Somehow Pastor Rick Warren has managed to weave together politics, HIV prevention, and Christmas all in one video produced to push Ugandan pastors to speak up in opposition to the vicious anti-homosexuality bill currently before the Ugandan Parliament; and to ensure the public knows he had nothing to do with its creation in any way.
I do appreciate Warren’s clear denunciation of the bill that seeks to impose the death penalty, in certain cases, for homosexuals. And in the spirit of this holiday time of love and light, I am suspending suspicion that his video is more political posturing than true concern. But while he articulately persuades Ugandan pastors to speak out in opposition to this law, he offers clear acknowledgement and confirmation that, yes, homosexuality is un-Christian, and sex outside of marriage is "not what God intended."
While some of what Warren speaks of seems genuine, heartfelt and rooted in deep care and concern, he simultaneously waters the very seeds of stigma that form the basis of laws like these in the first place. It is difficult to muster gratitude for Warren’s video when he says things like, "We can never deny or water down what God’s word clearly says or teaches us about sexuality…" or "Let
me be clear that all sex outside of marriage is not what God intends.
Marriage is intended to be one man and one woman for life."
Warren begins his plea to the pastors of Uganda with Edmund Burke’s famous line, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." And this is true. Silence in the face of what some are calling genocide allows evil, like this law, to flourish. But, I would argue conversely, the lack of silence in regards to the imposition of ones’ religious beliefs onto entire populations of people creates an extremely welcoming atmosphere for evil as well, no?
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Puzzlingly, Warren goes onto say that,
"As an American pastor it’s not my role to interfere with the politics of other nations." This has me scratching my head as Warren was intimately involved in the lobbying for an abstinence-until-marriage earmark for HIV prevention funds under PEPFAR. In addition, his "cozy" relationships with Pastors in Uganda and other African nations has, at the very least, ensured funding from PEPFAR to flow to particular churches providing HIV prevention services with, once again, this abstinence-only-until-marriage earmark. My colleague, Jodi, breaks it down even further.
Pastor Warren vehemently states, in the video, that one of the reasons for speaking out now is to "correct lies and errors and false reports" when some have associated him with this law" that he "completely opposes and vigorously condemns."
He goes on to offer five reasons why Ugandan pastors must speak out against the bill including: because the potential law is "unjust, extreme and un-Christian"; it would prevent those Ugandans who are HIV positive, for fear of being turned over to the authorities, from seeking care and comfort from the churches that now provide a great deal of care to them currently; Warren and his fellow Ugandan Pastors have devoted their lives to "saving the lives of homosexuals who are HIV positive" because all life is "precious to God"’ and, finally, that the "freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God" so that speaking up, in a democracy like Uganda’s, is critical.
"Warren also denied being in communication with members of Uganda’s
Parliament about the issue, saying it was only the Archbishop of Uganda
with whom he privately shared his "opposition and concern." On Tuesday,
the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican pastor from Zambia and the author of
a recent report on gays in Africa, said that Warren had immense
influence among Uganda’s political élite, counting many
parliamentarians, including the country’s First Lady Janet Museveni
(who is reportedly close to Ssempa), among his friends. "He eats with
them, he knows what goes on, they respect him," said Kaoma in a
conference call. Said Warren: "My influence in that nation has been
greatly exaggerated by the media."
You can view Warren’s video message here (including his ‘Christmas’ wrap-up that seems oddly out of place, doesn’t it?):