Monday, April 13, 2009

Deception- Or A Meltdown?

On October 23, 2008, roughly two weeks before California voters would approve the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, Reverend Rick Warren sent to his church members an e-mail in which he asserted:

For 5,000 years, EVERY culture and EVERY religion -- not just Christianity -- has defined marriage as a contract between men and women," Warren wrote. "There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2% of our population. This is one issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have publicly opposed the redefinition of marriage to include so-called 'gay marriage.' Even some gay leaders, like Al Rantel of KABC oppose watering down the definition of marriage.

Of course, my longtime opposition is well known. This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about. There is no doubt where we should stand on this issue....

This will be a close contest, maybe even decided by a few thousand votes. I urge you to VOTE YES on Proposition 8 -- to preserve the biblical definition of marriage. Don't forget to vote!

On April 6, 2009, the pastor of the huge Southern Baptist congregation in Southern California strangely told Larry King (video below):

You know Larry, there was a story within a story that never got told in the first place. I am not an anti-gay or anti-marriage activist. Never have been, never will be. The whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement. Never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going–the week before the vote, somebody in my church said, “Pastor Rick, what do you think about this?” And I sent a note to my own members that said. I actually believe that marriage is really, should be defined. If that definition should be saved between a man and a woman and then all of a suddenly out of it they made me, you know something that I really wasn’t. And there were actually a number of things put out.

I wrote to all my gay friends, the leaders that I knew and actually apologized to them. That never got out. There were some things said, everybody should have 10% grace when they say public statements and when I was asked a question that made it sound like I equated gay marriage with pedophilia or incest which I absolutely do not believe. And I actually announced that. All of the criticism came from people that didn’t know me. Not a single criticism came from any gay leader that knows me and knows that for years we’ve been working together on Aids issues.

Then on Sunday morning, ABC's George Stephanopoulos explained that moments before Warren was to be interviewed on Saturday for a segment to be televised on the following morning's This Week, his representatives canceled, saying the minister was "sick from exhaustion."

Reverend Warren may in fact have been ill this past weekend, but the thought of having to explain the apparent contradictory statements didn't help. (Pardon me as the left brain overwhelms the right brain.)

Cynics will assume, understandably, that Reverend Warren was lying. But was he? Michael Smerconish, the center-right radio talk show host and MSNBC contributor who shocked his radio audience in October by endorsing Barack Obama (over Afghanistan/Pakistan), believes that Warren may be hanging his hat on the fact that he "never once issued a statement," though sending an e-mail. Similarly, I agree that he "never once even gave an endorsement," choosing instead to make his view known semi-privately, electronically.

And does he claim credibly "I am not an anti-gay or anti-marriage activist?" I don't know what Warren is trying to say here, but any decent high school English teacher would recognize that the minister here is in fact saying:

1) "I am not an anti-gay activist." Whatever Reverend Warren was, he certainly is not an anti-gay activist now. Further, at the time when Warren was opposing gay marriage (and especially as he may see himself now) he may not have considered himself anti-gay, merely opposed to gay marriage- not unlike the "hate the sin, love the sinner" concept.

2) "I am not an anti-marriage activist." No, Warren himself is married and no doubt is foresquare in favor of the institution of marriage.

Warren contended "they made me, you know, something that I really wasn't." That is inarguably true, for "they" (whomever that might be) claimed a lot of things about Warren, doubtless some of them true and some untrue.

Although "All of the criticism came from people that didn’t know me" is a tough sell (all of the criticism?), not so the claim "Not a single criticism came from any gay leader that knows me and knows that for years we’ve been working together on Aids issues.” For this to be a lie requires a) criticism came from a gay leader (a subjective term) who both knew Warren and has been "working together on AIDS issues."

And it doesn't count if they had been working together- they must be currently working together ("we have been working"). Think PBS' Jim Lehrer- with a good question but, critically, no follow-up- and President Bill Clinton, with a misleading but truthful answer (emphasis mine):

LEHRER: You had no sexual relationship with this young woman?

CLINTON: There is not a sexual relationship. That is accurate.

Reverend Warren may not have been thinking this through in this manner. He might have not been concerned with whether he was technically lying but instead chose to give a rambling, barely coherent statement. Then again, he is presumably a man of sane and sound mind and, as we learned from the 'cone of silence' incident at the Presidential forum at his church last fall, one of dubious integrity.

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