08 January 2009

An Open Letter to Rick Warren

Dear Pastor Warren,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Pastor Warren. Regardless of one’s faith and traditions, this season is symbolic of renewal and rebirth. Among Christians, the story of the birth of Christ is an incredibly important moment in the liturgical calendar to which every Christian is called every year.

Which is why I’m writing to you. Because of your visibility and prominence amongst Evangelic Protestants, President-elect Obama asked you to offer the invocation at his Inauguration. Many Americans – and I count myself among them – believe that Barack Obama’s election represents the first signs of rebirth and renewal for America. This renewal means America can once more stand as an example of what an idea – that all men and women are created equal, and that all have inalienable rights – can be when it is actualized in the form of a constitutional, democratic republic.

One of the ways in which our Republic ensures the rights of all people is to separate church and state. In this way, no one can be coerced into participation in a religion, nor can one religion exercise undue influence on another. This practice has created a vibrant tapestry of belief that may be confusing, but is something to which all communities can and should aspire. Your church is one such example of an expression of faith that is outside of the formal Protestant and Catholic ecumenical framework of Christian belief.

And as the leader of a church, I ask you to consider, and to renounce your public statements about homosexuals and homosexuality. Your language has deeply hurt and offended many men and women, myself included. And you have slowed – but far from stopped – the effort to extend a civil right of recognition of same-sex partnership in the form of civil (not religious) marriage.

I support, and will continue to support your church’s (and any church’s) right to profess its faith in any way it chooses – within the context of a faith community. However, when you speak as a religious leader in the secular community about political issues, such as denying civil rights for sexual minorities, you abuse the very separation of church and state that allows your church’s existence. If you continue to do so, I would have no choice to believe that your words and action are not those of a religious leader, and the organization that you lead is in fact not a church, but a political organization.

Your church can be a force for good. Many of the missionary works of your church does to reach out to the poor and abandoned reflect the spirit that Christ intended us to demonstrate in the world. I would also ask you to reflect that Christ might feel that the love that same-sex couples demonstrate in their partnerships reflect his desire to see love increase and grow in the world.

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