Rick Warren's Long Cycle

Methinks the biggest story this week is not BO’s choice of Papa Rick to give the inaugural invocation.  The biggest story this week is how big this story is.  It won’t go away.  I’m sure BO’s people thought it might last one news cycle, but we’re now on day four of this.  And it’s showing no signs of going away.  Google News shows 1900 stories, and Google Blog Search shows 35,000 blog posts on the topic

What is it with the staying power of this story?  I’ve got a few theories, but I don’t if one of them — or any of them — is on the money.  Let me know what you think.

A) After the last two years, we are political news junkies.  We’d never heard of Joe Scarborough or Rachel Maddow a few months ago, and now we watch them every day.  We still check Politico, Huffington, and Andrew every day.  But since the most dramatic primary and general election season maybe ever, the last six weeks has been boring as hell.  Cabinet appointments? Caroline Kennedy?  Rahm Emmanuel’s potty mouth?  Yawn.  What this story has is enough political and celebrity intrigue to get people to turn on Larry King.

B) The pro-gay marriage movement is bigger than we thought.  A big part of the flap is that Papa Rick vocally and financially supported Prop 8, and that he has even since compared gay partnerships to brother-sister incest, etc.  Rick clearly believes that gayness is an ailment than can (and should) be cured.  Fine.  He has every right to that opinion, and to promote that opinion.  But the dust-up over his selection by BO was clearly underestimated by BO’s people (or they would have done more pre- and immediate damage control).  Indeed, most of us would not have guessed that there’d be this much uproar…because most of us believe the commonly cited statistic that 68% of Americans are steadfastly against gay rights.  In fact, Americans are shifting their views in favor of same sex marriage at one percent per year.  Maybe the staying power of this story shows it’s shifting even faster, and that the passage of Prop 8 has hastened that.

Conservatives are recoiling at Papa Rick as the successor to Billy Graham as “America’s Pastor.”  In fact, I think that journalists might be recoiling, too (liberals, of course, get no vote on “America’s Pastor.”)  Throughout Papa Rick’s extended interview with Steve Waldman, he shows a sorry lack of theological sophistication, not to mention gramatical sophistication.  I mean, can anyone imagine Billy Graham making so many unmeasured — even unbiblical — statements?  Let’s take just one example:

Rick says: The fundamental
issue is, people often ask me, “What’s the worst sin?” They
expect me to say adultery, or taking drugs or something.  The Bible clearly
states, in the book of Isaiah, it’s pride.  It’s pride.  It was
pride as Isaiah talks about Satan to get kicked out of heaven.  And the middle
letter of sin is “I” and the middle letter of pride is

The Bible (Jesus!) says: Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven these men (the Pharisees), but
the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says
a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks
against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in
the age to come.

Or can you imagine Billy Graham asserting that marriage has been practiced the same way in every human society for 5,000 years?  I can’t.  The evangelical intelligencia liked (not loved) Billy Graham because, though he wasn’t a theologian, he usually spoke carefully (anti-semitic comments in Nixon’s office being the exception that proves the rule.  Papa Rick is not nearly as circumspect.  He and Billy are probably 98% sympatico, but Rick’s a SoCal dude, and Billy’s a southern gentleman.

Well, it’ll be interesting to see if this story fades over the weekend or if calls for Papa Rick to be removed from the dias daisintensify.  In either case, both BO and Papa Rick have to be happy that the holidays are upon us, and new tends to die over the holidays.

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  • Your Name

    I’m wondering…which is worse (in the eyes of those who are wailing), for Obama to have invited Warren for this invocation or if Bush had?

  • Jennifer

    C) … (liberals, of course, get no vote on “America’s Pastor.”)
    Kudos, for the first RW post to make me laugh.
    …and thank God the letter ‘i’ isn’t in the middle of my name, I must be saved.

  • Your Name — I’m gonna call it a draw.

  • Ann

    Why do we need a prayer? Stop this intermingling of church and state and ignore these ‘my god is better than your god’ power hungry self promoting people and their creationist nonsense and gays are bad and women need to submit to men idiocy.

  • Rosa Lee Harden

    What about this for the reason the Rick Warren prayer is such a big story:
    There are quite a few of us in this country – and Christians to boot – who have a problem with ‘religion’ being represented at the inauguration by a person who equates love between people of the same gender with incest.
    There are more and more of us who understand the message of Jesus to be primarily one of love and inclusion, not judgment and exclusion. How Jesus treated the outcasts in society was the thing that got him in trouble with the authorities. He didn’t label, judge and exclude. He sat down at table and broke bread.
    If we are going to have someone represent Christianity as our ‘nation’s pastor’ at the inauguration, perhaps there are enough of us out there who want it to be someone who demonstrates those same values. Maybe the GLBT people in this country are tired of being told that they were not created in God’s image. That there is something fundamentally wrong with them. Perhaps they and their friends are ready to take a stand and be heard about this.
    Maybe this is a big story because how we treat our GLBT sisters and brothers MATTERS.

  • Interesting that who gives a short prayer one time seems to stir up so much more anger than the horrendous appointments Obama has made such as Emmanuel, Clinton and Vilsack. These folks will have a lasting impact on our country’s policies, not just have two minutes in the sun (or rain, or snow, or whatever).
    Whether people live or die (and the appointees I named all favor policies that will cause many deaths) seems to be of low interest to people compared to whether we let someone pray publicly who has some wrong ideas. No wonder our country is in such a mess.

  • Husband

    I am reminded of the Sermon on the Mount …
    “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”
    So, er, thanx 4 the ‘blessing’ Unca Rick. For all the evil you say about gays falsely – and in the name of Christ – great will be my reward.

  • Henrietta22

    Rosa Lee Harden, excellent post. I hope Obama rescinds his invitation, but it won’t happen. It was a political move and he is a politician after all is said and done. Very disappointing.

  • Patrick M

    Great points – I think you are on the ball about the story being the size of the story (and correspondingly, Obama’s first great political mistake).
    In order, I choose B, A and C.
    B – most of all, because even if not everyone supports gay marriage, everyone now feels comfortable talking about gay marriage! In the old days, nobody ever talked about homosexuality – “the love that dare not speak its name” – but there really is no such thing as bad publicity.
    A – yes, because not only are we political junkies now but we are also deeply intrigued by sexuality despite knowing so very little about it really, whether our own or anyone else’s – a discussion about gay marriage allows us all to engage in topics of sex and politics in a way that grabs us viscerally and have a personal connection with in a way that a lot of stories don’t (transportation secretary – yikes!).
    C – only partly true. Although there is a combination of Palin-like fascination (did he really come out with that “5,000 year” trope), it is counterbalanced by the inside baseball nature of conservative religious politics (see transportation secretary example above)
    Nicely done

  • Nathan

    Not to be nit-picky, but it’s the second or third time I’ve noticed…
    It’s not a “dias”…it’s a “dais”.
    No biggie…just thought you’d want to know.

  • Henrietta22

    Read an article by Geoff Kors tonight and he had a good idea. The mistake that Obama has made could be fixed by having another Minister who respects and has GLBT members in his church to give a second invocation on the same platform with Warren. It would show he wasn’t picking a far-right minister as an example of Christianity in America. After all, if it is divirsity Obama is after and not just politics, here is a good spot to show it. The last paragraph is my words, not Kors.

  • Were we all upset when Rick called Obama a friend when he and McCain had their forum at Saddleback? Then can we please let an inauguration be an event that is about our country and not about our politics.

  • A explains best how big it is, and it’s made possible by an opinion media that’s never been more populous.

  • Henrietta22

    It’s too late for that Tyler (Man of Depravity). And I wasn’t smiling when they had that forum ,and I didn’t watch it.

  • Greg Gorham

    I think B and C are both close to the mark. Also, in the conservative circles I spend time in, most folks I talked to refused to believe Obama was a genuine Christian and that a vote for Obama was incompatible with Scripture. Many of these folks were Rick Warren fans, or had been at one point, and had their churches go through the 40 Days of Purpose program, used resources from Saddleback Church for small groups, etc. Now this guy they supported is praying for and blessing this “non-Christian” they so passionately opposed.

  • Jeff

    With all of this inclusion and breaking bread with the down trodden, I thought this might put a perspective on the TRUTH about the Love of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
    Carl Trueman has written the nicest critique of Newsweek’s defense of gay marriage.
    Trueman’s conclusion is wonderful and Christ-like.
    The article does end on a note with which I wholeheartedly agree, however, at least on the surface. She quotes a pro-gay priest as saying `if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us.’ Amen, So he would. But not with the tawdry bauble of passing social acceptance; rather he would reach out with the love of the Father for those who are unlovely, offering them life in abundance, not through some intense but illicit orgasm; rather through the forgiveness and newness of life that comes from life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even as the church must dismantle erroneous hermeneutics and defend the authority of scripture, so she must also reach out with the love of the gospel to the dirty, the immoral, the things that are not, with the light of the gospel. With what does the Christ of Ms Miller reach out? A piece of paper and the promise of a few years of companionship, perhaps some great sex, and then what?
    Maybe this is the original ‘tough love’ for society.
    Peace, Jeff

  • kingskidd

    I never seen anything like the Obama fascination. I know that the fact that America will have its first black president is a grand story in itself. But at this point if Obama sneezes I think it will make news. In this current culture the media has no imagination on the stories that can be reported. All the things going on in the world the media has chosen to become tabloid. Maybe it says something about our shallow society and its intersts.

  • Patrick M

    > intense but illicit orgasm
    Mmmmm yeah
    Thanks Jeff

  • Steve Hart

    Excellent post, Tony. Precise and on-point. I understand – and support – President Obama’s big tent dreams but one would think he would know better than to throw a snake into the middle of the gathering crowd.

  • Interesting thoughts.
    I think the uproar reflects the fact that, whether we like it or not, gay rights will be perhaps the biggest “culture war” issue of this generation. I, for one, would like to call a truce and focus more time and resources on fighting poverty and preventable disease around the world. However, I have a feeling that this isn’t going to go away, as much as I wish it would.
    Honestly, I am haunted by this one really scary thought: “What if evangelicals are wrong? What if homosexuality is not a disease that needs to be cured? What if trying to force gays and lesbians to be straight and get married to people of the opposite sex is doing more damage than good? What if, in the future, we will look back on these years and consider the opposition to gay rights to be as shameful as opposition to inter-racial marriage? What if, in 20 years, Rick Warren has to go on TV and apologize?”
    Every generation has one of these issues. When you read history, it becomes apparent that Christians have used the Bible to support all kinds of things that, in hindsight, look pretty foolish. Geocentricism. The Crusades. Slavery. Segregation. What if that’s what’s happening here? Imagine the ramifications?
    All I know for sure is that what we are doing now is only alienating the gay community. It seems to me that Warren is of the opinion that all will be well if he just says, “I love you in the name of Christ. I just don’t support your civil rights.”
    Honestly, it unnerves me a little to even write about it because I don’t know a single evangelical Christian who supports gay rights. I’m afraid sometimes that if I speak out about how actually feel about this issue, I’ll get “kicked out” of the the evangelical community! Can they do that?

  • Lukas

    Can’t you support gay rights, be laissez faire about the state-sanctioning of gay marriage, and yet also simultaneously hold that sex outside of a man-woman lifelong covenant is not consistent with being a follower of Jesus?
    I do.

  • LoveAll

    I hope that Obama will prove himself to be the greatest President yet, learning and advancing to do what is right.
    Concerning Prop 8, what if people all around the world have been right for thousands of years: that at the core of marriage is children/parenthood, and thus only a man and a woman are naturally can marry just as in the purely secular world of animals such as penguins, and not just about two or more people in intimate relationship. That everything being the same, the natural father and mother are the best for children, and children have the rights to be brought up by their natural father and mother. That eroding marriage harm children and family, especially when it removes children and parenthood from marriage just as many Hollywood films define reprogram societies.
    In arranged marriage throughout the world, it is clear that marriage is about family and children, and not just intimacy. Parents of bride and bridegroom often arrange the marriage without the consent and knowledge of the bride and bridegroom and thus there is no “intimacy or eros love” in the definition. All the parents consider are their families and the future children.
    Just remember in a purely secular world such as penguins, only a male and a female can mate, equivalent to marriage in humans. Failure of the mating usually results in the death of the children just as failure in marriage usually harm human children in various ways. In animals, other relationships such as homo-relationships seem like a mating process but only a false or fake mating process; i.e. false marriage.
    Societies give recognition to marriage because of the benevolence it has brought to the future of the society itself by bringing up better children since a good father and a good mother are the best and cheapest way to bring up children into good adults who contribute to society. And all children without exceptions, including you, come from one natural father and one natural mother, the product of a mating or natural marriage. Most marriages end up with children, while gay civil union do not usually bring children.
    Surely two or more people can be intimate with each other, but it has nothing to do with marriage. What they do in the confine of their own bedroom are their own business. Let societies give recognition to homo civil unions based on their own merits instead of robbing and harming children of their thousand year old marriage institution.
    Simply because the definition of marriage has been eroded is no reason to weaken it even more. Instead we must strengthen marriage for the sake of our children and society, teaching man and womn to be better father and mother in marriage.
    The web site below contains pretty good info why we need to protect our children by strengthening marriage.

  • MattieNow

    A lot of us who have gay children don’t want to rob them of the marriage institution.
    As my 85 year old mother says, gay marriage doesn’t seem to have changed her relationship with my father at all.

  • Your Name

    I would like to make two observations about the Warren choice and gay marriage. First I would suggest that Obama picked Warren simply because he likes him. There are many people that I like to fellowship with, but when it comes to religion and politics we agree on almost nothing. Conversely, there are people that have similar views on religion and politics as mine, but I’d rather not be around them. For those of you who believe that gay marriage is a threat to marriage, I would argue that the biggest threat to marriage is people who wont’t stay married.

  • panthera

    Rachel H. Evans,
    I think you have given voice to one of the biggest concerns Jesus had with Judaism, this horrid tendency to believe one’s interpretation of God’s Will to be the only true and correct version.
    Especially one those aspects which you addressed, the persecution of others by fundamentalist Christians, is indeed a grave sin. Every time we, as Christians (remember, dear lady, it is God who knows our hearts, not these hate-filled people who pretend to “know” who is and who is not a Christian) take a stand against a phenomena which science has shown to exist, we make ourselves ridiculous, weaken our message (if you think there are evangelical haters here who would deny my salvation through Christ, you should see how my colleagues in the natural sciences react to my being a Christian…”
    The medical community has long since accepted that homosexuality is not a perversion, nor yet an illness. The psychologists came to the same conclusion decades ago. Today, science has clearly shown that homosexuality exists throughout the animal kingdom, there is clear anatomical evidence that we are born with the sexuality we manifest.
    Those societies which treat us as fully human have suffered no ill effects, rather the opposite.
    Were I a fundamentalist Christian, I should take a very close look at the type of people who support my views outside of the US. Then at the people who don’t think homosexuality is a reason to oppress, torture and murder people. By their fruits…

  • Your Name

    You said “can you imagine Billy Graham asserting that marriage has been practiced the same way in every human society for 5,000 years? I can’t.”
    In a Time magazine article published on Nov. 21 2004, Billy Graham was asked if he approves of gay marriage. His response was,”I believe marriage is between a man and woman.”
    He may not have said exactly what Rick Warren said, but it seems like Billy Graham does have his views on the issue of gay marriage and is not afraid to declare them openly.
    Truth can be known, if you’re looking in the right place.
    Grace and peace,

  • Your Name (Pastor Rick):
    I have *no question* that Billy Graham is of one opinion with Papa Rick on their definition of “marriage.” My point is that Billy is rarely as intemperate with his words as Rick is. Your Billy quote is Exhibit A.

  • Brian Merritt

    I think that you h hit three important points on the head. This post has certainly made me think about this issue in a little different light. There is also a generational shift that is going on with cultural views of homosexuality. Rick represents a previous generation and sometime tries in public (unsuccessfully) to straddle the fence of generation. I totally agree with your assertion of Warren’s inelegance. Although I am no longer an evangelical I would not want this to be the representation of my movement if I was still a part of that fold.

  • Rick C

    I agree that Pastor Warren’s words can be defined as “intemperate” because the word itself means “lacking in moderation.”
    But if I’m not mistaken, the apostle Paul himself used some pretty immoderate language in speaking with the Galatian church over their legalistic views pertaining to the Jewish ritual of circumcision.
    While I wholeheartedly agree that self-control (i.e. temperance) is a fruit of the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers, we should be wary not to confuse self-control with apathy regarding truth.
    Grace and peace,

  • cantilan

    Warren is right when he said that pride is the greatest sin. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a result of pride in the heart of a person. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit means that a person does not believe in the works of God in Jesus, namely the salvation through the Cross because he believes that he can save himself, that he is good enough to be accepted in heaven. Even if one doesn’t believe in God, the root cause is pride because he denies that their is a Creator.