Juan Cole shared a spotlight with Pastor Rick Warren over the weekend, at the annual Muslim Public Affairs Council in Long Beach. His post is well worth reading, especially so for those who would rather get poked in the eye with a sharp stick than listen to Warren deliver the inauguration invocation.
I came away liking and looking up to Warren. In fact, I wonder whether with some work he could not be gotten to back off some of the hurtful things he has said about gays and rethink his support for Proposition 8.
And that is the appropriate area for wonder about Pastor Rick’s theology; where the rubber of Biblical infallibility meets the asphalt of life in the fast lane. I trust Juan Cole’s personal estimation of Rick Warren as a genuine, likable, affable guy. His dedication to spreading the gospel as he understands it, and his efforts to bend his religion towards the social problems of his own choosing, have earned him a dais from which he may further advance his agenda.
The difficulties arrive when, for whatever reason, Rick Warren is compelled to fall back to his essential fetishistic belief that the Bible is infallible.
“A doctrinal fetish will lead mortal man to betray himself
into the clutches of bigotry, fanaticism, superstition, intolerance,
and the most atrocious of barbarous cruelties.”
—The URANTIA Book
Wondering what kind of “work” would be required to get Warren to truly come to Jesus over his bigoted statements about gays might have to include waterboarding and other harsh techniques, but it’s just as unlikely to produce results that are any more genuine that what torture produces in general on anyone.
Yet the unfortunate self-imposed yoke of the infallibility of the Bible will always be the burden that turns otherwise honest and even admirable men (and women) into blathering, intolerant bigots, ever blinded to their own virulent hypocrisy.
It doesn’t really matter that Christianity‘s slavish obeisance to the personal sexual mores of Paul lie at the roots of evangelical fundamentalism. Rick Warren knows he will stand before the judgment alone; that only he must answer for his words and deeds. So what could hold him captive in the face of this truth?
The invocation of supposed divinely inspired writings led directly to the establishment of the authority of the church. Imagine then, the enormity of the task that confronts a religionist like Warren, who’s personal authority stems from, not Jesus the “vine,” but that very same church. Were Pastor Rick to come to the full realization of his unavoidable bigotry by wrongfully attributing Paul’s sexual peccadilloes to God, he might find himself swimming upstream alone instead of standing on the bridge of the mighty U.S.S. Camelback. Without that authority, Rick becomes the equivalent of a disgraced Ted Haggard, just with different “sins” in the eyes of other Bible fetishists.
Rick Warren has long been under fire by even more rabidly fundamentalist fetishists. 1, 2. But any difference between his fundy critics and himself isn’t meaningful to anyone living in the world outside their fetishism. Pastor Warren’s bigotry and say, Rev. Hagee‘s, is simply one of degrees.
What an example Rick Warren could become to millions of other evangelical fundamentalists if he could experience his own epiphany, recognizing his faith in God has next to nothing to do with his belief in the Bible; that faith in God is not dependent upon any fetishistic belief in any scripture.
Well. Stranger things have happened.