren going on national TV and having his talking points geared only towards other conservative Christians. How does he think what he said went over with LGBTs? And why does that matter?
Because the gospel is about reconciliation. It is impossible to be a reconciliatory agent when one does not concern themselves with the other worldviews inhabiting the same space. This doesn’t mean one must have a weak conviction. It does mean that there needs to be a dualistic filter in everything that is communicated (e.g. How what I say will simultaneously be received by People Group A and People Group B, who are both hearing it for the first time at the same time in a recorded public forum).
Responding to questions geared toward only those who already have a high level of buy-in does nothing to build bridges or help the reconciliation process, which ultimately, is the full extent of “to love another does not mean we have to agree.”
A much better argument I believe conservatives should be investing in regarding gay marriage, is that regardless if gay marriage is federally legalized, they should start vocalizing their intent to preemptively protect their right to practice their interpretation of their Holy Text as they see fit–making specific in the courts that when gay marriage does happen across the country, conservative churches, synagogues and mosques have specific legal protection to marry whom they choose according to their Holy Text–all of which is clearly messaged in the courts. Looks like Newt Gingrich is now saying something I recently said in this post. Huh.
Do you think Warren’s linguistic argument is applicable?
And what would you see as a legitimate plan for conservatives moving forward? (and for those LGBTs or liberals who read my blog, “conservatives should drop what they believe and fight for LGBT interests” does not count as a legitimate answer).