Originally posted 11/28/12 at Truth Wins Out
Now that Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren compares being gay to “punching a guy in the nose or consuming arsenic,” can we conclude that the mainstream media serves no real purpose in granting him additional airtime? Warren’s continued assertion that he stands for traditional biblical values conveniently ignores the glaring historical reality that the US evangelical tradition he espouses only goes back to the Great Awakening.
When asked about his feelings toward gays, Warren notes he has gay friends and cites his work with AIDS in Africa. However, interviewers like Piers Morgan fail to question Warren’s alliances with clergy, who are working against LGBT rights in African countries. In similar vein, Sojourners President Jim Wallis points to a document signed by 46 religious leaders condemning persecution against LGBT people in Uganda without addressing the Christian teachings that fuel this anti-gay violence. For example, evangelist Tony Campolo compares the theology of his Red Letter Christian (RLC) group with that of the Family, host of the National Prayer Breakfast despite religion scholar Jeff Sharlet’s research that connects the Family to the kill the gays bill in Uganda. (To date, no one listed on the RLC speaker page has come out publicly and critiqued Campolo for this comparison even though some on this list promote themselves as pro-gay).
A quick review of the November/December issue of Prism Magazine illuminates a number of evangelical leaders’ views on this subject. At best, these “progressive” voices affirm appointing gay men as leaders provided they remain celibate. Those Christians who conclude that “homosexuality is a sin” usually base their conclusions on a few select Bible verses that theologian James Allison calls the “clobber texts.” This method of biblical analysis could be found in previous eras when church leaders used very select Bible verses to condemn women and people of color as inferior beings. Now anyone who espouses such outdated thinking gets called out on the carpet, and rightly so. Also, this worldview appears to disregard the myriad of discoveries from science, psychology, theology, and other disciplines that inform changing attitudes toward LGBT people.
Despite Warren & Company’s efforts to impose their version of Christianity into the public square, this past year and a half proved to be a watershed year for LGBT rights. A few highlights:
For the first time in Gallup’s tracking of the issue, a majority of Americans (53%) believed same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid.
The same week that the evangelical social justice organization Sojourners rejected a gay welcome ad from Believe Out Loud back in May 2011, the PC(USA) joined forces with the UCC, Episcopal, and ECLA churches by voting in provisions to allow for the ordination of non-celibate LGBT clergy. Also, Chicago’s Episcopal and Lutheran bishops unveiled new policies for those clergy wanting to officiate at same-sex civil unions. Then at their 2012 General Convention, the US Episcopal Church approved a provisional rite to bless same-sex marriages and passed resolutions prohibiting gender discrimination for both clergy and lay employees.
Over 2,400 people attended the 11th anniversary of the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, the largest trans specific event in the world. A number of sessions at this conference focused on religion and spirituality within the trans community.
In 2012 election, the majority of voters cast their ballots in favor of equal rights for all.
The relaunch of the Believe Out Loud website illuminates the growth of radically inclusive communities where one finds women, people of color and LGBT folks serving in leadership positions.
Moving forward, hopefully the media coverage of LGBT and faith communities will reflect the reality on the ground and not the outdated views espoused by Rick Warren and other dinosaurs who remain stuck in theological tarpits.
Cartoon – (c)nakedpastor.com
Becky Garrison is a panelist for The Washington Post's On Faith column and contributes to a range of outlets including The Guardian, The Revealer, American Atheist magazine and Religion Dispatches. Her books include Roger Williams' Little Book of Virtues (forthcoming) and Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church, and Ancient Future Disciples: Meeting Jesus in Mission-Shaped Ministries.