I like Rick Warren a lot.
I have a ton of respect for his ministry, integrity and character.
I have learned a ton from him, consider him a mentor-from-a-distance, and will usually defend him against critics.
My experiences with him have demonstrated that he is genuine, loving, passionate, compassionate, and simply put — the real deal.
That said, in this recent interview about homosexuality and gay marriage, Rick is being disingenuous. In the interview, Warren is quoted as saying:
in response to a question about his opposition to gay marriage.
It is no surprise and nothing new that Warren believes all homosexual behavior is sinful and that gay marriage is wrong. While I disagree with Warren on these issues — and believe he is both on the wrong side of history as well as faithful exegesis — I respect him enough to not dismiss him because of this disagreement.
But here is where is gets disingenuous: he implies that his position is the only one that God would approve and that anyone who disagrees or has a different position (a) is outside the bounds of God’s approval and (b) hold their position because they value societal approval more than Gods.
The truth of the matter is that there are faithful, committed, intelligent Christ followers on both sides of this issue — and Rick Warren knows it. Those who disagree with him do so out of conviction and from their understanding of scripture and Jesus. We can disagree on how to read and apply the scriptures without having to lower ourselves to imply that those who disagree with us are less faithful and less committed to the scriptures and to following Jesus than we are.
The right answer for Warren would be: “I believe X. Many of my brothers and sisters believe -X. As I hope they respect me, I respect them. This is an issue of hermeneutics and exegesis. We all agree that God’s love is for all people and all people are created in the image of God. That is the important stuff…”
I have heard Warren plea for more civility in these kinds of conversations, especially within the church. That cannot and will not happen until leaders like Warren stop mis-characterizing anyone who disagrees with their particular interpretation of a passage as being “less faithful”. As a church community at-large, we must be humble enough to listen first, seek common ground, and always lead with respect and civility.
Most of the time, Warren models and leads in this area well. This time, he failed.