Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Again addressing the Rick Warren multiple front culture wars and "fundamental rights"

This post merely sums up some Rick Warren-related things that have already been reflected on my FriendFeed, so if you've already read those, you can tune out.

Let's start with Dave Winer's post from Monday. Remember that from Winer's perspective, Warren's support of Proposition 8 renders him unfit to give the invocation at Barack Obama's inaugural, and that if we don't support the feelings of the gays who want to marry, then we could be descending down a slippery slope (not his words) in which we might as well invite racists or Jew-killing Nazis to Obama's inaugural.

It should be noted (as I did) that Winer is troubled by Warren's political policies rather than his beliefs. Here's how he stated it:

I don't care what people believe, but when their beliefs result in other people being oppressed, that's something government can't sanction. It's against our collective values. The Fourteenth Amendment of our Constitution.

As for my other point, in which I noted...well, let me just quote myself:

I believe that our country is so divided at this stage that you are not going to be able to have someone at the inaugural that will please everyone. For example, let's say that a pro-choice person gave the invocation. Remember that for those who believe that life begins at conception, the abortions that have been performed in this country represent a "Holocaust" of their own. (In fact, that's why the extreme religious right is angry with Rick Warren right now - they believe that Warren's appearance at the inaugural validates, in their terms, the "Holocaust" that Barack Obama represents to them.)

Winer responded:

Warren has equated homosexuality with pedophilia and incest. I think we can find a religious leader who isn't such a dickhead.

We'll return to pedophilia and incest later. But for the moment, let me note a postscript that Winer added to his post:

Update: Rick Warren pulled the anti-gay language from his site.

Winer links to a John Aravosis AMERICAblog post. Little Green Footballs has also blogged on this.

At this point I immediately predicted that someone would get mad about this. I got verbose:

Dave has identified one thing, and James Little has identified another thing, that is probably causing a huge firestorm of protest against Rick Warren right now. As some people know, Rick Warren is very controversial among some circles of conservative Christians, for sins such as (a) using a mishmash of Scripture translations and paraphrases to make a non-scriptural point (as James noted), (b) denying what are seen as basic Christian doctrines (as Dave noted), and...

...(c) associating with evil Holocaust-loving abortionists such as Barack Obama (as many noted when Warren's appearance at the inaugural was announced). I'll check my sources, but I suspect that Warren is really being raked over the coals now.

And I was right. Here's what Slice of Laodicea says:

[Warren]’s going to seriously injure himself trying to straddle both sides of the aisle. Biblical Christians are the offendees at the moment, raising sand over his removal of material from the Straddleback Saddleback website to appease his leftist, homosexual friends. These are the friends with which he said he can hold hands, even though they don’t see “eye to eye.”

So while those on the left are surprised that people think Warren has leftist, homosexual friends, those on the right are surprised that gays don't think of Warren as their best friend.

Meanwhile, Graham English shared a Reddit item and conversation, started by Reddit user proseandpromise, that questioned Rick Warren's assertion that the institution of marriage hasn't changed in 5,000 years.

Perhaps it's time to revisit Warren's claim, as reflected in Steven Waldman's inteview of Warren:

[Waldman] One controversial moment for you in the last election was your support for proposition 8 in California. … Just to clarify, do you support civil unions or domestic partnerships?

[Warren] I don’t know if I’d use the term there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don’t believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights.

[Clarification from Pastor Warren 12/15: I now see you asked about civil UNIONS -and I responded by talking about civil RIGHTS. Sorry. They are two different issues. No American should ever be discriminated against because of their beliefs. Period. But a civil union is not a civil right. Nowhere in the constitution can you find the “right” to claim that any loving relationship identical to marriage. It’s just not there. ]

[Waldman] What about partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation?

[Warren] You know, not a problem with me.

[Clarification from Pastor Warren 12/15: I favor anyone being able to make anyone else the beneficiary of their health or life insurance coverage. If I am willing to pay for it, I should be able to put a friend, partner, relative, or stranger on my coverage. No one should be turned away from seeing a friend in the hospital. But visiting rights are a non-issue in California! Since 1999, California has had a domestic partnership law that grants gay couples visiting rights and all the other rights. Prop 8 had no –zero -effect on those rights.]

The issue to me, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

[Waldman] Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?

[Warren] Oh , I do. For 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion – this is not a Christian issue. Buddhist, Muslims, Jews – historically, marriage is a man and a woman. And the reason I supported Proposition 8, is really a free speech issue. Because first the court overrode the will of the people, but second there were all kinds of threats that if that did not pass then any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn’t think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships, and that would be hate speech. We should have freedom of speech, ok? And you should be able to have freedom of speech to make your position and I should be able to have freedom of speech to make my position, and can’t we do this in a civil way.

Most people know I have many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church. Kay and I have given millions of dollars out of Purpose Driven Life helping people who got AIDS through gay relationships. So they can’t accuse me of homophobia. I just don’t believe in the redefinition of marriage.

[Clarification/addition from Pastor Warren 12:15:


1. God, who always acts out of love and does what is best for us, thought up sex. Sex was God’s idea, not ours. Like fire, and many other things God gave us, sex can be used for good, or abused in ways that harm. The Designer of sex has clearly and repeatedly said that he created sex exclusively for husbands and wives in marriage. Whenever God’s parameters are violated, it causes broken hearts, broken families, emotional hurt and shame, painful memories, and many other destructive consequences. There would be so STDs in our world if we all played by the rules.

2. God gives me the free choice to follow his commands or willfully disobey them so I must allow others to have that same free choice. Loving, trusting, and obeying God cannot be forced. In America, people already have the civil right to live as they wish.

3. If anyone, whether unfaithful spouses, or unmarried couples, or homosexuals or anyone else think they are smarter than God and chooses to disobey God’s sexual instructions, it is not the US government’s role to take away their choice. But neither is it the government’s role to classify just any “loving” relationship as a marriage. A committed boyfriend-girlfriend relationship is not a marriage. Two lovers living together is a not a marriage. Incest is not marriage. A domestic partnership or even a civil union is still not marriage.

4. Much of this debate is not really about civil rights, but a desire for approval. The fact that 70% of blacks supported Prop 8 shows they don’t believe it is a civil rights issue. Gays in California already have their rights. What they desire is approval and validation from those who disagree with them, and they are willing to force it by law if necessary. Any disapproval is quickly labeled “hate speech. Imagine if we held that standard in every other disagreement Americans have? There would be no free speech. That’s why, on the traditional marriage side, many saw Prop 8 as a free speech issue: Don’t force me to validate a lifestyle I disagree with. It is not the same as marriage.” And many saw the Teacher’s Union contribution of $3 million against Prop 8, as a effort to insure that children would be taught to approve what most parents disapprove of.]

Let me return to one statement of Warren's:

I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage....

For 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion – this is not a Christian issue. Buddhist, Muslims, Jews – historically, marriage is a man and a woman.

I believe that Warren is wrong in his assertion on at least two counts. I'm not aware of documented instances of gay marriage in the last 5,000 years (which, after all, is Warren's point), but there certainly are documented instances of "an older guy marrying a child" and "one guy having multiple wives."

Warren himself is familiar with many cases of the latter within the last 5,000 years, inasmuch as Jacob, David, and Solomon are but three examples of polygynists. And, depending upon whom you believe, Mohammed married Aisha at either the age of 12 or the age of 9. All of these marriages were acceptable in the cultures in which they were practiced, although these marriages are not legal in the United States today.

Are U.S. jurisdictions denying people their...um...fundamental rights? Let's go back to what the California Supreme Court originally said about the fundamental right to marry in its May 2008 decision:

First, we must determine the nature and scope of the “right to marry” — a right that past cases establish as one of the fundamental constitutional rights embodied in the California Constitution. Although, as an historical matter, civil marriage and the rights associated with it traditionally have been afforded only to opposite-sex couples, this court’s landmark decision 60 years ago in Perez v. Sharp (1948) 32 Cal.2d 7114 — which found that California’s statutory provisions prohibiting interracial marriages were inconsistent with the fundamental constitutional right to marry, notwithstanding the circumstance that statutory prohibitions on interracial marriage had existed since the founding of the state — makes clear that history alone is not invariably an appropriate guide for determining the meaning and scope of this fundamental constitutional guarantee. The decision in Perez, although rendered by a deeply divided court, is a judicial opinion whose legitimacy and constitutional soundness are by now universally recognized.

This fundamental right is never explicitly stated, but there is language in the decision that implies some limitations on that fundamental right:

As past cases establish, the substantive right of two adults who share a loving relationship to join together to establish an officially recognized family of their own — and, if the couple chooses, to raise children within that family — constitutes a vitally important attribute of the fundamental interest in liberty and personal autonomy that the California Constitution secures to all persons for the benefit of both the individual and society.

Note the use of the key words "two" and "adults." Although the Court was not asked to rule on either matter, the implication is that marriage can only be practiced by two people, and that one of those two people can't be 9, or 12, years old.

Another issue that was not addressed in the ruling - again, the Court was not asked to consider this question - was whether or not the married people could or could not be related to each other.

Again, the Court was not asked to rule on these issues last May, but perhaps they may be asked to rule on them in the future. Maybe Merrill Jessup will petition the California Supreme Court for the right to marry multiple wives, or perhaps a NAMBLA member will petition the Supreme Court for the right to marry his special friend, or perhaps Paris Hilton, having exhausted all other forms of self-publicity, will ask for the right to marry Nicky.

Should this case arrive before the California Supreme Court, will the court establish that - wait a minute, let me return to Dave Winer's quote here:

Warren has equated homosexuality with pedophilia and incest.

OK, will the Court establish that pedophilia is a fundamental right? Or that incest is a fundamental right? Or that polygamy is a fundamental right? On what basis will that decision be made?

And if an incest-opposing pastor appears at a U.S. Presidential inauguration in the future, is the presence of a fundamental rights oppressor on the Capitol steps equivalent to putting Adolf Hitler or Bull Connor into an official event? And if not, why not? What standard is used to declare that "pedophilia and incest" are not protected by the fundamental rights inherent in the California Constitution?

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