I've got to say, I'm really tired of the Rick Warren bashing. What gets me is how mad a lot of people on the left are after he made a statement denouncing the Anti-Homosexuality legislation in Uganda. Because we all know the way to win hearts and minds is to tell people they are bad people and deserving of punishment. That the way to woo them to your side of the argument is to beat them up when they have supported your position.
To be honest with you, I don't know much about Rick Warren. I've never read Purpose Driven Life. The only times I've heard him speak were the prayer at the inauguration and the dealy-bobber I posted yesterday. He may be a terrible person, I don't know. Is he a homophobe? Probably. He may just be a product of his time and culture. He may be a mix of things.
Personally, I would tend to believe the analysis given by David Link in the Independent Gay Forum (referenced by Andrew Sullivan): "Like so many other heterosexuals of his age and older, Warren is caught in a bind. He believed the lies and misperceptions about homosexuality that history, particularly as embodied in his religion, have taught him. He relied on those distortions, and built his belief system around them." Link thinks "a bit of empathy may be in order." So do I.
This is partly on my mind after reading The Help. One of the strengths of this book, as I mentioned, was that it allowed things to be complicated--and particularly the relationships between the white employers (for lack of a better term) and black servants. Were the whites bigots? You bet. But not in a cartoony way. Not in a way that writes them off as human beings.
We've got lots of bigots in our history. We celebrated the feast of St. Ambrose on Monday--a big name in the early church. It is also well known that he was virulently anti-Semitic. A commenter on the blog a while back asked if I would note that William Temple "demanded Bp. R.O.Hall's resignation (Bp. of Hong Kong) for ordaining The Rev. Florence Li Tim Oi." Were they bad people? Were they good? Were they a mix of things and products of their times and cultures? And how will people look at us down the road? How will we see ourselves?
My main man Ta-Nehisi Coates gets this very well:
This expectation that "good people" won't be bigots is rather amazing. I came up in a world where it was nothing to hear the word "faggot" bandied about. Where those people awful human beings? Nah. Were they bigots? Yep. And I will tell you, without a moments hesitation, that I was one of them.
[I heartily encourage you to read TNC on the subject of bigotry and racism. Actually, I encourage you to read him all the time.]
People change; they are converted. But they're not converted by accusations and abuse. Or by fear. Or by assumptions. Or by avoidance. Love, love, love, people. Even if they never get it. Even if they don't agree with you. Even if they persecute and revile you--remember that part? Jesus didn't say it was going to be easy.