Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Open Letter to Rick Warren

There is an excellent letter to Rick Warren at the blog for the Reconciling Ministries Network.

Here it is:

Open Letter to Rick Warren

Dear Pastor Rick Warren,

I sent letters to you before and after the visit to Saddleback Church by presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain. I expressed the hope that you would use the event to challenge some of the over-the-top "guilt by association" and character assassination efforts that were being directed at Barack Obama by persons who share your conservative evangelical faith. I saw nor heard any evidence of your doing that.

You have said that the only difference between yourself and James Dobson is that of "tone". (Wall Street Journal). I am not aware that you have challenged some of the criticisms that James Dobson has made of Barack Obama. Many of us thought that those criticisms were not only unfair, they revealed a less-than-honest attempt to create fear about an Obama presidency. Despite the tonal differences between you and James Dobson, apparently the "music" of Obama criticism that came from him, you have given consent to it through your silence. My hope is that you have spoken against some of the distortions that have been directed at Senator Obama, and I have missed them.

My response to your invitation to offer the invocation at the Inaugural is that it would have been far more appropriate if the invitation had been extended to Rev.Joseph Lowery. Those of us who sing the Hymn/Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" sing these words; "We have come over a way that with tears has been watered; we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,..." Those words capture the journey of struggle my African ancestors my African American ancestors and I as a 75 year old southern born and raised black person have made. I know nothing about your history as either an advocate/ally or as an opponent of the racial justice struggle in this nation. I must say that some of your words of opposition and resistance to same gender marriage are not unlike the words of those who earlier opposed interracial marriage. The New York Times published a story about the resistance of some white voters to Barack Obama because of his race. One person was quoted as saying, "I could not vote for Barack Obama because the Bible is against interracial marriage and Barack Obama is the son of a black father and a white mother." What difference is there in your interpretation of Scripture and that of one who says "the Bible is against interracial marriage"? I am sure you can understand why, because of history, and this moment, I suggest the appropriateness of Rev. Joseph Lowery doing the invocation.

I write as an African American clergyman who is an ally/advocate of Gay rights in church and society. I share the pain and anger of my LGBT sisters and brothers and of those like myself who are their supporters as we are aware of your views about same gender loving persons. It is my hope that you and President-elect Obama, because of the invitation extended to you, will inadvertently be responsible for helping to focus new attention on the foolishness of a democracy that denies some of its citizens an equal right to make a legal commitment to marriage because of their sexual orientation. A few years ago the conservative columnist David Brooks wrote and I paraphrase, "Conservatives ought expect Gay persons to marry, rather than be limited to contingent relationships". The crises in our nation and the world, cry out for solution and healing. The resistance to interracial marriage in the past is now made so foolish as we prepare for the presidency of Barack Obama. And the resistance to same gender marriage today illustrates the truism; "The more things change, the more they remain the same". In a nation and world where there is so much turmoil economically and violently, we are wasting so much time denying some equal rights, while the world is being torn apart.

Pastor Warren, you know the Scripture that contains these words; "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." The inauguration of Barack Obama as the first President of African descent will bring "morning joy" to me and my wife, and to millions of other Americans of every racial, ethnic and cultural background. But many of us will weep as well because as we take a giant step forward in our national racial journey, we continue to deprive some of our citizens of equal access to the rights, privileges and responsibilities of marriage. May you in your God conversations thank God that the legal prisons that once restrained persons because of their race, and their gender have been torn down. And may you receive a "calling" to participate in the tearing down of the legal prisons that today restrict persons because of their sexual orientation. Many of us will be praying with you and for you.

Rev.Gilbert H. Caldwell
Asbury Park, NJ

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