Melissa Etheridge on Making Peace With Rick Warren

Grammy Award winner Melissa Etheridge with Tammy Lynn Michaels.

The Choice Is Ours Now: Give Peace a Chance
By Melissa Etheridge / December 22, 2008

See ‘Why Gay Marriage is the Wrong Issue’ by Bob Ostertag, Below.

This is a message for my brothers and sisters who have fought so long and so hard for gay rights and liberty. We have spent a long time climbing up this mountain, looking at the impossible, changing a thousand year-old paradigm. We have asked for the right to love the human of our choice, and to be protected equally under the laws of this great country.

The road at times has been so bloody, and so horrible, and so disheartening. From being blamed for 9/11 and Katrina, to hateful crimes committed against us, we are battle weary. 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.

Brothers and sisters the choice is ours now. We have the world’s attention. We have the capability to create change, awesome change in this world, but before we change minds we must change hearts. Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket. But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen. They don’t hate us, they fear change. Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world.

Maybe if they get to know us, they wont fear us.

I know, call me a dreamer, but I feel a new era is upon us.

I will be attending the inauguration with my family, and with hope in my heart. I know we are headed in the direction of marriage equality and equal protection for all families.

Happy Holidays my friends and a Happy New Year to you.

Peace on earth, goodwill toward all men and women… and everyone in-between.

Source / The Huffington Post

Why Gay Marriage is the Wrong Issue
By Bob Ostertag / December 21, 2008

It’s just plain sad what the gay and lesbian movement has come to. November 4 was so extraordinary, so magical. The whole world seemed to come together. Except for gays and lesbians in California. We were supposed to feel crushed over Proposition 8. And now the whole scenario is gearing up to repeat itself on January 20: the whole world will celebrate the inauguration of the first black American president and the end of the George Bush insanity – the whole world except gays and lesbians who will be protesting Rick Warren’s presence at the inaugural.

How is it that queers became the odd ones out at such a momentous turning point in history? By pushing an agenda of stupid issues like gay marriage.

“Gay marriage” turns the real issues of equal rights for sexual minorities upside down and paints us into a reactionary little corner of our own making. Yes, married people get special privileges denied to others. Denied not to just gays and lesbians, but to all others. Millions of straight people remain unmarried, and for a huge variety of reasons, from mothers whose support networks do not include their children’s fathers, to hipsters who can’t relate to religious institutions. We could be making common cause with them. We could be fighting for equal rights for everyone, not just gays and lesbians, but for all unmarried people. In the process we would leave religious institutions to define marriage however their members see fit.

That’s how you win at politics, isn’t it? You build principled coalitions that add up to a majority, and try not to hand potent mobilizing issues to your opposition in the process.

We have done the opposite. Instead of tearing down the walls of privilege enjoyed by the nuclear family, we are demanding our own place at the married couples’ table (leaving all those other unmarried people out in the cold).

I know the idea of gay liberation is ancient by today’s standards, but it wasn’t so long ago that a lot of gay and lesbian activism began from the premise that the queer perspective was one that could offer a particular contribution to a more just society as a whole. My how times change.

Is this really where decades of struggle for sexual freedom ends? With the state granting its blessing to homosexual nuclear families emerging from City Hall, husband-and-husband or wife-and-wife, with the photographer and the rice and the whole bit, finally having become just like them?

Not for me. Not for my family, with its various men, each of whom I love in a different way, a child, and two moms. Not that my family is any sort of queer norm. But that’s the beautiful thing about queer culture: there is no norm. We piece together our families, holding on to those relationships that work.

The fact is most of us won’t marry even if we have the right to. We are putting all our resources into winning a right that only the few of us in long-term conventional couple relationships will enjoy. What’s more, we are creating a social climate in which young queers are encouraged to recast their vision of the relationships they seek to favor the married couple. This is not only a loss for the vibrancy of queer culture, it is a disservice to young people who will not be well served by their nuclear family ambitions. Just consider the high number of gay and lesbian divorces (yes, the rate is already high despite the fact that we have not even fully won the right to marry yet).

It is no secret that marriage isn’t working for straight people. That’s why religious institutions are so up in arms about it. The institution of marriage is in crisis. On what basis does anyone imagine it is going to work better for queers?

Through years of queer demonstrations, meetings, readings and dinner table conversations, about gay bashing, police violence, job discrimination, housing discrimination, health care discrimination, immigration discrimination, family ostracism, teen suicide, AIDS profiteering, sodomy laws, and much more, I never once heard anyone identify the fact that they couldn’t get married as being a major concern. And then, out of the blue, gay marriage suddenly became the litmus test by which we measure our allies. We have now come to the point that many unthinkingly equate opposition to gay marriage with homophobia.

Rick Warren is now the flash point, the one all our political allies, even Barack Obama, are supposed to denounce because he doesn’t pass gay marriage the litmus test.

I disagree with Rick Warren on many things. To start with, he believes that 2000 years ago God sent his only Son to die on a cross so that mankind would not perish but have everlasting life. To me, that’s weird. I don’t know how to even begin to address an idea that far out. And he believes that everyone who does not accept Jesus as their savior will go to hell. He doesn’t single out gays and lesbians in particular. To me, the weirdest thing there is not that he thinks queers will go to hell, but that he believes in hell at all. But mainline Protestants believe in hell too. So do Catholics, who also add purgatory and limbo.

Steve Waldman, founder of Belief.net (where you find the most thoughtful exchanges on present day religion), did an extended interview with Warren which has been hyped all over the blogosphere as an example of why we should all be screaming for Obama to disinvite Warren from the inaugural. The quote that got all the attention was when Warren said gay marriage would be on a par with marriage for incest, pedophilia and polygamy. And yes, I think that’s off-base. Not up there are the scale of the whole God-sent-his-only-Son-to-die-on-a-cross bit, but weird nonetheless. But let’s look the rest of the interview, the parts that didn’t get as much attention as that one line:

Q: Which do you think is a greater threat to the American family – divorce or gay marriage?

A: [laughs] That’s a no brainer. Divorce. There’s no doubt about it.

Q: So why do we hear so much more – especially from religious conservatives – about gay marriage than about divorce?

A: Oh we always love to talk about other sins more than ours. Why do we hear more about drug use than about being overweight? [Note: Warren is quite overweight.]

Q: Just to clarify, do you support civil unions or domestic partnerships?

A: I don’t know if I’d use the term there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don’t believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights.

Q: What about partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation?

A: You know, not a problem with me.

I have an idea: let’s accept equal rights for all. Equal rights are the issue when it comes to national politics. That’s Obama’s position, and I think he has it right.

Then, for those of you who are truly concerned with marriage above and beyond the issue of rights, you should go to your church, or synagogue, or mosque, and have that battle. In your community of fellow believers. I wish you all the best. And the rest of us can move on to things that matter to everyone, regardless of religious beliefs. Like, say, global warming.

Which brings us back to Rick Warren. Warren is the shiny new star of American evangelicalism. Just one of his many books has sold over 20 million copies. And his books, like his ministry, are all about rallying evangelicals to battle global warming, poverty, and AIDS. He rarely mentions culture war issues like gay marriage. And it is not just talk, he puts his money where his mouth is. As Waldman points out in a blog right here on the Huffington Post,

Warren has used his fame and fortune primarily to help the most destitute people in the world. He reverse tithes, giving away 90% and keeping 10%. Please contemplate all the religious figures who have gotten rich off their flock and pocketed the money… he’s worked hard to get other conservative evangelicals to care more about poverty…

Just a reminder to all those gays and lesbians who never look beyond their cultural ghetto: we’ve got some serious problems going on in the world today that need to be addressed now. Global warming in particular can’t wait. For thirty years Evangelical Christians have been the anchor that has pulled this country to the right, giving us first Reaganism and then Bushism. Wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And a decade of world-threatening climate change denialism.

At a minimum, 80 million Americans identify as evangelicals, and up to double that depending on how you define evangelical. They are the largest single religious group in the country, and the fastest growing. They are not going away. Somehow, some way, queers are going to have to share this country with all these people.

I am delighted that there is a new generation of evangelicals that thinks the biggest issue isn’t homosexuality but global climate change, AIDS, and poverty. And who “don’t believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles.” I am so ready to make common cause with them. I couldn’t care less about what they think of gay marriage.

Source / The Huffington Post

Thanks to Jim Retherford / The Rag Blog

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2 Responses to Melissa Etheridge on Making Peace With Rick Warren

  1. Glycotech says:

    Not so long ago, gays were locked up, just for that.
    how about some solidarity with the prison population, which numbers a hundred times that of Europe, per capita?

    Free the rest!!

  2. Mariann says:

    Excellent articles and I am glad to see them. Really, people, marriage is a remnant of a feudal institution of chattel slavery designed to protect the property rights of men over women. Lots of people (gay and straight) reject it on principle, and lots have tried it and found it beyond their capacity to reconcile with personal freedom and/or integrity. For those folks for whom it works, I salute you. But for those who look at it as some lovely, inaccessible pastry in the bakery window, and want it because it’s behind the glass, really, think again. Equal civil and human rights are a much firmer basis upon which to wage a struggle. I would like to see government out of the “marriage-licensing” business altogether and, as Ostertag writes, “leave religious institutions to define marriage however their members see fit.”

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