Andy & Rick

Andy & Rick March 11, 2009

Before belatedly getting into the other aspects of the hubbub over the Rev. Rick Warren and his invitation, by then President-elect Barack Obama, to provide the invocation at the inauguration, I want to mention this: Andy Warhol was a devout Catholic who attended Mass nearly every day.

AndyRick
I point this out because whatever else Rick Warren may be — an evangelical leader, a political figure, a best-selling author — he is, first and foremost, a pastor. He is pastor of Saddleback Church, the largest congregation in California, where more than 23,000 people attend worship each week.

That astonishing attendance figure suggests that Warren is probably a pretty good pastor, but it also suggests something else: Rick Warren's congregation at Saddleback Church almost certainly includes dozens, probably even hundreds, of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered believers.

I'm not just talking about deeply closeted folks who have internalized everything they may have been taught about the inherent wickedness of homosexuals and who stagger through their lives in the heartbreaking existence of full-on Ted-Haggard mode. I'm sadly sure there are plenty of those folks at Saddleback too. But I'm talking about evangelical Christian believers who also happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Or, if you prefer, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons who also happen to be evangelical Christian believers. The two categories do overlap.

Saddleback Church is organized as a community of communities. Its thousands of members aren't just isolated individuals drifting in the sea of its huge congregation, they also belong to small groups within the larger church. That's where the mutual support of real fellowship happens for these believers. And that's where, I would guess, the not officially sanctioned sexuality of many of Saddleback's members is a shared secret. It's in those dozens of small cell groups that the GLBT members of Saddleback are fully known, fully loved and fully welcomed, just as Andy Warhol was fully known, fully loved and fully welcomed at St. Vincent's.

I wonder if Rick Warren realizes this. Or, if he does, if he's ready to understand what it means for him as a pastor — as their pastor.

I doubt he is, yet. But I think he may be more ready now that he was four months ago, before he was placed in a national spotlight by Barack Obama's invitation to pray in Washington. That's one reason I think that whole brouhaha — both his invitation and the resulting protest, taken together — may turn out to have been, on balance, a Good Thing, both for Pastor Warren and for his 23,000 parishioners and perhaps for the rest of us too.

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  • Leum

    Does it help to point out that there are a number of religious folk out there who don’t actually believe they get to or ought to apply the rules to people other than themselves? I know I’m a bit biased, but that seems like a better deal than you get from secular morality.
    There isn’t anything in the above incompatible with a secular morality. And there isn’t just one secular morality. We’re all over the spectrum, morality-wise, from Kantians to Objectivists to Utilitarians.
    When you’ve tried something and found it to be pretty near the bottom of your list of fun things to do, it’s pretty easy to wonder why the great mass of humanity is so invested in it that they’re concerned not only with wanting to do it themselves, but also monitoring the ways in which and people with whom other people are doing it.
    Ah yes, like sports.

  • Pesterfield

    Why did Obama invite him anyway?
    I’d have gone the other way:
    Don’t put anything in the inauguration about religion, while pointing to the 1st Amendment seperation of Church/State, and affirm on the Constitution.
    Remind Americans that this is supposed to be a secular nation.

  • I think there needs to be more acceptance of things like asexuality, low sex drive, and not being interested in a romantic relationship, Not Really Here. That, by itself, is a good and valid point.
    There needs to be more acceptance of all forms of sexuality that don’t involve harm. Asexuality is one of them. So is homosexuality. If you feel upset at people talking down to you for being asexual, NRH, imagine how much more upset you’d be if there were laws backing up that discrimination.
    Sorry, but you were ‘making a fuss’ about sex as well, or at least your relationship to it, which is ‘I don’t want any thank you.’ That relationship is clearly important to you, or you wouldn’t care when people don’t respect it. Hence, I’d suggest that sex matters to you too, or at least, sexual freedom does – the right to choose how we conduct our own sex lives without having others get on our case about it. Which puts you right in the same camp as everyone else her.
    My grandparents are Catholics in Orange County, and while I can’t tell you what their church is like, I can tell you how they practice it. Official church dogma on homosexuality, divorce, and out-of-wedlock sex trumps having a relationship with their own children nearly every time
    On the other hand, my grandmother was devoutly Catholic and treated her married and unmarried-with-children grandkids exactly the same. She didn’t like the idea of extramarital sex and hoped we weren’t having it, but she wasn’t going to stop being our gran over it.
    She was an extremely robust and brave woman, it’s worth pointing out, whose strength of character may have had something to do with it. At her funeral, the village priest remarked with amusement that he’d given her the Sacred Heart statue to repair, she being skilled with china, and when she returned it he got a bit of a surprise. Not liking Sacred Heart imagery – I think she found it sentimental or excessive – she had simply painted over the heart in the same colour as the robes. Jesus now had a bump in his chest instead of a Sacred Heart. The priest found it funny, and also decided he didn’t dare argue with her, as he knew she wasn’t going to budge.
    Then again, her sisters were equally devout and less forceful, and they weren’t judgemental about sex either.
    It may be different in different countries; America is a religious place compared with most of Europe. But anyway, some Catholics are more flexible than others.

  • Lee Ratner

    Liz: Your calling Pator Rick Warren, a modern incarnation of the Pharisees, is extremely insulting and borderline anti-Semitism. The real Pharisees were not the hyporcrites of the New Testament. The Pharisees who see in the Gospels are nothing more than parodies of actual Pharisees. The historical Pharisees were great scholars who were very interested in what we now call social justice issues. They fashioned a Judaism that emphasized prayer, scholarship, and ethics over Temple sacrifices and rituals. They formed modern Judaism.
    The tendency of Christians, whether liberal or conservative, to use Pharisee as an insult, and this is especially a problem among Protestants, really hurts Jewish-Christian dialog. This is because it involves insulting the founders of Rabbinic Judaism.

  • Cowboy Diva

    Jeff and Crazy F,
    I only brought up the Solanas manifesto because that’s one of the first places my mind goes when I think of Warhol (along with derivative art and Studio 54. heh).
    The manifesto itself is a good snapshot kind of work on a number of different levels, including the “This is the work of someone who will attempt to kill a person within the year” level. It is important to realize the author herself renounced it.
    I quite frankly do not know enough about women’s studies, especially given the time period, to tell you a better reference for radical feminism. Please remember, however, that in the late ’60s in the US there was no widespread oral birth control, no Title IX, no domestic violence laws to speak of…you get the point.
    @Not Really Here: if you have a thing for thin-crust pizza get thee to St. Louis and environs. Imo’s is the most accessible, but any hole-in-the-wall joint should be able provide this marvelous dish. Thanks, BTW, for making me homesick. *sniff*

  • Re: Johnny Pez and the Manchurian Candidate
    I haven’t seen it, but Fred riffed off it himself in one of his LB deconstructions. Then someone used the deconstruction in a Right Behind post.
    That’s what I remember that line from, and I figured Johnny was inspired by the LB/RB posts.

  • The Pharisees who see in the Gospels are nothing more than parodies of actual Pharisees.
    From your perspective, the Christian Bible doesn’t so much parody the Pharisees as it libels them. It takes the truth of “great scholars who were very interested in what we now call social justice issues. They fashioned a Judaism that emphasized prayer, scholarship, and ethics over Temple sacrifices and rituals” and turns them into people who didn’t care one whit about social justice or ethics, obsessing instead over trivial adherence to a narrow interpretation of obscure commandments.
    IOW, Jesus was a stone-cold liar. That doesn’t really do much for Jewish-Christian relations, either. And with such divergent opinions on the matter, there isn’t much for good relations to be built upon.
    I’m not trying to say that one side has a better case than the other. It’s just that you cast the Christians in just as bad a light as the Christian Bible does the Pharisees.

  • Tonio

    IOW, Jesus was a stone-cold liar.
    We don’t know that, since we don’t know that Jesus said and did all the things that the Gospels assert. We only know that the Gospels’ portrait of the Pharisees doesn’t jibe with the historical record from Judaism. To play devil’s advocate, the latter could be biased as well.

  • Ursula L

    I just don’t happen to think that sex is really all that, and don’t understand why people get so worked up about it, whether it be in the pursuit of it, or in the caring about who is doing what, and who with, and how many times.
    Hmm… let me see if I can make a good analogy from your experience.
    Being someone who doesn’t care much about sex, in a world where it is assumed that everyone cares about sex, must be, at times, a difficult thing. It is tiring to have to constantly explain that no, you don’t care about this thing. People give you the impression that they think there is something wrong with you, because of the way your sexuality has developed. At times, it may seem easier to lie and pretend you care about sex, rather than put up with the nonsense that people throw at you when you say that you don’t care.
    Gay people, when faced with homophobia, face these exact same problems. People say there is something wrong with them, for having the particular type of interest in sex that they have. It gets tiring to have to constantly explain that, no, they don’t want to be set up on a date with your cousin of the opposite sex. At times, it might seem easier to let people think your straight, than to deal with all of the nonsense that people throw at them when they say they’re not interested in straight sex.
    But, they have it worse. People don’t try to make it illegal for you to express your sexual nature in your preferred way, by refraining from sex – people do try to make it illegal for a gay person to express their sexual nature in their preferred way, by having sex with people of the same gender. If you found another asexual person (of the opposite sex) whom you cared about, and the two of you decided to marry for the tax benefits, but agreed that the relationship would be sexless, there is no law stopping you – but if a gay person meets someone they want to marry, and have their preferred type of sexual relationship with, there are laws stopping them.
    You’d probably agree that people should be left alone to live their sex life according to how they prefer to have their sex life.
    You don’t care about sex, and all the talk about rights for people of different sexual orientations seems like someone is forcing you to think about sex, and care about sex, when you don’t.
    Frankly, I suspect that most gay people would prefer to be left alone to live their sex life according to how they prefer to have their sex life, without outside interference.
    But they’re starting from a place that has people interfering.
    Your situation would be suitably addressed by people simply not talking about sexual issues – you aren’t interested in sex, and would prefer not to have to think about it.
    But, if gay people (and those who care about them) just remain silent, then the status quo continues, with the discriminatory laws and culture. Their problems can’t be solved by silence.
    ***
    I’m not saying that addressing your problem (the need for respect for people who are/tend toward being asexual) has to wait until the problems of others (gay people) are fixed. What I am saying is that it is unreasonable to expect others (gay people) to put up with discrimination just because talking about sex makes you uncomfortable. I’m also saying that, to a large extent, both you (as an asexual person) and gay people suffer from the same problem – the idea that there is a particular, correct way for people to live their lives (in a monogamous heterosexual relationship) – and that your problem may well be addressed better when their problem is addressed, and people learn that their should be respect, equality, and equal rights no matter what one’s sexual interests are.

  • Ursula L

    I realized that my post from 10:37 AM on 3/12 was an editing nightmare, so I cleaned it up a bit and posted to my livejournal. Anyone who was distressed by the mess posted yesterday can find a tidier version here: http://ursula1972.livejournal.com/19009.html

  • Tonio,
    I see no reason to say there’s a “historical record” of Judaism at that time while not according Christianity the same. Until the end of the 1st century CE, Christians were a sect of Judaism, and what we call the four gospels were all written during that period. So the records of one are going to resemble strongly the records of the other.
    So what we have is three choices: The Pharisees sucked, Jesus was a liar, or something that allows for the Pharisees to not have sucked as much as Christian tradition asserts but probably sucked enough for Jesus to be pissed at them.
    Lee Ratner’s position is just as extreme as the Christians he opposes and is based upon just as much historicity – or lack of same, really.
    But, this isn’t really what the thread is about, I suppose. Sorry for helping to derail it.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    Jesus and the Pharisees.
    The Gospel writers lived in a time where the Temple of Jerusalem was run by a bunch of Jerks. These Jerks were Biblical Literalists known as Saducees. So, when they wrote about Jesus dealing with the temple of his time (40 years earlier), they made the people running the Temple a bunch of Jerks. But they knew that the people running the Temple were the Pharisees… who were not Jerks, either at the time of Jesus or at the time of the writing of the Gospels.
    Saducees: Letter of the Law Literalists. Jerks.
    Pharisees: Spirit and Intent of the Law. Not bad people.
    The Gospel writers projected the problems they were having with the Saducees onto Jesus’ relationship with the Pharisees. This wasn’t uncommon at the time.

  • Oh, fergawdsakes, Typepad’s new comment thingy is ridiculous. Sorry if this ends up as a double post. .
    Tonio,
    There’s no reason to call Jewish records from that time “historical” while not according Christian records the same status. IMO neither should be considered what we think of as “historical,” especially because Christianity was essentially just a sect of Judaism until the end of the 1st century CE. The writing came from the same place, the same perspective.
    We’ve got three choices: The Pharisees sucked, Jesus was a liar, or some middle ground in which the Pharisees didn’t suck that much but enough to get Jesus pissed at them.
    Lee Ratner’s position is just as extreme and unyielding as that of the Christians he opposes, and is based upon just as little verifiable history as them.
    And as I said in what is likely to be my other comment appearing right before this one, this is all OT and I shan’t derail the thread any more than it has been already.

  • Tonio

    There’s no reason to call Jewish records from that time “historical” while not according Christian records the same status. IMO neither should be considered what we think of as “historical,” especially because Christianity was essentially just a sect of Judaism until the end of the 1st century CE. The writing came from the same place, the same perspective.
    Valid point. My suggestion is that the Jewish records were probably more scholarly in nature as compared with the Gospels, and may not necessarily have been created or distributed for the purpose of evangelism. I don’t know if that was indeed the case.
    We’ve got three choices: The Pharisees sucked, Jesus was a liar, or some middle ground in which the Pharisees didn’t suck that much but enough to get Jesus pissed at them.
    I wouldn’t even choose the latter. Maybe Jesus didn’t have a problem with the Pharisees but the authors of the Gospels did, and they were putting words in his mouth for their own agenda.

  • Ursula L

    Part of the odd description of Pharisees may come from the purpose of the Gospels, which was, in part, to be documents in which early Christians tried to demonstrate why and how they were different from other Jewish sects. To that end, differences were exaggerated.
    You see this phenomena in modern religious writings, as well. When you read a book about Islam written by a Christian for a Christian audience, you get a very different view of Islam than you do in a book about Islam written by a Muslim for a Muslim audience, or buy a Muslim for a non-Muslim audience. The Christian writer only understands the outside of Islam, not the inner experience, and they create a superficial and inaccurate description. (For example, I once saw someone on the Catholic TV station try to explain that Muslims really venerated Mary, since they see Jesus as a prophet, and respect Mary as the mother of this prophet. An idea that is wrong on so many levels I can’t begin to count.)
    To the evangelists who wrote the Gospels, the Judaism of the Pharisees was the competition. We wouldn’t expect them to give an accurate and neutral description of what the Pharisees believed, we’d expect them to highlight the worst aspects of that belief, in order to show how they provided a better alternative. In the same way that we wouldn’t expect them to give a fair description of the faith of worshiping Jupiter or Isis.
    When the purpose of a book is “don’t worship in any other way, worship my way”, any description of any other worship is going to be put in the worst possible light. Not strictly innacurate, but an editorial decision to leave out the good, and write the bad as bad as possible.

  • You don’t care about sex, and all the talk about rights for people of different sexual orientations seems like someone is forcing you to think about sex, and care about sex, when you don’t.
    I really don’t wish to discomfort NRH if at all possible. But frankly, judging by the levels of distress I see around me, we haven’t even worked out our societal problems with vanilla, heterosexual, purely procreative sex; and the problem only mushrooms when any of those adjectives are modified. The only hope we have of working out any of those issues is to talk about it, to a degree that honestly even I find annoying once in a while.
    Perhaps if some of these difficulties were settled in the long run, we could devote some of that energy to other productive pursuits, which would be a win for Not Really Here and others with similar levels of disinterest. (I mean that sentence seriously, but I can’t find a way to write it that can’t possibly be interpreted as sarcasm. So I’m just saying: I mean it sincerely.)

  • Tonio

    Ursula’s point is similar to mine. It’s possible that the Pharisees had written tracts in that era that denounced Jesus in the same terms that the Gospels use to describe Pharisees.

  • Izzy

    What other people have said, and also?
    Being part of society occasionally means that people talk about things that don’t interest you. I skipped employee lunch whenever the PatSox had a champeenship coming up, but I don’t think it was wrong of my coworkers to be interested in that–it just bored me silly. I wouldn’t blame someone who wasn’t interested in LARPing or fantasy or sex for not spending a lot of time around me or my friends, but at the same time, I’m not going to apologize for talking about those things: they’re what interests us. That’s how it goes.

  • Not Really Here

    I’m not saying that addressing your problem (the need for respect for people who are/tend toward being asexual) has to wait until the problems of others (gay people) are fixed. What I am saying is that it is unreasonable to expect others (gay people) to put up with discrimination just because talking about sex makes you uncomfortable. I’m also saying that, to a large extent, both you (as an asexual person) and gay people suffer from the same problem – the idea that there is a particular, correct way for people to live their lives (in a monogamous heterosexual relationship) – and that your problem may well be addressed better when their problem is addressed, and people learn that their should be respect, equality, and equal rights no matter what one’s sexual interests are.
    Ursula, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that the GLBT or whatever order the initials are supposed to go in, community should put up with discrimination just because I don’t happen to think sex is all that.
    I find it just as incomprehensible that so many people are heavily invested in prohibiting others from engaging in certain sexual behaviours, and entering into legal commitments with the partners of their choice as I do the fact that people are so heavily invested it the pursuit of sex and sexual relationships that they think I’m weird for not wanting to be involved in one.
    Of course, in my case, people thinking there’s something wrong with me for not being interested in sex is a minor annoyance. I don’t stand to lose my job, be rejected by my family, or be physically assaulted because I’m asexual.
    I happen to subscribe to the Catholic Church’s moral teachings in sexual matters (and frankly, being asexual probably makes adhering to them a lot easier that it is for most folks), but I also am aware that my beliefs concerning sexual morality are fundamentally a religious position. I don’t think that the force of law should be used to impose my religious beliefs, and hence the moral teachings thereof, on others who don’t happen to share them.
    I think it is more damaging to society to force people to live a lie than it is to allow people whose sexual attractions are, um, unorthodox to marry the partner of their choice.
    Back when civil unions were the big issue, I was in favor of them, not so much because of the advantages to the GLBT community as to others in society who might benefit from them. The example I used was an elderly woman whose mind was starting to go, and who, for whatever reason, didn’t trust her family to manage her finances properly (maybe because they were a bunch of money-grubbing scumbags who would take it for their own use). She could then enter into a civil union with, perhaps, her housekeeper, who she knows to be trustworthy, and thus be able to give her power of attorney to make financial and medical decisions for her, should she become incapacitated.
    The fact that the issue was primarily a gay rights issue didn’t bother me, because I saw that it could have a benefit to society at large. I feel much the same way about same-sex marriage.
    I think a religious body has the right to have moral teachings and require its members to adhere to them, just as any organization may have rules that they ask people to adhere to as conditions of membership. If you don’t subscribe to those teachings, you are free to join a church that has a set of moral teachings that allow you to pursue your sexuality in the manner you see fit, or, if you’re really ambitious, you can start your own religion.
    Within my own personal morality, and within my Church, I have a set of values and beliefs that I think should be adhered to. But I get that not everybody believes the way I do, and in the larger, secular sphere, especially when it comes to legislating personal/religious morality, I subscribe to the Wiccan Rede- “An’ harm ye no one, do what ye will.”
    I’m also a little suspicious about the really vocal anti-gay crowd. When someone is so virulently anti- something they believe is immoral, I can’t help but wonder if they’re not harboring a hidden desire for that something themselves, and a good number are probably actually engaging in that something.
    Basically, it comes down to “Why can’t people leave each other alone already?”

  • not someone else

    There isn’t anything in the above incompatible with a secular morality. And there isn’t just one secular morality. We’re all over the spectrum, morality-wise, from Kantians to Objectivists to Utilitarians.
    Ack, excuse me- “secular” was really the wrong word. I meant something like, not quite mainstream, but “what seems to be the default for people in this society”.
    That is, in my experience most people have a point where you’re pretty much an unperson, even if quite a lot of them nowadays push that point way far out to someplace like “unrepentant serial-killing pedophile”. It seems to be part of the mechanism that makes people find morals in the first place. Unconditional love and the inherent rights of man will probably always be something to be struggled with rather than the default, and I’m not surprised something irrational like a religion is one of the main proponents of it.
    Does that make more sense?

  • Jessica

    Sex:
    I agree with Kit wrt to NRH’s posts. NRH desires freedom– freedom from interrogation, freedom from feeling needled about hir beliefs, etc. As Kit put it so well, that’s exactly what pretty much all of us are after: leave us the f%$# alone. NRH has basically said as much, too. It doesn’t matter to hir what other people are doing in their bedrooms (or wherever else, for that matter), and it’s no one else’s business. And I agree completely. I think Kit is also correct in stating that LGBTQI people are coming from a point of legalized discrimination, which may possibly be something that NRH hasn’t experienced. Harassment, by the sound of it, but not a legalized form of discrimination that has ever cost hir a job. LGBTQI people make a big deal out of all this because we’re fighting for rights that we’ve traditionally been denied.
    [/rant]
    Jesus and the Pharisees:
    I think Lee Ratner makes a good point, that all pharisees probably shouldn’t be painted with the gospel brush. I’m sure there were douche-bag pharisees back in the day, just as there are douche-bag priests, pastors, rabbis, etc, now. I think the point Jesus was making in the gospels was that you didn’t want to follow the example of the douche-bags because it only leads to douche-baggery. John’s gospel paints at least a few pharisees in a much more positive light–Nicodemus anyone? I mean, come on, he’s the guy that got to hear John 3:16 for the first time ever.
    Rick Warren seems to be doing the douche-bag thing in the sense that he’s head of a very large church, and alienating LGBTQI people at the same time. It reminds me of the movie Saved — “I am FULL of Christ’s love” as the speaker throws a book at someone. Note that I am not calling Rick Warren a douche-bag, only that I think his actions smack of douche-baggery.

  • Liz

    @ Crazy F
    Sorry… Biola University, and as soon as I graduated I fled to Northern California, where even the “deviants” are allowed to partake of Christ’s blood/body. A suggestion for getting through college – find a Metropolitan Community Church. You don’t have to attend on Sunday (they lean way too left for me, personally, thus my attendance at Saddleback), but they often have Bible studies and fellowship groups for college age people throughout the week. That’s how I made it through. Fellowship in West Hollywood… what could be better?

  • Lee Ratner

    Ursula L comes close to the reason why historians think that the NT really trashes the Pharisees. After the Destruction of the Temple during the First Jewish Revolt only two factions in the Jewish world survived, the Pharisees and the Nazarenes. Today we call Nazarenes Christians. During the time of the Jewish Revolt, Nazarenes were overwhelmingly Jewish followers of Jesus and they still followed the Law. The Pharisees and Nazarenes were in competition for who will get to form post-Temple Judaism. The Pharisees won. A lot of anti-Pharisee statements in the Gospels probably reflect this competition and the fact that the Nazarenes lost.

  • inge

    Nicole: However, I did wince at “uncomfortable around all religious people” because (Yep, gonna take that bullet again!) “religious” does not equal “Christian” does not equal “fundie”. Sotonohito, I really, really sympathize with what you’ve been through; I have *religious* friends who got the same treatment
    It might not be fair, but the cat that once jumped on a hot stove won’t jump on a cold one. If you get repeatedly burned by people who share a trait, your gut reaction to people with that trait will become, “can’t be trusted”. Too bad for the large numbers of people who have that trait and still can be trusted, but no one has a right so someone else’s trust.

  • Lee Ratner

    I think that many people have a hard time comprehending asexual people because the way both the pro-sex and anti-sex people think of sex. Both the pro-sex and anti-sex people seem to view sex, and as an off shot romatantic love/affection/touching, as the most supreme pleasure possible and therefore an incredibly good or incredibly bad thing depending on the individual’s perspective. This is why media often portrays extreme pleasure as being a type of orgasm even when the pleasure is derived from a non-sexual activity like eating or washing one’s hair. When people who view sex and romantic love as the most supreme pleasure possible meets someone who does not thing of sex or romantic love that way, it does not compute. So people have trouble with asexuality because they do not understand it.