Scroll down for Update — ed.
Pressing the reset button is all the rage these days. Writing in The Guardian, Jonathan Steele observed that “’Pressing the reset button’ has become the favorite metaphor of the Obama administration’s policy towards Russia.” Slate headlined an article about Obama’s recalibrated Afghanistan policy, “Pressing the Reset Button on Afghanistan.” Former UN Ambassador John Bolton recently ridiculed the notion of “pressing the reset button” with Russia, calling it a “bumper-sticker slogan” that “is entirely consistent with the new administration’s endless-campaign mindset.” Venezuela president Hugo Chavez recently said that he is “willing to use the reset button” regarding U.S.-Venezuela relations. Conservative billionaire Howard Ahmanson recently pushed el maximo politico reset button by recently switching from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as is his wont, appears to be pushing every button he sees in the hopes of finding the ever-elusive reset button.
And now Pastor Rick Warren appears to be lunging for that very same button.
On Monday, Warren—in his first TV interview since delivering the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration—told CNN’s Larry King that “During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never—never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop. 8 was going.”
According to U.S. & News Report’s Dan Gilgoff:
“Warren reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage. But he also stressed that he’s not an antigay-marriage activist and that the issue is in fact very far down on his priority list.”
Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and the author of the mega-best-selling book, ”The Purpose Driven Life,” said that “There were a number of things that were put out. I wrote to all my gay friends—the leaders that I knew—and actually apologized to them. That never got out.”
When King asked Warren about the Iowa court decision allowing gay marriage, he maintained that the Iowa decision was totally off his radar screen: “I’m—I’m totally oblivious to—to what—that’s not even my agenda.”
According to OneNewsNow, the news service of Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association, Warren “issued a clear endorsement of the marriage amendment while speaking to church members[:] ’We support Proposition 8—and if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8.’”
OneNewsNow also published the “complete transcript of Warren’s comments just weeks before the Prop. 8 election”:
“The election’s coming just in a couple of weeks, and I hope you’re praying about your vote. One of the propositions, of course, that I want to mention is Proposition 8, which is the proposition that had to be instituted because the courts threw out the will of the people. And a court of four guys actually voted to change a definition of marriage that has been going for 5,000 years.
“Now let me say this really clearly: we support Proposition 8—and if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8. I never support a candidate, but on moral issues I come out very clear.
“This is one thing, friends, that all politicians tend to agree on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain, I flat-out asked both of them: what is your definition of marriage? And they both said the same thing—it is the traditional, historic, universal definition of marriage: one man and one woman, for life. And every culture for 5,000 years, and every religion for 5,000 years, has said the definition of marriage is between one man and a woman.
“Now here’s an interesting thing. There are about two percent of Americans [who] are homosexual or gay/lesbian people. We should not let two percent of the population determine to change a definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture and every single religion for 5,000 years.
“This is not even just a Christian issue—it’s a humanitarian and human issue that God created marriage for the purpose of family, love, and procreation.
“So I urge you to support Proposition 8, and pass that word on. I’m going to be sending out a note to pastors on what I believe about this. But everybody knows what I believe about it. They heard me at the Civil Forum when I asked both Obama and McCain on their views.”
“For Pastor Warren to say that shoring up marriage is not something that’s on his agenda is just something that’s hard to believe for somebody who believes the Bible is our rule for faith and practice,” Bryan Fischer with the Idaho Values Alliance told OneNewsNow.
In a column posted at Renew America, Fischer wrote:
“So if you want to understand why we are losing the culture war, you probably don’t need to look any further than Rick Warren, he of the famously seeker-friendly model of tepid Christianity. On ‘Larry King Live’ last night, Warren apologized for his support of Proposition 8, saying his supportive comments were only made at the very last minute and only in response to a question from a parishioner.”
Fischer pointed out that “Warren did everything in his power … to distance himself from Prop 8,” and “He thus takes pride in being completely AWOL while this huge battle over the spiritual and moral fabric of our nation was taking place in his own state.”
“Historically when institutions and individuals back away from convictional biblical truth, it is driven primarily by one single factor—and that is the respectability of other people. In other words, much more caring about what other people think about them than what God thinks about them,” said Dr. Jim Garlow, the senior pastor of La Mesa, California’s Skyline Wesleyan Church who helped spearhead the Prop. 8 campaign in California.
U.S. News’ Gilgoff pointed out that Warren’s remarks on CNN were “a turnabout from 2004, when [he] included gay marriage among five “nonnegotiable” issues in a letter he sent to his Saddleback Church congregants before the presidential election.” On CNN, he “put stopping gay marriage ‘very low’ on his to-do list.”
Regardless of the criticism from Religious Right leaders, it appears to be a savvy move by Warren to step aside from the same-sex marriage brouhaha and concentrate his efforts on building his influence with the Obama Administration and with several countries in Africa.
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For more, see Sarah Pulliam’s post on the King interview with Warren at Christianity Today.
As noted above, Pastor Rick Warren announced on Larry King Live that he didn’t really give a hoot or a holler about same-sex marriage; that he wasn’t really as fired up about supporting California’s Proposition 8 last November as it may have seemed at the time; that he had apologized to his gay friends for some of the things that had been reported about his position on the issue; that he was oblivious to the recent Iowa Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriages in the state; and that he wasn’t really paying attention to those matters because he was concentrating on his work around poverty and AIDS in Africa.
As expected, warren was roundly criticized by several Religious Right spokespersons, including one who had been prominently involved in the Prop 8 campaign.
Now several days later, instead of the dust settling on the matter, a well-known African American conservative Christian evangelical leader is accusing Warren of doing “tremendous damage” to the church.
Bishop Harry Jackson, the founder of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, told OneNewsNow, a news service sponsored by the American Family Association:
This man who’s been called the next Billy Graham, who I really respect with all my heart and love what he’s doing in Africa, is falling into a trap that is emblematic of the problem that the entire church is facing in this generation. And that is that we love the applause of men more than we love the work of God and the gospel. Jesus…told us that we are to honor God first, and that we are not to fear men but we’re to fear God.
Jackson added that Warren, by being the author of enormously popular book, The Purpose Driven Life, will have people thinking “’Well, this is not on my mission—it’s not on my purpose. I don’t have to stand for truth.’”
“Therefore, his defection—in terms of his stance on this issue—[and] his backsliding on this issue, becomes of tremendous damage to the strength of the church in this position.”
Meanwhile, the Boston, Mass.-based publication EDGE reported that The National Organization for Marriage, had recently “kicked off a $1.5 million ad campaign … targeting states where marriage equality has been, or may soon be, approved.” [see both the original ad and the parody that immediately followed below this post]. In an op-ed for the April 9 edition of the New York Post, NOM president Maggie Gallagher wrote:
“Many religious people and groups will bow to, if not exactly endorse, the power of gay activists. Witness Rev. Rick Warren, who on ’Larry King Live’ this week came very close to recanting his support for Proposition 8.”
Added Gallagher: “Rick did not quite do so. What he did, instead, is what many good people will do in the face of the massive campaign of intimidation and harassment designed to silence Christians and others of good will who support marriage: He dodged, saying, more or less, I am not now and never have been an anti-gay marriage “activist.”
Gallagher became a national figure of sorts in 2005, when it was revealed that she along with syndicated columnists Mike McManus and Armstrong Williams, had received Bush Administration bucks for writing columns in support of Bush Administration policies. Both Gallagher and McManus received their checks from the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the President’s healthy marriages initiative.
And what of Rick Warren, now being abused and accused?
In the spirit of Birkat Hachamah, Passover, and Easter, let’s let him have the last word about fellowship:
Christianity Today: You haven’t spoken to the media in several months. Why did you decide to start doing interviews again?
Rick Warren: It’s Easter week. Easter week I typically make myself available. I didn’t ask to pray at the inauguration—it wasn’t my idea in the first place—and as soon as it was over, I felt like I needed to put my head down and focus on the enormous harvest. People see me out there—I speak to Muslim groups and Jewish groups, I’m actually having a Passover Seder … People never need to doubt why I do what I do, even when associating with people gets me in all kinds of hot water. Jesus got into hot water for the people he associated with. Fundamentalist groups say Warren hangs out with Jews and Muslims and gays and on and on. The point is, I’m not allowed to not love anybody.
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The original ad:
The parody, hat tip to Andrew Sullivan: