Rick Warren: Not for executing gay men and lesbians, but not willing to stand up against it, either

Rick Warren, the American mega-pastor who has worked with the Ugandan pastors and government officials pushing the death penalty for homosexuality in that country, has refused to condemn laws that would result in the life imprisonment of anyone caught having gay sex, the execution of anyone caught having gay sex repeatedly, and the prosecution of anyone who failed to turn in suspected gay-sex havers.

Warren has taken steps to distance himself from the Ugandan legislation, and apparently cut off ties with Martin Ssempa, one of its key proponents, in 2007. Which is why his refusal to take sides on the legislation now makes even less sense. From Newsweek's Human Condition blog...

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." On Meet the Press this morning, he reiterated this neutral stance in a different context: "As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides."

I'm not a big fan of putting words in the mouth of any deity, but I'm pretty damn sure that's not what Jesus would do. In fact, we know what Jesus does in this situation: He steps in to protect the condemned and shames the executioners into walking away. Maybe Rick Warren needs a reminder of that.


  1. Hmm…I wonder if the issue was a law making it legal to kill Christians on the streets of Uganda. Would his response then be “It is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations?”

    1. It seems he would think differently. From his Twitter stream:

      “Globally last yr 146,000 Christians were put to death because of their faith. No one, except Christians, said anything.”

      So let’s recap: American pastor who has influence with people who are trying to round-up and execute gay men and lesbians is criticized for not taking a stand against this––when what he says and does might actually matter to the people involved––and his response is to complain that average Americans who don’t really have much influence aren’t doing enough to criticize human rights abuses in China, Saudi Arabia, etc. At least, we’re not doing enough in the “right way”. Cool.

  2. Am I crazy? Is this really the world we live in that a person like Rick Warren has enough (read: ANY) clout to have a voice in the mainstream? I need an isolated desert island…

  3. I feel gratitude that Rick Warren does not represent the Christianity I believe in. Sometimes I feel like being on a desert island too. I personally don’t give much credence to most of the mainstream voices I hear. Is there a benefit to listening to them at all?

  4. I am not surprised. If the man truly believes that homosexuals are the devil, then it’s only logical he would be fine with genocide.

    Now, I wonder, who put this belief in his head?
    What organization repeatedly presents religious beliefs as fact?

    Any takers?

  5. The connection the Ugandan politicians to the Right-wing evangelical organization “The Family” or “The Fellowship” or C-street, needs to be explored. These are Senators and Congressmen who work to push an extreme “Christian” agenda in US domestic and Foreign policy. American tax dollars are being used to support the murdering of homosexuals, and anyone who supports them, in Uganda.

  6. This is not a surprise. There was an interview on NPR with the author of a book about The Family, an ultra-right wing Christian organization that enables this sort of legislation to get pushed through everywhere they can. In fact, The Family was the one that helped put in place the people that would get this legislation introduced, and perhaps even passed.
    Good thing we don’t have religious based terrorists in America… oh wait….

  7. “However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”

    Perhaps its above his paygrade.

  8. Hey Rev. Warren –

    How about Jews? What if some country started killing its Jews because… well… they’re Jews? Would *that* be worthy of a comment?

    Just wondering…

  9. Globally last yr 146,000 Christians were put to death because of their faith

    Does that statement have a remote connection with fact?

  10. Couldn’t you basically get anyone at all arrested and/or killed using this law? Just call someone gay and get a corroborator and boom – you’ve just destroyed someone’s life. Mafia type extortion and blackmail would be so easy. And it seems that suddenly your political opponents are all a bunch of queers.

    Even if in your bones you hated homosexuals you’d be stupid to not realize the abuses this law would allow.

  11. Rick Warren, 2007, in debate w/ Sam Harris:
    “Where do [atheists] get [their] morality? If there is no God, if I am simply complicated ooze, then the truth is, your life doesn’t matter, my life doesn’t matter…If life is just random chance, then nothing really does matter and there is no morality—it’s survival of the fittest. If survival of the fittest means me killing you to survive, so be it. For years, atheists have said there is no God, but they want to live like God exists.” [source: http://bit.ly/86d%5D.

    That this man can claim any moral superiority- or any morality at all, is mind-boggling. A fraud, liar, and coward.

    1. hear, hear. i have to admit, though, that i like the bit about “complicated ooze.” i want to have business cards printed up proclaiming my status as “complicated ooze”. ricky’s tone in that little tirade is reminiscent of the Germs song, “Manimal”

  12. Hey Maggie,

    Ah, but Conservapedia says that particular part of the Bible is an ancient liberal propaganda insert, I kid you not!

    BTW, I have a total girl-crush on you, partly because you are everything I was, but more powerful ’cause of less gag reflex. Your curiosity-driven posts rock!


    PS Captcha humour: shackled right

  13. Yeah, but will the executions be “biblical” enough? I mean, will the condemned be stoned to death?

    And how about someone like former pastor Ted Haggard? If someone like him is caught in flagrante delicto homo, will he be executed, or if he confesses his sins and tries to go straight will they grant clemency?

  14. Listening to Warren is important because he’s not some isolated nutcase. His church is huge, his book was (is?) very popular, and he has the ear of at least a few prominent politicians, given that he gave Obama’s inaugural invocation address. There are likely to be a lot of people out there who are listening to him, and it would be good for them to hear other voices.

    1. That is what makes him so dangerous. He is popular and influential. Nut cases who act like nut cases are not dangerous because everyone knows they are nuts.

      But I ask, how can someone claim to be pro-life, he is vehemently against killing the 10% of babies who are born gay, and then not actively oppose such a law? You are not pro-life unless you care for the people AFTER they are born.

      The Bible predicted people like Warren—false teachers and false prophets who would deceive even the elect.

  15. The argument against atheism that says that if there’s no god, there’s no reason not to just all kill each other has always been supremely creepy to me. It’s one reason I don’t actively try to disabuse people of their religions – because you never know which one of them needs it not to kill me!

  16. Exactly, Moriarty. He’s really saying that Christians (of his dubious stripe, anyway) don’t really have any morals, that they’re just afraid of Divine retribution!

    In my book, only children haven’t progressed past “fear of punishment” as the justification for behaving properly.

  17. I wouldn’t be to quick to quote Jesus on this one, unless you want to imply that being gay is a sin.

    In that instance, after the men, who had accused her of sinning by adultery, had left (shamed by Jesus because they had all slept with her) she is told by Jesus “to go and sin no more.”

    The implication is that she was sinning, but should stop.

    Too many people (on all sides of an argument) spend way too much time trying to quote Scripture to justify their own convictions.

    According to Jesus we’re supposed to love the Lord with all hearts, etc. AND love one another as we love ourselves.

    It’s hard to love someone that you’ve condemned to death.

    1. Warren believes homosexuality is a sin.

      The point here is that, no matter what you believe about homosexuality, Jesus sets an example that says you have to defend the defenseless. And that’s something that should also matter to Warren.

      1. I agree wholeheartedly, Maggie.

        According to the Bible we are all sinners (and all sin is equally abhorrent to God), therefore we should let God judge other men lest we be judged just as harshly.

        Warren’s waffling on this subject isn’t surprising. Many mega-churches are founded on a “feel-good” philosophy that tries to make people feel comfortable about being Christians. IMHO that’s silly, Christianity isn’t about what’s easy, or feels good, but about taking a long hard look at the condition of one owns’ soul and working there. Not about trying to “fix” society by passing laws.

        Loving others, especially those “different” then oneself is hard work. Many people aren’t up to the task, regardless of how hard they try, simply because they’ve already judged others as unworthy of love.

        1. “Christianity isn’t about what’s easy, or feels good, but about taking a long hard look at the condition of one owns’ soul and working there.”

          It’s all about what’s easy, and feels good, but you have to take a long hard look at the condition of one’s own soul and do a bit of

  18. Thankfully, there’s a very easy way to tell if someone who calls themself a Christian is actually one: if they -act- in ways that follows the teachings of Jesus Christ then they are a Christian.. and if they don’t then they’re just a fraud.

    So dear Christians.. it’s time to step up. Let’s have a little more of that Love Thy Neighbour stuff, hmm?

  19. Rick Warren, The ‘Family’, and all their ilk’s behavior makes a lot more sense if you’ve been reading the free pdf book download on the Authoritarian follower mindset boingboinged on Nov 23rd: http://www.boingboing.net/2009/11/23/understanding-the-ps.html

    However, knowing what they’re all *really* about or how much political power they’ve exercised over the US since the Millenium is no less disgusting or disturbing.

  20. Well, yeah, but that part of the bible doesn’t actually count.

    No, I’m absolutely serious: that’s the argument people come back with, on the grounds that it was inserted later (it probably was). Nevermind that many of the same people INSIST that the process of vetting books for inclusion in the Bible or disregarding them as apocryphal was 100% divinely inspired.

  21. “If survival of the fittest means me killing you to survive, so be it. For years, atheists have said there is no God, but they want to live like God exists.”

    …and isn’t this exactly what we in the USA are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq, killing them so we can ‘survive’? Hmmm… and which religious group in our country might be most in favor of said killin’?

    Just asking questions here, Warren. Just asking questions.

  22. Sadly, this is all too common. Genocide, mass murder, and human rights abuses only matter to one’s own people.

    The Jewish community has been saying “never again” for 60+ years while a half dozen genocides of other groups happened under their noses. The African American community’s eyes are so fastened on the prize they don’t notice that in their peripheral vision, the gays are suffering the 21st century equivalent of anti-miscegenation laws of the antebellum south. The black South Africans are racially persecuting their former tormentors, and The children of Immigrants to America want to ban Immigration.

    Thank god, at least, for Internet porn.

  23. The God of the believer invariably espouses the believer’s biases. If only I had a coin for every time the faithful had spoken of a loving God whilst spitting on, maiming or killing those they didn’t like.

  24. From Warren’s banner book, The Purpose-Driven Life: “You cannot keep yourself from talking about what you care about most. Jesus said, “A man’s heart determines his speech.” Two examples are David, who said, “My zeal for God and his work burns hot within me,” and Jeremiah, who said, “Your message burns in my heart and bones, and I cannot keep silent.” (p. 293, I regret to admit it was on my shelf). The book itself is a fascinating retort to his silence ont he issue of Ugandans being executed for their sexual orientation. Apparently, Pastor Warren can keep perfectly silent when it comes to the gays.

    I’m gonna go through a quick re-read of this book tonight, if anything else stands out I’ll try to post it up.

  25. “the execution of anyone caught having gay sex repeatedly”

    Is that really what gets you executed in Uganda? No. The crime is gay sex that knowingly transmits AIDS. Of course, execution for that is an insane penalty. So is life imprisonment for gay sex and Warren should say so about both since he knows the nutjob pushing it. Yet in Texas, knowingly transmitting AIDS is considered assault with a deadly weapon and repeat offenders can get up to 45 years.

    Since you penned the post, Maggie, and forgot to include a relevant fact, do you agree with criminalizing the knowing transmission of AIDS?

    1. do you agree with criminalizing the knowing transmission of AIDS?

      And hepatitis, which can be deadly. Don’t forget to execute anyone who’s in a demographic group that might make them liable to get hepatitis. And HPV. Better string them up too, since that can cause cervical cancer. Apparently, uncircumcised men are more likely to spread some of these diseases, so we might as well just massacre all the goyim while we’re at it.

      1. Why the snarky rant? My comment covers the insanity of Uganda’s executions. I’m asking a reasonable question: if someone knowingly transmits a potentially deadly disease, like AIDS, like the Plague, whatever – is that tantamount to assault with a deadly weapon?

        1. Why the snarky rant? My comment covers the insanity of Uganda’s executions. I’m asking a reasonable question: if someone knowingly transmits a potentially deadly disease, like AIDS, like the Plague, whatever – is that tantamount to assault with a deadly weapon?

          My point is that there are plenty of deadly diseases being knowingly transmitted, but nobody gives a shit because they’re not identified as ‘gay’ diseases. My other point is that HIV in Africa is primarily transmitted by heterosexuals, so what does it have to do with this post.

    2. Teller,

      From everything I’ve read, you’re wrong. There are two things in this legislation that bring on the death penalty:

      –having gay sex repeatedly
      –having sex with someone while having AIDS (I haven’t seen anything though that told me conclusively whether this is “knowingly having AIDS” or just “having AIDS” and whether it applies to straight people as well as gay.)

      On the other part of your question: I am in favor of legal consequences for people who know they have AIDS, don’t tell their partners about it, and have unprotected sex with those partners. But that’s VERY different from supporting punishment for anyone diagnosed with AIDS who gets laid. And VERY VERY different from supporting punishment for someone diagnosed with AIDS who spits at a cop, which is what I assume you’re referring to here.

      1. Thanks for responding.

        You’re right – I’m waaay wrong. The actual text of the Ugandan Bill demands execution for an even wider range of offenses than being a serial offender or transmitting AIDS. The PDF is halfway down the landing page. Part 3.
        Mmmm, crow.

        The case I referred to is not a spitting one, it’s this one in Texas:
        Will finish dinner now.

  26. Why the snarky rant?

    If I were to guess, and I will, I’d say it was your tone. Maybe that’s news to you. Just remember that we’re guests here.

  27. Why do we care so much about what Rick Warren thinks, while no one seems to be commenting upon what, if anything, President Obama is saying or doing about this?

  28. Sexuality & Society over at Contexts has provided some more coverage of the issue here:


    Also, in ref to #44: One of the first things Obama did was sign a “United Nations Declaration calling for a global decriminalization of homosexuality.” A declaration that, unsurprisingly, the Bush Administration had refused to sign. However, the US State Department’s stance on Uganda is worrying, and we need to press them (and Obama) more on the issue.

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