Column: A certain type of preaching goes too farKANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mega-minister Rick Warren has become a reluctant actor in the most instructive morality play of his highly televised ministry. In December, Warren had to smite the creature he had nourished and come forward to denounce efforts by Christian lawmakers in Uganda to impose draconian penalties on homosexuals.
By: Mary Sanchez, Tribune Media Services, Worthington Daily Globe
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mega-minister Rick Warren has become a reluctant actor in the most instructive morality play of his highly televised ministry.
In December, Warren had to smite the creature he had nourished and come forward to denounce efforts by Christian lawmakers in Uganda to impose draconian penalties on homosexuals.
Under the influence of Ugandan evangelical preachers, the country’s parliament is considering a sinister step. Leaders are mulling over imposing the death penalty or life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality.”
Another Ugandan proposal would jail anyone found to be “aiding and abetting” a homosexual. Presumably, that could mean a doctor who dares to treat gay patients infected with HIV could be locked up. Maybe so could a pastor who counsels a gay parishioner, or a family that accepts a gay child, instead of turning him over to authorities. Pink triangles, anyone?
Warren’s Saddleback Church in Southern California has long had ties with conservative Christian pastors in Uganda. The mega-sized, mega-monied and mega-influential Saddleback operates a much-publicized ministry to the African nation’s poor. Much like Warren, the Ugandan pastors preach that marriage exists only for heterosexuals, and that any type of sex outside of straight marriage is sinful. These messages have gained influence in recent years, and, with the help of American clergymen, Uganda has begun to lean more and more toward promoting abstinence in its continuing battle with HIV and AIDS.
One of the churchmen leading the anti-gay crusade in Uganda is Pastor Martin Ssempa, a man Warren has welcomed as a speaker at Saddleback. As part of his shtick, Ssempa likes to burn condoms and organize anti-homosexual parades to rile up the masses.
Rightly hounded by critics for remaining silent for so long on Ssempa’s anti-gay activism, Warren taped a YouTube declaration calling the Ugandan proposals “unjust, extreme and un-Christian.” Is it fair to blame Warren for what fanatics do to homosexuals in Uganda, legally or otherwise, simply because he promotes the same scripture-based view of homosexuality as evil? No, but it’s worth asking whether there isn’t something in that view that leads to treating gays and lesbians as somewhat lesser beings than heterosexuals.
We’re lucky here in the United States that our Constitution trumps the Book of Leviticus. We can jostle and argue among ourselves all we want about public library books that admit some kids have two mommies or two daddies, or about allowing gays the same tax breaks, divorce burdens and duties American society accords married folks.
Warren and other conservatives can bemoan the idea of hate crime statutes protecting homosexuals; they can preach it is an abomination of God’s wishes for cities and states to allow gays to marry and decry Gay Pride Days as displays of immorality.
Here, those views are counterbalanced by most Americans’ acceptance of gay people. Denunciations of gay love from the pulpit are not going to devolve into legalized witch-hunts.
So often lately, conservative Christians childishly claim the pushback they feel is “anti-Christian.” Some assert their freedom to believe as they wish is being trampled. The truth is, with increasing regularity, they are simply chafing against societal shifts.
I was among the voices irked at Warren’s archaic views when he was chosen to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inaugural. Suffice it to say, I find his dismissal of evolution curious. And his past statements seemingly equating homosexuality with pedophilia and incest were nothing less than repugnant.
Here in America, one may find Warren’s view of human nature and sexuality merely idiotic and annoying. In less secular — or should I say less enlightened? — climes, those views are downright dangerous.
Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for the Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.