Here’s an interesting transcript, published by newsbusters.org (“Exposing & Combating Liberal Media Bias”). It’s from an interview with Rick Warren on CBS This Morning, which newsbusters describes as “hounding” Warren on his anti-gay bigotry. Apart from one or two asides, though, most of the post consists of excerpts from the original transcript, including this particular nugget:
WARREN: The problem is that ‘tolerant’ has changed its meaning. Tolerant used to mean, I may disagree with you completely, but I’m going to treat you with respect. That’s what tolerant means. Today, to some people, tolerant means you must approve of everything I do. That’s not tolerance. That’s approval. There’s a difference between acceptance and approval. Jesus accepted everybody no matter who they were. He doesn’t approve of everything I do or you do or anybody else does either. So, you can be accepting without being approving. That’s an important point.
I originally wrote this as an exercise in imagining a society in which Christians were “tolerated” the same way Christians have traditionally “tolerated” gays, i.e. being given verbal “respect” while not allowing them to practice anything unless everyone else agreed with it. On re-reading the full transcript, however, I’m beginning to wonder if we’re seeing a shift in Christian tactics.
Rick Warren, of course, is a very well-oiled salesman, and he’s very good at targeting his message to fit a particular audience. But it’s interesting to me that the tone he’s striking today, with the tide turning against homophobia, is a conciliatory, tolerant tone. Back in the day (was it really only a few years ago?) people thought gay sex was icky, and the tone was all denunciation and righteous indignation. Straight sex was holy sex, and woe betide those who would soil the purity of our nation’s virtue by introducing any tolerance for the “perverse.”
That’s the old bigotry, and there’s still a lot of that around. But times are changing. The Old Bigot isn’t getting the nods and Amens he used to, and in fact the Old Bigot’s religion is losing popularity due to all the hate that Old Bigotry requires. Attendance-minded megachurch pastors like Warren need to be mindful of how their message plays, and Old Bigotry isn’t playing as well today, especially among young people who are the future of the church (and the church offerings).
Enter the New Bigot. He’s not judgmental any more. Heavens, he’s not trying to oppress gays any more. He’s just staying faithful to his traditional message, but in a respectful way. He allows people to live lives that he personally does not approve of. He is, in fact, damn near civilized.
Rick Warren may or may not be evolving into a New Bigot, but if he is, he may be in the vanguard of a new trend, as Christians gradually realize that their war against gays isn’t going to be David and Goliath. Obama’s re-election is shaking them up, and making them realize that, while they can indulge in a faith-based world-view, they still have to live in a reality-based world, and that means recognizing and adapting to real-world changes. They’re not going to win on gay marriage, and so now the idea is to make it sound like that was never their goal, and all they’ve ever wanted is a world where tolerance prevails, and where Christians can still be respected even when they admit—respectfully—that they don’t approve of homosexuality.
Let the pendulum swing back the other way, though, let society drift into homophobic intolerance once again, and see how long it takes the Old Bigot to resurface.