Rick Warren gets caught removing anti gay messages from his website. Good - it shows Obama's approach is working.by James Crabtree / December 24, 2008 / Leave a comment
Who’d have thought a jolly man in a beach shirt could cause such a rumpus. Last week, President elect Obama picked megachurch preacher Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation. A mini row followed, largely on account of Warren’s support for California’s recent Proposition 8 gay marriage ban, egged on by unhappy gay leaders. Much liberal I-told-you-so-ing came next, including a rather heavy-handed parody of Warren’s expected remarks from Linda Hirshman, now fast-approach 30,000 views on the Huffington Post. Now further controversy, as it seems Warren has been found touching up his church’s website, in the process removing some choice language warning off “unrepentant” homosexuals from his congregation. Indeed, the church’s entire FAQ section seems lost to history, and with it some helpful on missing Biblical dinosaurs, whether pets go to heaven, and the thorny problem tithing on gross or net pay—unless, that is, you happen to have access to Google’s cache. (Briefly: dinosaurs “may have actually been mentioned” in the Bible, your trusty hound will wait for you in the clouds, and gross.)
These rows have a certain Christmas silly-season vibe. Nonetheless, they bring into focus the sometimes slippery beliefs of more modern church leaders. This time last year I visited Saddleback, to research a piece for Prospect on the rise of progressive evangelicals (Closing the God Gap, Prospect October 2008.) During the visit I was struck by the difference between the church’s formal and aesthetic belief systems. Sitting in what for want of a better phrase one might still call pews, Warren’s church seems fairly liberal. He isn’t exactly progressive on the genital issues, but he doesn’t go on about them either. Yet, look at the small print of the feedback cards tucked into the chair in front of you, and you’ll see that Saddleback is formally (if not obviously) linked to the Southern Baptist convention, a fierier outfit with rather firmer and more public views aboutwhat is, and what isn’t, a valid “alternative lifestyle.” And, yet, if you look at the congregation—supremely relaxed in beach shorts and T-shirts—it’s pretty clear that they aren’t there to denounce the sinners and the gays either. So, if the church and its followers are mostly liberal, and aren’t actively prejudiced against homosexuals, does it really matter that they say they are on paper?
The obvious answer…