Is Rick Warren Gay?

There’s been some discussion around the blogosphere that Rick Warren doth protest too much about his feelings about gays and lesbians. He loves us, he says, while he likens our relationships to pedophilia and incest. Rick says he’s got loads of gay friends who apparently believe it’s natural to be promiscuous. Some, like Susie Bright, say, however, that Rick’s arguments and positions are eerily similar to another pastor who has now been shunned by fundamentalists:

Deja vu: major Fundie evangelist can’t stop talking about how disgusting gay people are, comparing them to incestors and pedophiles. Decries loose women having abortions. Demands his enemies be offed. Then caps it all off with how much he “loves” everybody. Send your check now! Warren has all the earmarks we saw with Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Bob Allen, David “DiaperPants” Vitter, et al. It’s a bad rerun.

In the heat of the controversy surrounding Warren’s invitation to pray at Obama’s inauguration, the web site at his Saddleback Church has been scrubbed of previous mentions that gay and lesbian people who are unwilling to “repent” of the “lifestyle” of homosexuality would not be able to join the church. (Here is a cached version of the scrubbed page.)

A new page, however, repeats the same offensive anti-gay theology, comparing the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians to alcoholism and adultery. As a lesbian who fully believes that I was born this way, I find it offensive to be told that my natural inclination to seek a long term, loving relationship with another woman is on par with an alcoholic jonesing for his next drink. It pains me to have to point out to otherwise seemingly intelligent people that they are comparing apples and oranges. Alcoholics and adulterers cause great harm to families and societies by abusing themselves and breaking covenant with others. Certainly, there are gay and lesbian people who have drinking problems or have cheated on their partners. However, their innate sexual orientation does not mean that they will automatically—because they are gay or lesbian—act in ways that are harmful to themselves or others. The argument is spurious, but just reasonable enough to convince the uneducated and gullible that they can “love the sinner, but hate the sin.”

Just before Haggard (who, by the way, did abuse himself and broke covenant) admitted buying drugs and engaging in sex with a male prostitute, his views against homosexuality were front and center just like Warren’s are now. He appeared in the movie Jesus Camp pontificating on the evils of homosexuality. In a new HBO documentary, airing January 29, Haggard says he never claimed to be heterosexual and has struggled with his sexual identity his entire life. In the end, he hid his true self fearing, “that my friends would reject me, abandon me and kick me out, and the church would exile and excommunicate me. And that happened and more.”

In that, my heart goes out to Haggard. Were it not for the vociferous anti-gay theological rhetoric coming from the church, perhaps a young Ted Haggard would have had the self-esteem required of a young gay man to be who he really was created to be. If he had found support and love from a good church home, perhaps Ted Haggard would have become a great leader in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights. Sadly, he’s now a marginally successful insurance salesman—a “loser,” as he describes himself—and he still will not embrace his authentic self—believing the lie that he cannot be both gay and Christian.

Too many gay and lesbian people know Haggard’s struggle and heartbreak over the church. They’ve been ostracized by their friends and family and exiled from church communities. Warren’s church is among those who have publicly proclaimed that no “unrepentant” gay and lesbian person is welcome as a member there.

The church has done such damage to the souls of God’s gay and lesbian children and I grieve not just for them but for the church that has rejected the gifts and talents of gays and lesbians. Churches are not supposed to be a place filled with saints. Instead, it is to be a place where all broken and wounded people can be bound up by grace and encounter God’s unconditional love.

Do I think Rick Warren is really gay and protesting too much? That’s between him and God. I can’t say. What I can say is that the human damage from the kind of teachings Warren purveys is growing day by day. About that we simply cannot protest too much.