This week, after meeting Rick Warren for the first time, Melissa Etheridge made an eloquent defense of Rick Warren, a defense made up of olive branches offered, but unfortunately, no real branches were offered in return.
Peace is a two-way street. Warren might have meant every word he said to Etheridge. In fact, from what Etheridge wrote, I believe he did. He is not of the mind that equates gays to pedophiles or those who commit incest. He only believes that Ethridge and her partner are not equal in the eyes of the Lord or the state as he and his partner are That doesn't make him a monster or a hater. It only makes him a bigot: a person who regards his own faith and views in matters of religion as unquestionably right and intolerant of opinions which conflict with his own.
Ethridge said "He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone." Unfortunately his thoughtful words to her did not translate into thoughtful words to his congregation. He told Etheridge that he believed in her right to equality, but his actions show that he will fight to keep her from bringing it to fruition.
He told her that he was a fan of her music. It reminds me of the comment concerning race: "he's nice, but I wouldn't want my sister marrying him." How did you like American historian William Blum's "Rogue State?" Osama bin Laden loved it. I'm not saying that bin Laden would have cared if Blum died in the Twin Towers nor even disapprove of Blum getting married, but loving one's work and giving that one his or her full rights remains a stretch. They're two different things. Just because Mussolini had the trains run on time, doesn't mean that he wanted married gays riding on them.
Warren 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." But no where in Etheridge's compelling defense of Warren him did he say that he regretted pushing tens of thousands of those who respect his words to vote to disallow Etheridge's right to marriage. He didn't, because that is how he thinks about gays; undeserving of equal rights...under God or state.
Etheridge wrote that Warren "struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman." That Warren can't seem to make that leap over a semantic hurdle seems a pretty lame excuse for a man with such strong belief in God's strength and equal rights. Somewhere in that "struggle" lies a lack of honesty. He believes in everyone's rights right up to the point where it infringes on his own definition of marriage. Wonder what kind of legal fight he put up when one of his parishioners wanted to redefine their marriage vows so that "Until death do us part," implied "until we're tired of each other." Did he back a law to disallow divorce?
I'm sure Etheridge's private meeting with Warren was quite charming. But I also believe the best con men are the ones you'd never suspect to be conning you. Ask Bernie Madoff's investors.
Etheridge entitled her piece, "The Choice Is Ours Now." The fact is, it's Warren's. Warren's belief that gays should have equal rights, but not the right to marriage, is both illogical and a moral failing that he has yet to learn from. True learning from that failure is a two step process. 1. Learn. 2. Apply what you've learned. Perhaps Etheridge can be helpful in teaching him the first. Only he can implement the second.
Etheridge's olive branch to Warren is a grande gesture, but it still remains only half the equation. Warren speaking with Etheridge or at the inauguration isn't necessarily the issue. What is, are the actions behind the words. No matter how charismatic, or Christian, or willing "to build bridges to the future," until he offers an olive branch that involves telling his followers that Ehteridge has the same right to be married that he and they have, then his respect for Etheridge goes only as far as your music takes him.
What Etheridge has to ask herself is, while it's nice to find out you have another fan, would she rather sell a CD or sell out?