Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pagan Babies et al 

Hey, Conrad :

Don't get me wrong – I'm disappointed & unhappy about Obama's choice of Rick Warren. I was just questioning whether boycotting is, in this case, the answer.

Also, I wasn't clear – it wasn't Obama who met with Melissa Etheridge, but Rick Warren. She was performing for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and found out shortly before the event that Pastor Warren was going to be the keynote speaker. About this, she said:

We watched as our nation took a step in the right direction, against all odds and elected Barack Obama as our next leader. Then we were jerked back into the last century as we watched our rights taken away by prop 8 in California. Still sore and angry we felt another slap in the face as the man we helped get elected seemingly invited a gay-hater to address the world at his inauguration.

I hadn't heard of Pastor Rick Warren before all of this. When I heard the news, in its neat little sound bite form that we are so accustomed to, it painted the picture for me. This Pastor Rick must surely be one hate spouting, money grabbing, bad hair televangelist like all the others. He probably has his own gay little secret bathroom stall somewhere, you know. One more hater working up his congregation to hate the gays, comparing us to pedophiles and those who commit incest, blah blah blah. Same 'ole thing. Would I be boycotting the inauguration? Would we be marching again?

Well, I have to tell you my friends, the universe has a sense of humor and indeed works in mysterious ways. As I was winding down the promotion for my Christmas album I had one more stop last night. I'd agreed to play a song I'd written with my friend Salman Ahmed, a Sufi Muslim from Pakistan. The song is called "Ring The Bells," and it's a call for peace and unity in our world. We were going to perform our song for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a group of Muslim Americans that tries to raise awareness in this country, and the world, about the majority of good, loving, Muslims. I was honored, considering some in the Muslim religion consider singing to be against God, while other Muslim countries have harsh penalties, even death for homosexuals. I felt it was a very brave gesture for them to make. I received a call the day before to inform me of the keynote speaker that night... Pastor Rick Warren. I was stunned. My fight or flight instinct took over, should I cancel? Then a calm voice inside me said, "Are you really about peace or not?"

I told my manager to reach out to Pastor Warren and say "In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him." They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.

When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.

The conclusion of this piece, which appears on the Huffington Post, was in my previous post.

My point was, I think Etheridge made a good choice & a good point here – sometimes extending an invitation to communicate is more effective than boycotting in protest. [That said, I suspect that Rick Warren was pandering, at least a little, when approached by a reasonable & (let's be frank) very famous gay woman.]  

Re: Pastor Warren telling a Jewish woman who asked him, point blank, if he believed that she, as a non-Christian would go to hell – of
course he said yes. He's not alone there – he just said it out loud. Many Christians believe that believing in Christ is the golden ticket into "heaven" & that non-believers are doomed to hell. Even among Christians there are denominations who believe their sect is superior & that other sects are going to hell. I'm pretty sure there are Catholics in my extended family who wring their hands over my un-baptized children, & who believe that they & I & Chris will all end up in hell unless we accept Jesus Christ as our true lord & Savior (& splash our kids with holy water). Most Christians are just too polite to say this out loud. It makes the day-to-day awkward.  "Hey, Jenn, I like your sweater! & by the way you & your pagan family are damned to eternal hellfire."  

Really, my preference would be for an inauguration & related activities with NO religious attachment. I fail to see the need to spiritualize the installation of a new president. No offense to Lincoln, but I don't care whose bible is being used for Obama's swearing-in. Why does the president not take his oath of office by swearing on a copy of the Constitution? Let those who believe leave their god of choice at home & get on with the business of government. 

All that said, I'm still far from taking back my vote – I truly believe we're far better off than we would have been with a McCain-Palin administration.

jenn mcc

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