The Reverend Rick Warren, pastor of
Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling book The Purpose
Driven Life, is slowly returning to the spotlight with a mixed
Warren took a low profile after he gave
the invocation prayer at President Obama's inauguration in January.
The pick was protested by gay bloggers and activists, who pointed to
the minister's extensive anti-gay biography.
Critics argued that Warren was not
qualified to represent the nation because he holds anti-gay views,
including supporting the controversial ex-gay movement that claims
being gay can be “cured” and in supporting Proposition 8, the
voter-approved ballot measure that banned gay marriage in California,
he likened such marriages to an incestuous relationship, pedophilia
and even polygamy.
But after nearly a year, Warren is
back, and attempting to blur his past remarks on gay issues with an
Speaking with David Gregory on NBC's
The Press, Warren said a person's sexual orientation was
irrelevant when somebody is hurting, referring to his work with
“I have understood that so many
people today get stigmatized for different things. Now, of course, I
have biblical beliefs on – about homosexuality. But when
somebody's dying on the side of the road, you don't walk up to them
and say, you know, 'What's your nationality?' or, 'What's your
lifestyle?' or, 'What's your, your gender preference?' or, you know,
anything else. You just help the guy. … My role is to love
But minutes later, Warren told Gregory
that he would actively oppose gay marriage if the issue returned.
(California gay activists are working to put the question on the 2010
“I didn't fight it in the last
issue,” he said, adding that he only mentioned it once to his
congregation when asked. “As a pastor, I happen to believe what
the Bible says. But I also believe that I understand the pain that
people feel from rejection. So I care about both angles.”
When asked about gay marriage last year
at the height of the campaign by editor Steven Waldman at
Beliefnet.com, Warren said: “I'm opposed to having a brother and
sister be together and call that marriage. I'm opposed to an older
guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I'm opposed to one
guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.”
“Do you think, though, that they are
equivalent to having gays getting married?” Waldman asked.
“Oh, I do,” Warren answered.
Warren now says he's “not a
politician” and “never takes sides.”
So it's no surprise then that the
pastor will not condemn a proposed anti-gay law in Uganda that
includes a death penalty provision. Under the law, gay men and
lesbians would be put to death for “aggravated homosexuality” if
they are HIV positive or have a history of violating the law.
The legislation is supported by Martin
Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor who has made appearances at Warren's
Southern California Saddleback Church. Warren distanced himself from
Ssempa in October after the relationship was criticized.
When asked by Newsweek to
comment on the bill, Warren's neutrality edged out his newly-found
compassion for gay people in peril: “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.”
But to many, Warren's attempts to
reintroduce himself as pro-gay, or at best as neutral, ring hollow.
“He knows as well as anyone that in a
case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do,”
Lisa Miller wrote in a post at the