Beliefnet
Steven Waldman

Rick Warren has just posted a video in which he declares point blank that he doesn’t believe gay relationships are equivalent to incest, pedophilia or polygamy.
He’s apparently scrubbed some anti-gay language from his website. He’s also encouraged that he’s reached out to Melissa Etheridge, and hope that their new friendship will help to bring greater understanding. Of her new relationship with Warren, Etheridge wrote yesterday, “Maybe if they get to know us, they wont fear us.”
This was precisely the dynamic I was hoping for when Obama invited him, one well-meaning gesture greeted with another. Sometimes reaching out works better than shunning. For these reasons, I stand by my view that on balance, more good than harm will come from Warren’s appearance at the inauguration.
But I have to be honest. I found this video clarification disappointing. Warren played the victim, claiming that the misunderstanding happened because the “media loves to create conflict” and bloggers “who really need to get a life” aspire to practice rudeness from the safety of their homes. (This is in the video called “Marriage”)
“I have been accused of equating gay partnerships with incest and pedophilia. Of course I believe no such thing and never have….However, I understand how some people think that, because of a recent Beliefnet interview.”
He then went on to offer a somewhat surprising characterization of what he’d said in the interview he did with Beliefnet and The Wall Street Journal.
“In that interview I named several other relationships. In fact I’ve done it several other times. I’ve named other relationships such as living together or a man with multiple wives or brother-sister relationships or adulterous relationships or adults with children, common law partnerships. Or all kinds of other relationships. I don’t think any of them should be called marriage.”
Actually, in my interview, the only relationships he mentioned were the most nefarious – the ones between siblings (incest), an older man and a child (pedophilia) and polygamy. He did not mention people living together or common law partnerships, and if he had, it would have changed the implication of his comment.
In his clarification video, he went on, “I was not saying that those relationships were the same thing because I happen to not believe that…”
Here’s what he said Beleifnet/WSJ interview:

“WARREN: I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
BELIEFNET: Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?
WARREN: Oh , I do.”

Perhaps he really meant that they were equivalent only in the sense that none of them should be called marriage. But that’s certainly not the most obvious interpretation.
In his December 22 video Warren had an opportunity to do something quite straightforward and healing: clarify, take resonsibility and, ideally, apologize. He did clarify but did not, in my view, take responsibility. He could have simply said, “it came out in a way I didn’t mean and I apologize for those who I hurt because of that.” It wouldn’t have required him to back off his position on gay marriage one iota. Instead, he blamed the media and misremembered or mischaracterized what he’d said.
On the other hand, what’s most important is that he did make it clear that he doesn’t believe gay relationships are the moral equivalent of incest etc. That idea should now be put to rest. And if you want to see the admirable Rick Warren watch the tape called “Final Thoughts” where he talks about his pride in his church’s poverty outreach. Impressive.

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