December 10, 2009
Pastor Rick Warren (finally) condemns the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill
Well, color me surprised: “Reverend Rick Warren released a video letter to clergy in Uganda today, speaking out against proposed legislation in that country that punishes homosexual activity with death.” You can view the video at the link, or if you’d rather not watch the message, I’ve transcribed Warren’s message below the fold. While I’m grateful that Warren finally spoke out on the subject, his message leaves much to be desired, and I think it comes off as defensive at some points and painfully self-congratulatory at others. All the same, is this the best we can hope for from evangelical leaders — a statement that essentially boils down to the notion that LGBTQ folks deserve respect and dignity, and should not be imprisoned or put to death simply for being who they are? I mean, I guess that’s a place to start, but — is it really so naive or foolish of me to expect more?
[Greetings to the pastors of Uganda, laced with Christian jargon.]
We’re all familiar with Edmund Burke’s insight that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. That’s why I’m sharing my heart with you today. As an American pastor, it’s not my role to interfere with the politics of other nations, but it is my role to speak out on moral issues, and it is my role to shepherd other pastors who look to me for guidance, and it is my role to correct lies and errors and false reports when others associate my name with a law that I had nothing to do with, I completely oppose, and I vigorously condemn.
I’m referring to the pending law under consideration by the Ugandan parliament known as the anti-homosexuality bill. Now, as a pastor, I’ve found that the most effective way to build consensus for social change is usually through direct, quiet diplomacy and behind-the-scenes dialogue, rather than through the media. Because I didn’t rush to make a public statement, some erroneously concluded that I supported this terrible bill, and some even claim that I was a sponsor of the bill. You in Uganda know that’s untrue.
I’m releasing this video to you and to your congregations to correct these untruths, and, in addition, to urge you to make a positive difference at this critical point in your nation.
We could never deny or water down what God’s word clearly says and teaches about sexuality. At the same time, the church must stand to protect the dignity of all individuals, just as Jesus did, and commanded all of us to do. Let me be clear: God’s word states that all sex outside of marriage is not what God intends, and Jesus reaffirmed what Moses wrote, that marriage is intended to be one man and one woman, committed to each other for life.
Jesus also taught, though, that the greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Since God created all, and Jesus suffered and died for all, then we are to treat all with respect. The great commandment has been the centerpiece of my life and my ministry for over 35 years.
Now, of course there are thousands of evil laws enacted all around the world, and I can’t speak to pastors about every single one of them. But I am taking this extraordinary step of speaking to you, the pastors of Uganda, and the spiritual leaders of your nation, for five reasons.
First, the potential law before your parliament is unjust, it’s extreme, and it’s unchristian toward homosexuals, requiring death penalty even in some cases, and if I’m reading the proposed bill correctly, this law would also imprison anyone convicted of homosexual practice.
Second, the law would force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities.
Third, it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting. As you know and I know, in Africa it’s the churches that are bearing the primary burden of providing care for people infected with HIV and AIDS. If this bill passed, homosexuals who are HIV-positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care and comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported. You and I know that the churches of Uganda are the truly caring communities where people receive hope and help, not condemnation. You know that.
Fourth, all live, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God. My wife Kay and I have devoted our entire lives and our ministry to saving lives, to saving the lives of people, including homosexuals, who are HIV-positive. [Some commentary on the Warrens’ HIV/AIDS work can be found here.] It would be inconsistent to save some lives and wish death on others. You see, we’re not just pro-life, we are whole-life. [What does that mean?]
Finally, the freedom to make moral choices, and our right to free expressions, are gifts endowed by God, our creator. Uganda’s a democratic country, with a remarkable and wise people, and in a democracy, everybody has the right to speak up, and for these five reasons, I urge you to speak up, the pastors of Uganda, speak out against this proposed law.
My role, and the role of the PEACE plan, whether in Uganda or any other country, is always pastoral, never political. I vigorously oppose anything that hinders the goals of our PEACE plan, which is P-E-A-C-E: Promoting reconciliation, Equipping ethical leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation, which by the way, includes the protection of children.
[Prayers, discussion of the meaning of the Christmas season, the idea that it is a season of celebration, salvation, and reconciliation, and a time for good cheer, good news, and good will.]