Roundup: Rick Warren Claims He’s Not “Political”

Jodi Jacobson

Rick Warren tells Meet the Press he doesn't take "sides" in political debates; South Korea uses pro-natalist fears to restrict women's access to abortion.

Rick Warren Not "Taking Sides," Except When He Does

In several recent statements, Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church and a leader of Christian fundamentalists here and abroad, has demured when asked about his work in politics.

On Meet the Press yesterday, for example, he was asked about his involvement in the Proposition 8 battle in California last year, as well as in other political efforts.  Warren replied by referring to an earlier statement he’d made on the program:

I said, "I’m just a pastor.  I’m not a politician, I’m not a pundit."
And so I began to say, "What am I supposed to do with this, this
platform?" And I don’t believe God gives you money or influence for
your own ego, so you can just be a fat cat and be a celebrity.  We need
more heroes, fewer celebrities.  Heroes sacrifice for others,
celebrities sacrifice for themselves.

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But Warren’s statement strikes many as disingenuous.  In Newsweek this morning, for example, Lisa Miller writes about Warren’s reactions to the work of Martin Ssemap, the Ugandan religious right leader with whom Warren has had close past affiliation under US Global AIDS Policy, and the proposed law in Uganda to make "homosexuality punishable by death."

In October, Warren distanced himself from
Ssempa and the Ugandan legislation, saying, "Martin Ssempa does not
represent me; my wife, Kay; Saddleback Church; nor the Global PEACE
Plan strategy," a reference to Warren’s work in the developing world
and Africa in particular. "In 2007 we completely severed contact with
Mr. Ssempa when we learned that his views and actions were in serious
conflict with our own.

"Our role, and the role of the PEACE
Plan, whether in Uganda or any other country, is always pastoral and
never political. We vigorously oppose anything that hinders the goals
of the PEACE Plan: Promoting reconciliation, Equipping ethical leaders,
Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next
generation." 

But Warren won’t go so far as to condemn
the legislation itself. A request for a broader reaction to the
proposed Ugandan antihomosexual laws generated this response: "The
fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the
freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator.
However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to
comment or interfere in the political process of other nations." 

Yet Warren has called abortion "a holocaust," supports the global gag rule,  is a frequent visitor to Capitol Hill to lobby on issues of concern to his fundamentalist agenda, and was among those instrumental in defeating critical changes in the reauthorization of global AIDS policy last year, changes needed to ensure US-funded prevention programs were based on evidenve, public health and human rights, and to benefit women and girls.  In fact, he joined a press conference with Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ), Joe Pitts (R-PA), and others during which he and others used inaccurate and misleading information to deny HIV-positive women access to family planning information and services.

On Raw Story, Stephen C. Webster explores his connections to the secretive fundamentalist Christian group whose political influence is detailed in Jeff Sharlet’s book, The Family.

Sharlet told Terry Gross last week on NPR’s Fresh Air that:

The Family has operated secretively with the
help of influential congressmen and senators who are members of the
group to promote their anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-free-market ideas
in America and other parts of the world, but two sex scandals involving
people connected with The Family -Nevada Senator John Ensign and South
Carolina Governor Mark Sanford – have brought public attention to the
group.

Apolitical?  It appears Warren doth protest too much.

South Korea Enforces Decades-old Abortion Ban for Economic Reasons

Women’s rights advocates have long contended that governments manipulate women’s access to contraception and abortion based less on "moral" considerations or on women’s health and human rights concerns  than on anti- or pro-natalist goals affected by national economic and political concerns.

A recent turn of events in South Korea appears to underscore that claim, as the government is acting suddenly to enforce a long-ignored ban on abortion in the interest of raising birth rates.

The Examiner.Com reports that fears of a shortage of young people to take care of the elderly underlies a change in plicy in the country:

According to The Christian Telegraph, about
45 years ago the government claimed that there was an overpopulation
problem, and so great effort went into encouraging contraception and
abortion, even though abortion was technically illegal.

Now, fears of a “demographic catastrophe” are resulting in a push for larger families.

[T]he Presidential Council is proposing an
“Increase Koreans project” which would give special privileges to
families with at least three children, as well as the third child. The
families would be given “special interest rates on mortgages,” and the
third child would receive, “an advantage in university entrance
examinations, employment, and financial support for high school and
university tuition.” 

 

11/30

Rebecca
St. James passionate about pro-life message
Florida Baptist Witness

America
becoming more
pro-life
The Daily Advance

Behind
RNC ‘Checklist’ Controversy
Human Events

Column:
Contraception
isn’t abortion
Wausau
Daily Herald

Adoption
process tries patience
Grand Junction Sentinel

Abortion
guidance ruling expected
BBC News

 

11/29

Malta
‘burying head in sand’ on sexual health
Times of Malta

Father’s
lawsuit aimed at clinic
Corpus Christi Caller Times

Opinion:
Health care reform could eliminate abortion coverage
San Jose Mercury News

Pro-life
plan
Lawrence
Journal World

Tennessee
Right To Life’s endorsement of Dem has GOP up in arms
Kingsport Times News

Thankful
for Planned Parenthood
Cal Coast News

Economic
instability motivates South Korea to enforce decades old abortion ban
Examiner.com

Talk
about safe sex, government urging young
BBC News

Condoms
popular among teen girls; tubal ligation among older women
Jamaica Observer

Varadaan
promoting
adoption and
child rights
Times
of India

New
Qld
adoption
laws in effect in 2010
ABC Online

Economy
may be impacting
adoptions, officials say
Dayton Daily News

In
South Korea,
abortion
foes gain ground
Los
Angeles Times

In
Congress, a Generation Gap on
Abortion
New York Times

Evangelical
Pastor Rick Warren on
abortion, sexuality and Obama
Politico

Senate
Debate on Health Bill Set to Begin Monday
Wall Street Journal

Insider
Poll: Utah May be First in Nation to Categorize Illegal
Abortions as Homicide
Fox 13 Now – Salt Lake City

Why
Do You Believe What You Do?
TPM

The
Abortion Distortion
New
York Magazine

 

11/28

Program
is key to successful
adoption, foster planning
Gadsden Times

A
look at Catholic Church’s opposition to
abortion
Providence Journal

Abortion:
Paying for one’s own mistakes
Chicago Daily Herald

In
Support of Abortion, It’s Personal vs. Political
New York Times

Outspoken
MP Slams Canada’s “Abortion Regime”
 Catholic
Exchange

Pro-life
conference sells out months early
Catholic News
Agency

Pro-Life
News: Catholic Pols, Abortion, Assault, Canada, Rationing, France …
LifeNews.com

Catholic
influence
Chicago Tribune

Basic
reproductive health should be in reform bill
Patriot-News

Consent
requires accurate information
Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel

For
the Vatican it’s Clear – Pro-Abortion Politicians ‘Must’ be Denied Communion

Lifesite

Editorial:
Christian leaders’ stance on civil disobedience is dangerous
Los Angeles Times

Abortion’s
New Battleground
Newsweek

Kennedy
to speak on health care after church feud
The
Associated Press

Anti-abortion
initiative heads to court in Alaska
Anchorage
Daily News

Ex-nurse,
83, nurtures artisans’ co-op, family planning clinic she founded
Boston Globe

Natural
Family Planning A Tough Sell In Philly
Philadelphia
Bulletin

 

11/27

Many
pregnant women take drugs harmful to baby
Reuters

Christian
leaders vow to resist gay marriage, abortion
Pittsburgh
Post Gazette

Sarah
Palin and Me
Wall Street Journal

Choose
adoption rather than having abortion
Bloomington
Pantagraph

Hypocrisy
in pro-life provisions?
Chicago Daily Herald

Archbishop
of Detroit leads pro-life vigil ‘rooted in Christian love’
Catholic News Agency

The
fed-up faithful
New York Post

Chatting
with a signer of the ‘Manhattan Declaration’
Village
Voice

Adoption:
Second Choice, Not Second Best
 Catholic
Exchange

Woman
charged with assaulting abortion protester
Chicago
Tribune

Pro
– Abortion Bill Spanish Politicians Sinful – Church
New York Times

Abortion
hijacking
Salt Lake Tribune

Abortion,
Insurance and Health Care Reform
New York Times
(Letters)

NHS
‘should pay costs of abortion for Northern Ireland women’
Belfast Telegraph

And
now, facts about the pill that gives men real power
Standard

Impacting
AIDS this World AIDS Day
Huffington Post

 

11/26

Abortion
donor case ends
Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Kirk’s
low-key approach in Senate drawing notice
The
Associated Press

Berlusconi
Government blocks Vatican-opposed RU486 abortion pill
Times Online

Democrat
Bob Casey Will Work to Remove Abortion Funding From Senate Bill
LifeNews.com

Pro-Life
Advocate Threatened With Knife by Woman Seeking Abortion Speaks Out
LifeNews.com

Maryland
Pregnancy Center Attack Earns Washington Post, Pro-Life Condemnation
LifeNews.com

On
abortion and the Catholic Church …
Dallas
Morning News

Planned
Parenthood Drops Lawsuit Against Former Abortion Center Director
LifeNews.com

MP
hits out at adoption policies
BBC News

Cincinnati
Pro-Life Advocates Worry City Council Bill Would Limit Free Speech
LifeNews.com

Barack
Obama’s Thanksgiving Message Emulates Bush’s, Ditches Pro-Life Words
LifeNews.com

A
Truce in the Religious Wars?
New York Times

He
who cast the first stone lives in glass house
Boston
Herald

Abortion
in Health Plan Tests a Pennsylvania Senator
New
York Times

Dawn
Norman: Planned Parenthood provides valuable services to women
Huntington Herald Dispatch

 

11/25

A
Different Kind of Pregnant Student
Inside
Higher Ed

Sask.
MP criticized for views on abortion, feminism
Globe
and Mail

Baltimore
Pregnancy Centers Forced to Tell the Truth
Change.org
Women’s Rights

New
CDC Report: Abortions Rose 3.1% in 2006, Other Research Shows Decline
LifeNews.com

Anti-abortion
protest outside Waco high school draws a few complaints
Waco Tribune Herald

Read
Kennedy His Rites: Bishop’s Abortion Stand
New
York Post

Solve
abortion distraction
HeraldNet

Should
Pro-Abortion Politicians Receive Communion?
Virtue
Online

Abortion,
Women’s Health and Health Reform
Time

Abortion,
a Kennedy and a Catholic communion conundrum
Reuters
Blogs

Superior
woman arrested after threatening abortion protesters
Minnesota Public Radio

Healthcare
holdouts: Ben Nelson says abortion funds mean ‘no’ vote
Christian Science Monitor

Catholic
Church Stokes Political Debate On Abortion, Gay Marriage
NPR

What
Will Happen in the Senate?
National Catholic
Register

SD
officials reach deal in abortion donation case
Daily
Republic

Cardinal:
"No Way" Catholics in Congress Can Back Pro-Abortion Health Care Bill

LifeNews.com

More
than 30 Michigan counties honor National Adoption Day
Lansing State Journal

Children,
families celebrate adoptions
Shelby Star

Fed-up
couples giving up adoption dreams
Ninemsn

Why
liberals hate Palin
UND The Dakota Student

Kennedy
represents a wider constituency than Catholics
Valley
Breeze

What
about other pro-life issues?
Albany Times Union

Pro-life
Uruguayans urge fellow voters to elect president who will defend life
Catholic News Agency

Baltimore
City Council passes law that would burden pro-life pregnancy centers
Catholic News Agency

NE
governors’ races give GOP a chance to build on gains
Boston Globe

Obama
can’t let bishops set US policy
Chicago
Sun-Times

Is
purity test pro-choice?
Politico

The
‘Manhattan Declaration’: The Manifesto That’s Shaking America
Catholic Online

Women,
violence and poverty – breaking out of the gender trap
Amnesty International USA

US
Officials See Progress and Challenges in Fight Against AIDS
Voice of America

Abortion
carries a high cost, too
Lower Hudson Journal
news

Planning
for change
Pasadena Weekly

News Abortion

Pennsylvania’s TRAP Law Could Be the Next to Go Down

Teddy Wilson

The Democrats' bill would repeal language from a measure that targets abortion clinics, forcing them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that would repeal a state law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a similar provision in Texas’ anti-choice omnibus law known as HB 2.

A similar so-called targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 with bipartisan majorities in both the house and state senate, and was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

SB 1350, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) would repeal language from Act 122 that requires abortion clinics to meet ASF regulations. The text of the bill has not yet been posted on the state’s legislative website.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

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Leach said in a statement that there has been a “nationwide attack on patients and their doctors,” but that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion is a legal, Constitutionally-protected right that should be available to all women,” Leach said. “Every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly swore an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, so we must act swiftly to repeal this unconstitutional requirement.”

TRAP laws, which single out abortion clinics and providers and subject them to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics, have been passed in several states in recent years.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down two of the provisions in HB 2 has already had ramifications on similar laws passed in other states with GOP-held legislatures.

The Supreme Court blocked similar anti-choice laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi, and Alabama’s attorney general announced he would drop an appeal to a legal challenge of a similar law.

Commentary Violence

This is Not The Story I Wanted—But It’s My Story of Rape

Dani Kelley

Writer Dani Kelley thought she had shed the patriarchal and self-denying lessons of her conservative religious childhood. But those teachings blocked her from initially admitting that an encounter with a man she met online was not a "date" that proved her sexual liberation, but an extended sexual assault.

Content note: This article contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence.

The night I first truly realized something was wrong was supposed to be a good night.

A visiting friend and I were in pajamas, eating breakfast food at 10 p.m., wrapped in blankets while swapping stories of recent struggles and laughs.

There I was, animatedly telling her about my recently acquired (and discarded) “fuck buddy,” when suddenly the story caught in my throat.

When I finally managed to choke out the words, they weren’t what I expected to say. “He—he held me down—until, until I couldn’t—breathe.”

Hearing myself say it out loud was a gut-punch. I was sobbing, gasping for breath, arms wrapped as if to hold myself together, spiraling into a terrifying realization.

This isn’t the story I wanted.

Unlearning My Training

I grew up in the Plymouth Brethren movement, a small fundamentalist Christian denomination that justifies strict gender roles through a literal approach to the Bible. So, according to 1 Corinthians 11:7, men are considered “the image and glory of God,” while women are merely “the glory of man.” As a result, women are expected to wear head coverings during any church service, among other restrictions that can be best summed up by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-12: Women are never allowed to have authority over men.

If you’ve spent any number of years in conservative Christianity like I did, you’re likely familiar with the fundamentalist tendency to demonize that which is morally neutral or positive (like premarital sex or civil rights) while sugar-coating negative experiences. The sugar-coating can be twofold: Biblical principles are often used to shame or gaslight abuse victims (like those being shunned or controlled or beaten by their husbands) while platitudes are often employed to help members cope with “the sufferings of this present time,” assuring them that these tragedies are “not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

In many ways, it’s easy to unlearn the demonization of humanity as you gain actual real-world experience refuting such flimsy claims. But the shame? That can be more difficult to shake.

The heart of those teachings isn’t only present in this admittedly small sect of Christianity. Rather, right-wing Western Christianity as a whole has a consent problem. It explicitly teaches its adherents they don’t belong to themselves at all. They belong to God (and if they’re not men, they belong to their fathers or husbands as well). This instilled lack of agency effectively erases bodily autonomy while preventing the development of healthy emotional and physical boundaries.

On top of that, the biblical literalism frequently required by conservative Christianity in the United States promotes a terrifying interpretation of Scripture, such as Jeremiah 17:9. The King James Version gives the verse a stern voice, telling us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” If we believe this, we must accept that we’re untrustworthy witnesses to our own lives. Yet somehow, we’re expected to rely on the authority of those the Bible deems worthy. People like all Christians, older people, and men.

Though I’ve abandoned Christianity and embraced feminist secular humanism, the culture in which I grew up and my short time at conservative Bob Jones University still affect how I view myself and act in social situations. The lessons of my formative years created a perfect storm of terrible indoctrination: gender roles that promoted repressed individuality for women while encouraging toxic masculinity, explicit teaching that led to constant second-guessing my ability to accurately understand my own life, and a biblical impetus to “rejoice in my suffering.”

Decades of training taught me I’m not allowed to set boundaries.

But Some Habits Die Hard

Here’s the thing. At almost 30, I’d never dated anyone other than my ex-husband. So I thought it was about time to change that.

When I found this man’s online profile, I was pleasantly surprised. It was full of the kind of geekery I’m into, even down to the specific affinity for eclectic music. I wrote to him, making sure my message and tone were casual. He responded instantly, full of charisma and charm. Within hours, we’d made plans to meet.

He was just as friendly and attentive in person. After wandering around town, window-shopping, and getting to know one another, he suggested we go to his favorite bar. As he drank (while I sipped water), he kept paying me compliments, slowly breaking the touch barrier. And honestly, I was enthralled—no one had paid attention to me like this in years.

When he suggested moving out to the car where we could be a little more intimate, I agreed. The rush of feeling desired was intoxicating. He seemed so focused on consent—asking permission before doing anything. Plus, he was quite straightforward about what he wanted, which I found exciting.

So…I brought him home.

This new and exciting “arrangement” lasted one week, during which we had very satisfying, attachment-free sex several times and after which we parted ways as friends.

That’s the story I told people. That’s the story I thought I believed. I’d been freed from the rigid expectations and restraints of my youth’s purity culture.

Now. You’re about to hear me say many things I know to be wrong. Many feminists or victim advocates almost certainly know the rationalizations and reactions I’m about to describe are both normal responses to abuse and a result of ingrained lies about sex in our culture. Not to mention evidence of the influence that right-wing conservatism can have on shaping self-actualization.

As I was telling people the story above, I left out important details. Were my omissions deliberate? An instinctive self-preservation mechanism? A carryover from draconian ideals about promiscuity?

When I broke down crying with my friend, I finally realized I’d kept quiet because I couldn’t bear to hear myself say what happened.

I’m a feminist, damn it. I left all the puritanical understandings of gender roles behind when I exited Christianity! I even write about social justice and victim advocacy. I ought to recognize rape culture!

Right?

If only being a socially aware feminist was enough to erase decades of socialization as a woman within rape culture—or provide inoculation against sexual violence.

That first night, once we got to my car, he stopped checking in with me. I dismissed the red flag as soon as I noticed it, telling myself he’d stop if I showed discomfort. Then he smacked my ass—hard. I pulled away, staring at him in shocked revulsion. “Sorry,” he replied, smirking.

He suggested that we go back to my house, saying we’d have more privacy than at his place. I was uneasy, unconvinced. But he began passionately kissing, groping, petting, and pleading. Against my better judgment, I relented.

Yet, in the seclusion of my home, there was no more asking. There was only telling.

Before I knew it, I’d been thrown on my back as he pulled off my clothes. I froze. The only coherent thought I could manage was a weak stammer, asking if he had a condom. He seemed agitated. “Are you on birth control?” That’s not the point! I thought, mechanically answering “yes.”

With a triumphant grin and no further discussion, he forced himself into me. Pleasure fought with growing panic as something within me screamed for things to slow down, to just stop. The sensation was familiar: identical to how I felt when raped as a child.

I frantically pushed him off and rolled away, hyperventilating. I muttered repeatedly, “I need a minute. Just give me a minute. I need a minute.”

“We’re not finished yet!” he snapped angrily. As he reached for me again, I screeched hysterically, “I’M NOT OK! I NEED A MINUTE!”

Suddenly, he was kind and caring. Instead of being alarmed, I was strangely grateful. So once I calmed down, I fucked him. More than once.

It was—I told myself—consensual. After all, he comforted me during a flashback. Didn’t I owe him that much?

Yet, if I didn’t do what he wanted, he’d forcefully smack my ass. If I didn’t seem happy enough, he’d insistently tell me to smile as he hit me again, harder. He seemed to relish the strained smile I would force on command.

I kept telling myself I was okay. Happy, even. Look at how liberated I was!

All week, I was either at his beck and call or fighting suicidal urges. Never having liked alcohol before, I started drinking heavily. I did all I could to minimize or ignore the abuse. Even with his last visit—as I fought to breathe while he forcefully held my head down during oral sex, effectively choking me—I initially told myself desperately that surely he wouldn’t do any of this on purpose.

The Stories We Tell and The Stories That Just Are

Reflecting on that week, I’m engulfed in shame. I’m a proud feminist. I know what coercion looks like. I know what rape looks like. I know it’s rarely a scary man wearing a ski mask in a back alley. I’ve heard all the victim-blaming rape apologia you have: that women make up rape when they regret consenting to sex, or going on a date means sex is in the cards, or bringing someone home means you’re game for anything.

Reality is, all of us have been socialized within a patriarchal system that clouds our experiences and ability to classify them. We’re told to tend and befriend the men who threaten us. De-escalation at any cost is the go-to response of almost any woman I’ve ever talked to about unwanted male attention. Whatever will satiate the beast and keep us safe.

On top of that, my conservative background whispered accusations of being a Jezebel, failing to safeguard my purity, and getting exactly what I deserve for forsaking the faith.

It’s all lies, of course. Our culture lies when it says that there are blurred lines when it comes to consent. It violates our personhood when it requires us to change the narrative of the violence enacted against us for their own comfort. Right-wing Christianity lies when it says we don’t belong to ourselves and must submit to the authority of a religion or a gender.

Nobody’s assaulted because they weren’t nice enough or because they “failed” to de-escalate. There’s nothing we can do to provoke such violence. Rape is never deserved. The responsibility for sexual assault lies entirely with those who attack us.

So why was the story I told during and after that ordeal so radically and fundamentally different from what actually happened? And why the hell did I think any of what happened was OK?

Rape myths are so ingrained in our cultural understanding of relationships that it was easier for me to believe nothing bad had happened than to accept the truth. I thought if I could only tell the story I wanted it to be, then maybe that’s what really happened. I thought if I was willing—if I kept having him over, if I did what he ordered, if I told my friends how wonderful it was—it would mean everything was fine. It would mean I wasn’t suffering from post-traumatic stress or anxiety about defying the conservative tenets of my former political and religious system.

Sometimes, we tell ourselves the stories we want to hear until we’re able to bear the stories of what actually happened.

We all have a right to say who has what kind of access to our bodies. A man’s masculinity gives him no authority over anyone’s sexual agency. A lack of a “no” doesn’t mean a “yes.” Coercion isn’t consent. Sexual acts performed without consent are assault. We have a right to tell our stories—our real stories.

So, while this isn’t the story I wanted, it’s the story that is.

I was raped.