31 Dec Opinion Essay: Why Rick Warren Opposes Same-Sex Marriage
Barack Obama’s selection to give the prayer at his upcoming inaugural continues to stir controversy. Rick Warren, author of the mega-bestsellingThe Purpose-Driven Life and pastor of a California megachurch, is controversial, because he opposes abortion rights and has campaigned to ban same-sex marriage.
Gay rights activists are particularly incensed. They insist that Obama, elected with overwhelming support from the gay community, should never have picked such a “divisive” figure. Gay rights advocates have called Warren “homophobic” and “hateful” for his support of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that invalidated same-sex marriage in California.
**To watch and read about Rick Warren’s interview with Ann Curry, click here. UNFORTUNATELY…they don’t play the whole interview, and the place the website chose to stop the interview clearly shows their bias.**
Whenever one examines the issue of same-sex marriage, it must be done on two levels. First, the secular, civil level. And, then, the moral and religious one. In Warren’s case, focus is generally on the issue’s religious dimension, since the California pastor is…well…a pastor.
This blog post won’t get into the civil aspects of the issue. I understand some people objecting to Warren bringing his religious beliefs into the public arena. I understand that criticism, though I don’t agree with it, since a Christian has as much right to engage the public policy arena as any other citizen. But we’ll leave that aspect of the issue for another day. For now, let’s focus on the religious dimension of same-sex marriage.
It’s clear that Rick Warren has little choice on the matter of same-sex marriage, when it comes to his Christian faith. The Bible from which he preaches clearly condemns homosexuality. If Warren were to support same-sex marriage, he would be turning his back on the Bible. This is simply not something a conscientious, honest, sincere, Bible-believing evangelical can do.
David R. Stokes, a pastor himself and columnist for TownHall.com, points this out in an excellent op-ed titled “An Evangelical Bridge Too Far.” Pastor Stokes writes:
“No matter how understanding evangelicals are and how sincere some are to open a dialogue with same-sex marriage advocates and activists, there can be no real rapprochement without the willingness to change the way the Bible is read and interpreted. And that would be an evangelical bridge too far.”
Sincere, Bible-believing evangelicals don’t oppose same-sex marriage because of hate or homophobia. They object to gay marriage, because of what the Bible teaches on the subject. Pure and simple.
And while some gay rights activists will point out that earlier generations of evangelical Christians supported slavery and segregation on religious grounds, it’s clear from a straightforward reading of Scripture that racism and race-based slavery are not consistent with Christian principles.
To argue that the Bible endorses race-based slavery shows the same kind of shallow and twisted logic that says the Bible supports polygamy. The Bible clearly condemns involuntary slavery with its denunciation of stealing and covetousness as well as Jesus’ teachings on the Golden Rule. The fact that some people in the Bible practiced slavery doesn’t make slavery right. The same is true for polygamy.
In the case of homosexuality, the Bible’s moral teachings are consistent throughout. Of course, some critics of the Bible use this against Christians.
These critics argue that the harsh penalties for homosexuals in the Old Testament should prove that a literal reading of the Bible belongs in the past. These critics, among them scholars like former Anglican Bishop John Shelby Spong, say that Christianity must change and adapt to accommodate new discoveries and realities.
It’s true that the Mosaic Law contained rather harsh and punitive measures for homosexuals (as well as for rebellious teenagers, witches, etc.), but the Mosaic Law was unique and is not one-dimensional. Parts of the Mosaic Law, particularly the ceremonial aspects and the penalties assigned to certain offenses, were temporary and applicable only to the Hebrew nation.
This is particularly clear with the addition of the New Testament, which separates the Kingdom of God from the realm of Caesar and which elevates grace over law. Christians in the New Testament and post-New Testament era are not called upon to use the arm of government to enforce specific religious orthodoxy, and the penalties of sin (whatever the sin may be) are in God’s purview. It’s the role of Christians today to reach out with love and compassion, not hatred or vengeance.
And few Christians have reached out with more love and compassion than Rick Warren. He and his wife have become global leaders in the fight against AIDS and poverty. To say now that Rick Warren is homophobic or hateful, because he takes a public position against same-sex marriage is unfair and quite extreme.
I hold a strong position against polygamy. As does Warren, I’m sure. Does that mean we hate those who practice polygamy???
To disagree with someone is NOT the same as hating him or her. Disagreement – even public disagreement – is not hatred. And opposing part of the gay rights agenda doesn’t mean one is homophobic.
For crying out loud, I voted against a referendum in Ohio that would’ve allowed casino gambling in Clinton County. But I surely don’t hate people who gamble. My wife’s parents gamble – and do so in casinos. And I love and respect them.
It’s utterly outrageous to say that Rick Warren is a bigoted homophobe, because he opposes same-sex marriage. He has every right to oppose it — and to do so publicly. And his biblical convictions dictate that he oppose it!
And this is where the rubber meets the road. The choice that many (if not most) gay rights activists are giving people of faith (especially people of evangelical Christian faith) is this…
Support the gay rights agenda and, in doing so, jettison or change your religious beliefs….OR….be branded a hateful bigot!
Many evangelicals will cave to this pressure, because no one (least of all a true Christian) wants to be associated with bigotry or hate. But an honest Christian can’t simply jettison the Bible or change its meaning to suit his or her needs at the moment. The Bible is either the Word of God or it’s not. And if it is the Word of God, then it carries authority with it.
It is not for Rick Warren to decide whether the Bible is right about homosexuality. If Rick Warren is to be true to his Christian convictions and true to the Bible for what it is, then he has no choice but to support traditional marriage.
Brian Tubbs is a pastor, educator, writer, and speaker living in Clinton County, Ohio.