Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Warren's man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempa enjoys close ties to his country's first lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa's stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.

Dr. Helen Epstein, a public health consultant who wrote the book, The Invisible Cure: Why We're Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa, met Ssempa in 2005. Epstein told me the preacher seemed gripped by paranoia, warning her of a secret witches coven that met under Lake Victoria.

"Ssempa also spoke to me for a very long time about his fear of homosexual men and women," Epstein said. "He seemed very personally terrified by their presence."

When Warren unveiled his global AIDS initiative at a 2005 conference at his Saddleback Church, he cast Ssempa as his indispensable sidekick, assigning him to lead a breakout session on abstinence-only education as well as a seminar on AIDS prevention. Later, Ssempa delivered a keynote address, a speech so stirring it "had the audience on the edge of its seats," according to Warren's public relations agency. A year later, Ssempa returned to Saddleback Church to lead another seminar on AIDS. By this time, his bond with the Warrens had grown almost familial. "You are my brother, Martin, and I love you," Rick Warren's wife, Kay, said to Ssempa from the stage. Her voice trembled with emotion as she spoke, and tears ran down her cheeks.

Right now, tears are running down my cheeks too, Kay!

Warren, in his effort to dispel criticism, has denied harboring homophobic sentiments. "I could give you a hundred gay friends," he told MSNBC's Ann Curry on Dec. 18. "I have always treated them with respect. When they come and want to talk to me, I talk to them." [Isn't that precious!]

But when Uganda's Anglican bishops threatened to bolt from the Church of England because of its tolerant stance towards homosexuals, Warren parachuted into Kampala to confer international legitimacy on their protest.

"The Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Uganda on the boycott," Warren proclaimed in March 2008. Declaring homosexuality an unnatural way of life, Warren flatly stated, "We shall not tolerate this aspect [homosexuality in the church] at all."

[For the full article on the person chosen by Obama to give the Inaugural prayer, see here.]

Warren is more dangerous, in my opinion, than most other professing Christian homophobes. He's slick, smooth, and appears very reasonable. Yet, his fervor at disseminating HIS brand of "Christianity," and his easy disconnect between sanctimonious rhetoric of equality and yet denying civil rights to Gay people, makes him another perverter of the Gospel of grace and love at the same time that he says he loves everybody. And, unlike most professing Christian homophobes, he is charming, and charm goes a long way!

"Christianity" isn't merely what you say, but Christianity is contingent on the love you show in your words and in your life to the world. Christians are people of good will toward everybody, including our enemies! That doesn't mean that we have to "like" anybody. It simply means that we are to put another's feelings and interests ahead of our own regardless of how we feel.

To be fervent in showing and living out that Gospel of grace and love is wonderful and laudable! To be fervent in preaching and practicing the false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion, regardless of the sanctimony and charm of the person delivering that message, is downright heresy!

Please see these next two clips:

HERE IS THE VIDEO OF RICK WARREN'S PRAYER AT PRESIDENT OBAMA'S INAUGURATION. (I must say, however, that at least, unlike Gene Robinson, he had the strength of character to invoke Jesus' name in his prayer!) His "strength of character" has to do with his invoking the name of Jesus and, thereby, not trying to be a people-pleaser like Robinson, but obviously it has nothing to do with his distortion of Christianity into another form of legalism and condemnation that is antithetical to anything Jesus ever taught!

[As you know by now, I have tremendous respect for Don Charles who blogs at Christ, The Gay Martyr. He emailed me the following statement that he gave me permission to include here. I in no way wanted to be misunderstood or give the impression that I respect Rick Warren when I used the term, "strength of character" in the above context. What I meant by that term in this context is what I mentioned in my post. Nevertheless, Don Charles wrote me the following, and I do want to include his statement here, in case there is any misunderstanding: "I would never describe Rick Warren as having 'strength of character', Jerry. Never! We'll have to disagree on that much. Invoking the Lord's name isn't enough to vouch for character. I surely understand what you're trying to say, but we can’t forget that Warren's devotion to God is entirely superficial. He doesn’t fear God, not in the least, or he wouldn’t twist doctrine the way he does. He feigns piety because that's part of how he wields power over his gullible followers. Disturbingly, I suspect he actually equates himself to the Christ! What Gene Robinson did reflects poorly on his own character, but it doesn’t make Rick Warren’s look better in any way, shape or form."]
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