I can't say I've ever been a fan of Rick Warren. Sure, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt when he invited both Obama and Sen. Brownback to speak on AIDS at his church a while back. And I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt when I heard that he and his wife cared so much about the AIDS crisis in Africa that they tried to motivate their congregation to do something. But then Prop 8 came around and forced me to see Pastor Warren as just another gay-hating, ignorance-promoting, megalomanical head of a mega church who uses the pulpit to influence politics.
Which I'm pretty sure is a violation of his church's tax exempt status. But what do I know? I'm just a believer in the separation of church and state.
I'm pisssed that Obama chose Warren to do the invocation at the inauguration. I suppose that I get where Obama's coming from, but his attempt to reach across the aisle need not be through Warren, in my opinion. And, just to clarify, yes I am an Obama supporter, but despite the conservative myth about us, I will not blindly follow Obama. He's already made some decisions that I personally don't agree with (Hillary for Secretary of State? Why, oh why?). But then again, I never expected him to make my political wish list his presidential agenda.
So what exactly pushed me from being indifferent towards Rick Warren to being an all out hater? Well, this well-sourced article, which details exactly what AIDS work Rick Warren has been doing/supporting in Africa.
Here are some telling excerpts:
"...an investigation into Warren’s involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education. More disturbingly, Warren’s allies have rolled back key elements of one of the continent’s most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda."
"Warren’s man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa...Ssempe enjoys close ties to his country’s First Lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa’s stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them."
Ummm...yeah, because that is just what Africa needs to fight AIDS: more fear-mongering and stigmatization!
There's more, of course.
Despite the success of Uganda's ABC HIV prevention plan in reducing HIV incidence, "By 2005, billboards promoting condom use disappeared from the streets of Kampala, replaced by billboards promoting virginity. “Until recently, all HIV-related billboards were about condoms. Those of us calling for abstinence and faithfulness need billboards too,” Ssempa told the BBC at the time. A 2005 report by Human Rights Watch documented that educational material in Uganda’s secondary schools falsely claiming condoms had microscopic pores that could be penetrated by the HIV virus and noted the sudden nationwide shortage of condoms due to new restrictions imposed by on condom imports."
"Troubled by what he was witnessing in Africa, Rep. Tom Lantos led the new Democratic-controlled Congress to reform PEPFAR during a reauthorization process in February 2008. Lantos insisted that Congress lift the abstinence-only earmark imposed by Republicans in 2002, and begin to fund family planning elements like free condom distribution. His maneuver infuriated Warren, who immediately boarded a plane for Washington to join Christian right leaders...for an emergency press conference on the Capitol lawn. In his speech, Warren claimed that Lantos’ bill would spawn an increase in the sex trafficking of young women (and fund abortions, which was a lie). The bill died and PEPFAR was reauthorized in its flawed form."
And apparently undermining effective HIV prevention plans wasn't enough for Warren. He had to attack the gays too.
"With safe sex advocates on the run, Warren and Ssempa trained their sights on another social evil. In August 2007, Ssempa led hundreds of his followers through the streets of Kampala to demand that the government mete out harsh punishments against gays. “Arrest all homos,” read placards. And: “A man cannot marry a man.” Ssempa continued his crusade online, publishing the names of Ugandan gay rights activists on a website he created, along with photos and home addresses."
"When Uganda’s Anglican bishops threatened to bolt from the Church of England because of its tolerant stance towards homosexuals, Warren parachuted into Kampala to confer international legitimacy on their protest. “The Church of England is wrong and I support the Church of Uganda on the boycott,” Warren proclaimed in March 2008. Declaring homosexuality an unnatural way of life, Warren flatly stated, “We shall not tolerate this aspect [homosexuality in the church] at all.”
So in short, Rick Warren's AIDS work in Africa has consisted of increased HIV incidence in Uganda and the public shaming of all gays. I'm sure those gay friends he allegedly has wouldn't appreciate that. And as someone who works in HIV prevention in the U.S. city with the highest infection rate (and who actually has, like, real gay friends), I'm especially offended by all he's done there.
I know for a fact that Saddleback Church has visited this blog before. So, if you're reading this...shame on you, Rick Warren!
(a Big FU would be closer to expressing how I feel, but I'm not going to go there)
Original Source: Rick Warren's Africa Problem by Max Blumenthal