Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Resisting Rick Warren

December 23, 2008

My initial reaction to the President-elect’s invitation to Rick Warren to offer an invocation at the inauguration was that it was a smart move. Mr. Warren is a well known pastor through his best selling ‘purpose driven’ books. He had hosted a conversation with Senators McCain and Obama during the campaign, and he would have general appeal to a more conservative base that Obama needs to have true national unity while facing some serious challenges where partisanship is particularly unhelpful. There are plenty of people who dislike me who are quite capable of praying and I was embarrassed to read the comments of the Bishop of New Hampshire saying that Mr. Warren and he pray to different gods.

That said, I have great sympathy with those who resist and criticize the President-elect’s decision to invite him. As one friend of mine put it: “I have zero tolerance for those who would denigrate my full humanity.” I have long since moved beyond considering homosexuality as a theoretical problem. It is quite possible, --even likely—that Mr. Warren would think that a person who engages in homosexual acts is denigrating her or his humanity, and that this is a debate between reasonable people. Maybe the president-elect thinks some such thing. I don not think such a view is reasonable once we accept the reality that some people are (whatever the etiology) homosexual. Once we accept that as reality, then views such as those of Mr. Warren or the many members of our own communion who really do not accept GLBT people as such denigrate the full humanity of brothers and sisters in Christ. Those views must therefore be challenged at every turn even when we ourselves find such a need to be tiresome. At the same time we do not need to denigrate the humanity of those whom we challenge. Jesus set the model for non violent resistance or resistance with integrity in his own life, fully recognizing that he was therefore vulnerable to a lynch mob,--and in his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount—in which turning the other cheek and walking the extra mile are attitudes and actions of non violent resistance to those who would denigrate the humanity of others. (For more on this see Walter Wink’s Engaging the Powers, especially Chapter 9)

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