Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fool Me Twice

In reaction to the outrage spawned by Obama's pick of Rick Warren to lead his inaugural invocation, Melissa Etheridge wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post, a message to her gay sisters and brothers "who have fought so long and so hard for gay rights and liberty," "elected Barack Obama as our next leader," and "were jerked back into the last century as we watched our rights taken away by prop 8 in California." While admitting that there is cause for anger and disappointment, that "we felt another slap in the face as the man we helped get elected seemingly invited a gay-hater to address the world at his inauguration," she remains hopeful, even conciliatory to the man who considers her and her family an abomination. She explains her forgiving and magnanimous stance to her personal encounter with Warren.
On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine. When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.
Aw schucks. Did she then walk hand in hand with Pastor Rick into a fake Hollywood sunset? Talk about drinking the Kool-Aid!

Was Etheridge that flattered she forgot what people like Warren love to say? Love the singer, er, sinner not the sin? So he bought her CDs. He probably loves KD as well. But he still thinks they'll burn in hell.

If Warren believes in equal rights for everyone and that every loving relationship should have equal protection, why did he lustfully support Prop 8? If he sincerely regrets his message to his congregation and equating all of us to pedophiles and those who commit incest, why has he not released another video to his flock and the whole world admitting his mistake and apologizing for the hurt and suffering he has caused? How could he honestly claim that that is not how he thinks about gays?

All rhetorical, yes, but Etheridge? How could she have been so easily seduced? When she expressed sympathy for Warren's wife, did she point out to him that many of our loved ones have cancer too but could not share health insurance like straight married people? That some of us could not visit our dying partners? That supporting Prop 8 and institutionalizing bigotry has everything to do with it?

What kind of bridges does the singer think could be built with folk like Warren? If Warren is truthful about everything he told Etheridge, then he should repeat the same words in front of everybody. Unlike Richard Cizik, the former vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, Warren has not publicly expressed any change of mind and heart. Unlike Cizik who in an interview on National Public Radio, made brief remarks about same-sex civil unions and gay marriage that cost him his leadership position, Warren remains the powerful celebrity pastor of a mega church. His widly popular book continues to sell and all this publicity will get more people buying into his misguided and dangerous beliefs about women and men - like Melissa Etheridge - who only want to be happy just like everyone else.

When Cizik was asked, "A couple of years ago when you were on our show, I asked you if you were changing your mind on that. And two years ago, you said you were still opposed to gay marriage. But now as you identify more with younger voters, would you say you have changed on gay marriage?" Cizik responded, "I'm shifting, I have to admit. In other words, I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions. I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don't think." The man took a leap that cost him much.

Warren might have invited lesbians to his home but he has not taken the risk and publicly changed his stance against homosexuals and their civil rights. But now he can brag that he has more gay friends - an Academy and Grammy award-winning, multi-platinum selling rock star even!

Like Melissa Etheridge, I am hopeful that in time we will win our civil rights. But I remain dubious of Warren and his ilk. How many times must we be fooled by sweet words? Religious leaders like Warren might invite you to their place but you will never have a place at their table.

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