Thursday, December 10, 2009

Warren speaks; I'm not impressed

Rick Warren, after weeks of refusing to condemn the murderous anti-gay law working its way through the Ugandan parliament, of denying his connection to the promoters of the law, and trying to change the subject has finally issued a statement in opposition to the law. The message is in two forms, a Youtube video of him addressing an "encyclical" to African pastors and as a transcript with a FAQ addendum posted at his publicist's site. The transcript is slightly shorter than the Youtube video, but the differences are only a slight editing of his wordiness and do not change the substance of his message in any way. It's vintage Warren.

He opens the message with the famous quote from Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." That's cute, considering his strenuous effort to do nothing for the last several weeks.

To his credit, he comes out in full opposition to the law: "I ... completely oppose and vigorously condemn ... the pending law under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament, known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill."

He gives five reasons for his opposition. They are a mixed bag and probably a disappointment to human rights advocates.
First, the potential law is unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring the death penalty in some cases. If I am reading the proposed bill correctly, this law would also imprison anyone convicted of homosexual practice.

This is good. I think we can all agree that this should be the first reason for opposing the bill.
Second, the law would force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities.

He's opposing it because it would be bad for the church to send people to their deaths. While true, discussing it at this point waters down the primary issue, which should be trying to stop a rapidly approaching mass murder.
Third, it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting. As you know, in Africa, it is the churches that are bearing the primary burden of providing care for people infected with HIV/AIDS. If this bill passed, homosexuals who are HIV positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care, comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported. You and I know that the churches of Uganda are the truly caring communities where people receive hope and help, not condemnation.

He's opposing it because it would hurt the mission of the church. This point falls somewhere between the first two. Mission churches do provide a large portion of the medical care in Africa. If people do not go to the mission clinic for fear of being imprisoned or killed, then they won't get the medical care they need, which is especially dangerous when dealing with infectious diseases. That he uses the moment to be so self-flattering about the churches cheapens the point.
Fourth, ALL life, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God. My wife, Kay, and I have devoted our lives and our ministry to saving the lives of people, including homosexuals, who are HIV positive. It would be inconsistent to save some lives and wish death on others. We’re not just pro-life. We are whole life.

At this point, his compassion is completely overtaken by his self-promotion. As a reason for opposing the bill, isn't this the same as point one? All live is precious, therefore we shouldn't send people to their deaths.
Finally, the freedom to make moral choices and our right to free expression are gifts endowed by God. Uganda is a democratic country with remarkable and wise people, and in a democracy everyone has a right to speak up.

He lost me here. How, exactly, does a belief in freedom of choice translate into a reason for opposing the bill?

By my count, about twenty percent of his message is a direct condemnation or call to opposition to the bill. About thirty percent of the message is self-promotion or promotion of his groups. The other half of the message is his greeting to the pastors and a Christmas message. The latter part should have been sent as a separate message an waters down the most important part of his message, but that's quibble on my part.

The FAQ appended to the print version of his message is an extended whine about those mean things being said about him by bloggers and the liberal media. It's about three quarters the length of his encyclical (since when do Protestants issue encyclicals?). The FAQ is filled with slippery hair-splitting. He says he has never met President Museveni, but fails to mention that he has spent time with the President's wife, Janet Museveni, one of the main forces behind the expansion of American style fundamentalism in Uganda. He says he never met with members of parliament, but he has spent time with influential former members of parliament. Once more he pushes the irrelevant urban legend that last year, 146,000 Christians around the world were killed because of their faith. The FAQ taken together with the encyclical makes the print text almost two thirds self-promotion and whining with his opposition to the murderous law reduced to a mere one eighth of the text.

This is Rick Warren, the purpose driven man. He'll do the right thing when he's been nagged and embarrassed into doing it. The rest of the time, his purpose appears to be nothing more than promoting Rick Warren and his evangelical empire.

No comments: