Some thoughts on Rick Warren

All the cool kids are talking about it, so I I'd like to talk about Rick Warren for a minute.

We here at LiB have been strongly pro-gay marriage since the inception of this blog, from the Madison marriage amendment debate to the California Prop 8 debate. Across the spectrum of writers here, I think it's one of our unifying strands. But of course, I can speak only for myself when I say: as with many things about the Obama presidency, I feel tentatively positive about his choice here.

Are Rick Warren's comment about gay marriage -- equating it with incest and polygamy -- despicable? Absolutely. But in the same interview, he had this to say:
BELIEFNET: Which do you think is a greater threat to the American family - divorce or gay marriage?

WARREN: [laughs] That's a no brainer. Divorce. There's no doubt about it.

Here's an interesting thing. The divorce statistics are quite bandied around. People say half the marriages end in divorce. That's just not true. 40% of first time marriages end in divorce. About 61% of second time marriages end in divorce and 75% of third time marriages end in divorce. So the odds get worse and what's balancing this out...when you hear 50% end in divorce, that's just not true. The majority of marriages do last....

BELIEFNET: So why do we hear so much more - especially from religious conservatives - about gay marriage than about divorce?

Oh we always love to talk about other sins more than ours. Why do we hear more about drug use than about being overweight? Why do we hear more about anything else than about wasting time or gossip? We want to point that my sins are perfectly acceptable. Your sins are hideous and evil.

That's a lot more moderation than one hears from most of the fire-and-brimstone crowd. Moreover, Warren's asking Obama to speak to his congregation signals an open-mindedness that most of the left isn't giving him credit for at the moment. And it is a discredit to both Warren and Obama to overlook things I can agree with him about:
His work in Africa shames those who like to talk about combating injustice and promoting peace. Warren has been engaged in those tough, demanding pursuits.

Beyond the issues surrounding Warren himself, I think it's a good signal from Obama that he truly intends to reach out to the opposition and have a real dialogue about where this country needs to go:
“That dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign's been all about: That we're not going to agree on every single issue. But what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere when we -- where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans,” he said. “That's the spirit in which, you know, we have put together what I think will be a terrific inauguration and that's, hopefully, going to be a spirit that carries over into my administration.”

Perhaps here, Obama is taking a que from Andrew Sullivan:
And the truth is: if we cannot engage a Rick Warren on the question of our equality, we may secure a narrow and bitter victory in some states (just as the Christianists won a narrow and bitter victory in California in November). But we will not win the bigger argument and our victories will lack the moral legitimacy they deserve.

The greatest distortion of our politics in this respect is the notion that gays are in some way opposed to faith and in some way that our cause is a function solely of the left. Neither is true.