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12/22/2008

Mel, we adore you. But...

by Jeremy Hooper

This morning we showed you a Rick Warren-defending piece that Tammy Lynn Michaels has posted to her personal blog. Well now her wife, Melissa Etheridge, has done the same. Unfortunately, giving Rick Warren an undeserved pass seems to be the order of the day in the Etheridge-Michaels household.

Here's an excerpt:

Picture 27-13I hadn't heard of Pastor Rick Warren before all of this. When I heard the news, in its neat little sound bite form that we are so accustomed to, it painted the picture for me. This Pastor Rick must surely be one hate spouting, money grabbing, bad hair televangelist like all the others. He probably has his own gay little secret bathroom stall somewhere, you know. One more hater working up his congregation to hate the gays, comparing us to pedophiles and those who commit incest, blah blah blah. Same 'ole thing. Would I be boycotting the inauguration? Would we be marching again
...
I told my manager to reach out to Pastor Warren and say "In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him." They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.

When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.

Brothers and sisters the choice is ours now. We have the world's attention. We have the capability to create change, awesome change in this world, but before we change minds we must change hearts. Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket. But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen. They don't hate us, they fear change. Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world.

***

Alright, first off: Many of us who swim in political waters did not discover this news from a "neat little sound bit" -- we learned of it from the announcement itself. And many of us who deal with these here "culture wars" didn't just learn of Rick Warren -- we have known of the pastor and his work for years. So while it may sound like a minor thing that Melissa (a) is just learning of Rick Warren and (b) learned of this inaugural situation from a terse sound bite, to us it actually says a lot about her handle on this situation. If we didn't know the back story and we hadn't come into the facts behind this fiasco in an organic way, we wouldn't feel so confident in speaking to this situation. However, we did and we do. And that's why we find Melissa (and Tammy's) trivializations so troubling.

Okay, so about these trivializations: Well, just in term of pure fact, we have to mention that the pastor's pedophile/incest comments did not come during his Prop 8 support. Those comments came from a BeliefNet interview, of which we became aware days before this inauguration mess began. Our buddy Jim Burroway wrote about the BeliefNet interview on 12/16, before anyone knew anything about the invocation invite. And in said interview, he not only made the comparison between homosexuality and incest/pedophile./polygamy -- he affirmatively answered a followup question wherein interviewer Steven Waldman asked him, in the most explicit of terms, if he viewed these four things to hold equivalency. This is the now-infamous, "oh, I do!" line. So while we don't doubt that he told Melissa he doesn't really feel this way, we really wish the she would view this back-pedaling with the sort of skeptical eye that it has rightfully earned!

Then let's move on to arguably the worst development yet: The Ann Curry interview. This is where Pastor Rick said that he doesn't think Picture 30-10gays should act on their realities, even if a bio-genetic link is found. So essentially, he doesn't want us to exist in our real, actual form. And again, this isn't an unfair media sound bite: He said it quite clearly in live, unedited video. And when pressed by Curry, he kept saying it. He also continually compared our "desires" to those of a straight man who wants to sleep with lots of women. Does his affection for "Come To My Window" negate the fact that he said this awful, awful stuff about gay people? We would certainly hope not!

Other points? Well, there's the fact that his church specifically cited gays as non-elegible for membership (until today, when Saddleback tellingly scrubbed their site). There's also the "ex-gay" support. There are the lies he told during Prop 8, wherein he kept saying that preachers could be jailed because of our CIVIL marriage equality. And while we focus only on the LGBT side of things as a rule, there are a whole slew of other ideas that should trouble Melissa as a woman, a progressive, and a human being! Were these all examples of him misspeaking? If so, his inability to accurately use his words should alone disqualify him from giving the invocation!!

Look, Melissa has had the opportunity to meet the man, something that few of us have been able or will be able to do. And we get why this would change one's heart, as it's always harder to dislike someone once they've become humanized for you. But no matter how nice of a guy he may be (and we don't doubt that he cuts a pleasant figure), this one humanizing meeting simply cannot negate all of these affronts! It's not about the man, but rather his words and actions. So just like Melissa is asking us to step back and build bridges, we would ask her to take a step back from her privileged life to see all of the actual anti-gay messages (in their full, non-sound bite form) that Rick Warren has chosen to send to the world's public.

The Choice Is Ours Now [HuffPo]

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Your thoughts

So maybe he's such a media whore that he recognizes just how absolutely we're winning this discussion and is just cleverly manuevering himself to the most marketable position. or not. Who knows. Maybe Melissa's music really made him have a Saul/Paul moment on the road to Damascus, so to speak.

I vote for media whore.

Posted by: Houston | Dec 22, 2008 11:35:59 PM

This sort of thing is frustrating to read. Melissa... please subscribe to the edumakation of goodasyou.org and learn sumfink!

Posted by: GT | Dec 23, 2008 7:18:49 AM

Jeeeeeez JH, do I have to spell it out for you. They're lesbians! Straight men think that lesbians are HOT! Especially when they are kissin' and stuff. And Warren wasn't talkin' about the lesbians, when he was referring to kid-fucking and polygamy. He was only referring to the gay men. And, for proof, ask Melissa how many Elton John CDs that her new BFF has. I'll bet it is zero!

Posted by: Dick Mills | Dec 23, 2008 7:18:50 AM

This is just Rick Warren pandering to the general population.

I found a couple interesting beliefs Rick warren had about domestic partnerships or civil unions...

First lets remember in the article above Rick Warren says

"He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection."

But after the belief.net interview Rick Warren had this to say about our DP:

[Clarification from Pastor Warren 12/15: 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.

BELIEFNET: 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:
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.

Posted by: Jeff Chang | Dec 23, 2008 7:18:50 AM

"I hadn't heard of Pastor Rick Warren before all of this."

Bullshit. . . .one word . . .OPRAH.

Etheridge, Obama, Warren . . . not even one degree of separation.

Posted by: Jon | Dec 23, 2008 7:18:50 AM

Come on you guys Rick Warren is making some changes as we have seen his website has changed. These folks need to be commended whenever they do make changes. Just listen to what Rachel Maddow said on her show tonight about it. She did mention the changes to his website. We need to calm down a bit, step back and take a breath instead of constantly being angry. I have been fuming for weeks now and I am sick of it. I feel that just spinning in anger is not productive. Melissa's Ideas are good. I don't recall our community (in a large part) actually reaching out to our enemies in faith. What might happen if we did this? What if we both GLBT Christians and non-Christians as well went out of our way to reach out and help these people with their AIDS ministry, etc? What if we started to do more of the ML King method or the SoulForce method for a change? What might happen? I think it's time we took Melissa's words to task and actually do them. So what if Rick Warren has been brainwashed and raised with bigotry toward us. My mother took almost 20 years to get to the place she is right now. She went from being completely homophobic to supporting me 100% and supporting marriage equality. People change but when they see us fuming and angry the majority who have not been educated tend to think we are nuts. They just don't understand us. It's time to educate in productive ways. I trust Barack's choice and contrast of juxtaposing Rick Warren with Reverend Lowery. This speaks loudly and spiritually to our nation and we can learn something in this process as well.

Posted by: Benjamin | Dec 23, 2008 7:18:50 AM

Make that two for media whore.

Thank you G-A-Y for taking up this issue.

I think that it is important to expect or demand an explanation from Rick Warren on his exchange with Etheridge -- just which of his statements were "stupid", which were taken out of context, and which were misquotes? I'm sure a lot of his evangelical buddies would like to know too -- exactly which of his positions would he like to recant or qualify? And what about the sudden change in membership policy? That's beyond "scrubbing" that is a significant policy change at a very large church -- those things don't happen by fiat...this guy needs to answer some big questions and I'm kind of surprised by the lack of interest from the evangelicals. Anyway, I hope G-A-Y keeps asking.

I almost always cringe when I hear someone dismiss another's opinion as "elitist" but in this case, and it is so disappointing, the shoe fits. Etheridge is just totally out-of-touch on this one. One really has to wonder what kind of bubble she's living in to not have heard about this guy before now.

And it continues to bother me, tremendously, to hear her and her girlfriend offer commentary on gay marriage issues when they did not, when they had the chance, marry each other like 36,000+ of us did.

I guess when you can buy yourself the rights, you don't mind selling out everyone elses--cheap.

Posted by: Anastasia Beaverhausen | Dec 23, 2008 7:18:50 AM

Sorry here is the link to the interview...

http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2008/12/rick-warrens-controversial-com.html

Posted by: Jeff Chang | Dec 23, 2008 7:18:50 AM

Most of the time I just wish Melissa Etheridge would just go away. As for myself I have calmed down considerably and hope this is just a minor bump in the road regarding the Obama presidency. I do think Rick Warren is a media whore though. And a dangerous man who needs to be watched closely.

Posted by: John Ozed | Dec 23, 2008 9:39:38 AM

GLAAD has vids of interviews that Kay Warren did last year where she admitts that they didn't care about AIDS when they thought it was just a "gay disease"...

http://glaadblog.org/2008/12/18/past-media-coverage-of-rick-warren/

Fox News: Hannity & Colmes - Warrens Address AIDS

12.20.07 09:00 pm - Pastor Rick and Kay Warren talk about their work with AIDS and Kay says, “I thought it was a gay disease. And for me I thought that meant I didn’t have to care. And I was so wrong.”

ABC: Nightline - Kay Warren on AIDS

12.14.07 11:42 pm - Kay Warren, wife of pastor Rick Warren, admits she did not respond to the AIDS crisis immediately because it “was tied with homosexuality,” but now says all people with HIV/AIDS should be treated with compassion.

Posted by: Josh | Dec 23, 2008 10:54:21 AM

Anastasia: Calling Melissa an ELITIST is low.

No one would ever put me in the elitest box because I'm far from famous and I drive a 17 year old corolla which runs 50% of the time -- that being said, I'm in full agreement with Melissa Etheridge. Using CRUSADE tactics will only lead where those tactics always lead, tit for tat destruction for the foreseeable future.

We voted for something new. We voted to try something different. Yes, we can yell and scream and burn fat effigies of Warren. We can be offensive by using photoshop superimposing his, well, you get the point. None of these things will acheive a conciliatory result.

I agree with Benjamin. It's time to educate. We have got to approach this issue from directions we've never tried before. Some wars can't be won with a barrage of artillary or vitriol or rioting in the streets.

Sometimes, the best thing is to invite the enemy for tea.

Posted by: Taylor Siluwé | Dec 23, 2008 10:54:21 AM

Melissa should stick to her music. She's good at that -- which is good, given her limited abilities at thinking and judgment.

Posted by: K | Dec 23, 2008 10:54:22 AM

What a coincidence.

I had never heard of music until this morning. So I asked my people to reach out to the music industry and now I'm such an expert that I wrote a song.

It's every bit as good of a song as are Melissa's observations on conservative Evangelical Christianity so I'm sure it'll be a big hit.

Posted by: Timothy | Dec 23, 2008 12:35:39 PM

i don't think m.e. is an elitist, but it does go to show that maybe the community at large needs to, at times, stop hanging on the words of lgbt celebrities just because they "promote visibility."

Posted by: a. mcewen | Dec 23, 2008 12:35:39 PM

Well, of course he was nice to her. She's a celebrity. Anything he says to her would be put in full public view and scrutinised by all-comers. That's different from anything he said to the likes of you or I, where there'd be much more room for us to be ignored if he was rude or dismissive (there's an essay on Bilerico about a gay man who took his family - husband and children both - to meet Rick Warren, and the pastor was rude, only condescending to shake hands briefly, presumably so he could say that he had, and refusing to talk to any of the gay people there.

I suspect he had been out earlier that day and bought all of Melissa's albums, so he'd have something to show her after he insisted he'd "always been a fan".

Posted by: Celia the lurker | Dec 23, 2008 12:47:48 PM

Melissa's approach of meeting him on his level and trying to work together and build bridges is a good one. But it will work only if she gets people like Warren (or Obama, who's also against marriage) to actually do something for equality, and not get away with just saying every now and then that they are for equality. Step 2 for Melissa would be to put pressure on her new friend to come out and support civil unions and campaign for that nationwide. That would be the most we can expect from conservative evangelicals like Warren who will always consider marriage out of the question.

The most notable quote in the Warren interviews, for me, is when he says (paraphrase) "just call it something else, not marriage." I think that's where Melissa is trying to build bridges.

And I know so many people disagree with me on this, but it's just a matter of strategy. I'll be fine with civil unions (recognized on federal and state) for the next 10-20 years until the country (or supreme court) is finally ready to strike it down and just give us marriage. Things take time. If warren represents 50% of the country, we do need to work with him on something.


Posted by: marcelo | Dec 23, 2008 12:56:25 PM

@ Dick Mills - you have to be kidding me. The gay mainstream will cannibalize any of its subgroups (women, blacks, trans folk) in a fit of blind rage over shit, that quite honestly, pales in comparison to the global struggle. Some stupid invocation? The word marriage? How about passing ENDA, repealing DADT and supporting the UN's push for homosexual decriminalization worldwide? Priorities, people.

Posted by: chris | Dec 23, 2008 3:53:56 PM

chris, of course I was joking. Was there any doubt? Half of what I say is snarky cynicism... maybe I should be more clear about that. But, even if I was being perfectly sincere, you can't equate what I said with anything anti-gay. On the contrary, you could only read it as being anti-religious-hypocritic. But even at that it still was just a joke... and somewhat humorous too.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Dec 23, 2008 4:31:04 PM

You can't educate people with irrational beliefs, idiots!!!

This is a time to be angry. Rights were never won by trying to appease the oppressor. Grow a goddamn spine. Rick Whore-en cannot be educated. They need to be shoved aside and ignored for the retarded bastards they are. We win legal recognition of our rights in the courts, whether the retarded cultists like it or not.

All of you saying we need to calm down can take your pansy-ass Ghandi shit back and go hold hands in a circle singing Kumbaya. Let the adults handle this.

Posted by: TheRadicalRealist | Dec 23, 2008 6:55:01 PM

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