Rick Warren Urges Ugandan Pastors to Speak Out Against Proposed Anti-Gay Law

After refusing to comment on the proposed brutal anti-gay law in Uganda for well over a month as international outcry multiplied, Rick Warren this morning issued a statement and video on his web site, calling on Ugandan pastors to oppose the law, and rebutting reports about his relationships with political and religious leaders in Uganda.

Warren (like our own Candace Chellew-Hodge did in criticizing Warren’s silence) quotes Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Warren states:

[I]t is my role to correct lies, errors and false reports when others associate my name with a law that I had nothing to do with, completely oppose and vigorously condemn. I am referring to the pending law under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament, known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Since he had previously refused to condemn the proposed law, it’s not difficult to see why people would have criticized him for remaining silent. Yet now, in claiming he “vigorously condemns” it — only after a huge firestorm against it, including condemnation by many of his fellow American evangelicals — Warren asserts that his views on homosexuality and relationships with Ugandan religious and political leaders have played no role in events there.

“Let me be clear,” Warren states, “that God’s Word states that all sex outside of marriage is not what God intends. Jesus reaffirmed what Moses wrote that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman committed to each other for life.” Warren then urges Ugandan pastors to nonetheless love their neighbors and oppose the proposed law which is “unjust, extreme and un-Christian.”

Warren claims that he doesn’t know the president of Uganda and has “never met him, and never had any kind of communications with him or with any member of the Ugandan Parliament, and that Uganda’s president never said that he wanted Uganda to be a ‘purpose-driven nation.’”

Yet last year, according to a press release from Warren’s public relations firm, he launched a “purpose-driven living” campaign in Uganda, organized by a former member of Parliament. While there — his fourth trip to the country — he met with the First Lady of Uganda, Janet Museveni. Warren’s statement today that he’s never met the president of Uganda or any members of parliament, then, seems hair-splitting. The press release, after all, did say, “This is the second East African country to invite Dr. Warren to bring the well- known Purpose Driven Life and Church leadership training to churches, businesses and government on a national scale.” At the time, Warren said, “my challenge to business and government leaders is to use their influence for the glory of God and partner with local churches in solving community problems.” It would seem that even if he didn’t directly play a role in supporting the law or its promoters, he had a clear role to play in denouncing it, and much more quickly than he did.

There’s no doubt he has a strong relationship with government, business, and religious leaders in Uganda, according to his own statements. So it would seem logical for people at least to think he would have some sway to denounce the proposed law as a brutal violation of human rights and of Christian values. Instead of addressing the reasons why he waited to speak, though, Warren instead seeks to dispel “untruths” about his relationships with leaders there, and alleged misinterpretations of some of his statements. But that doesn’t tell us much about his relationships there, just which leaders and statements from which he’s now trying to distance himself. It would be more revealing to understand just what “purpose-driven living” is, how he has imparted that teaching to Ugandan leaders, and how they make use of it.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email