The New Bigots

Here’s an interesting transcript, published by (“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.


  1. says

    The government is the institution that issues licenses. Churches cannot issue them. They can perform ceremonies or not depending on their doctrines. The point should be moot. A marriage license is a legal document between two consenting adults. To impede the distribution of such license is violation of ones civil rights, as it would be for entering any venture that requires a license.

    • machintelligence says

      Possibly. It might not even be deliberate of even conscious. But it will happen slowly, because otherwise it would be LOL funny.

  2. Jer says

    Rick Warren, of course, is a very well-oiled salesman…

    Attendance-minded megachurch pastors like Warren need to be mindful of how their message plays, and Old Bigotry isn’t playing as well today

    This is pretty much all it is. “Market forces” at work. Angry hateful churches did quite well in the 70s through the 90s peddling hate and intolerance, but “suddenly” they’re out of fashion again (as they were earlier in the 20th century). So now it’s time to start focus grouping a new and improved church to try to get the donations to come back.

  3. hexidecima says

    Warren is a bigot, old or new it doesn’t matter. Denying people equal rights and trying to cloak it in claiming that they “respect” people is being a bigot, a liar and an asshole too.

    • says

      Warren made a clear distinction between “accepting” and “approving”. This still allows him to “respect” gay people while still working to deny them equal rights, because not doing so constitutes “approval” of homosexuality. It’s an empty position until we see how he follows it up with action, and I’m not holding my breath.

  4. jjgdenisrobert says

    That definition of tolerance would apply quite precisely to the attitude the Soviet Union showed religion between 1922 and 1933 (when Stalin started his rapprochement with the Orthodox leadership, banning abortion and making homosexuality explicitly illegal, something the religious nutjobs conveniently ignore). Religion was officially considered backwards, and religious practice discouraged, but was religious belief was officially “tolerated”… I’m pretty sure Warren would never accept the Soviet Union’s views on religion to be described as “tolerance”, though…

  5. smrnda says

    People like Warren aren’t being asked to approve of anything, they’re just being asked to tolerate the fact that some people of the same sex will marry each other because they don’t believe in the nonsense he does. It’s as much tolerance as I’m already giving him – I think his religion is full of shit, but I haven’t taken any steps to ban him from practicing it, having a physical church building or even getting some nice tax breaks. Why can’t he give others the same tolerance they already have to give him?

    I could care less about tolerance or approval, the issue is legal rights.

  6. says

    The new bigot likes to employ the fiction that embracing tolerance means embracing the intolerant.

    By necessity, one must reject intolerant people if you are going to embrace tolerance. They can stay around, but only if they don’t act on their intolerance, which is as good as kicking them out, for the really dedicated ones.

  7. Randomfactor says

    I quite frankly would be disturbed to learn that something I did had Rick Warren’s approval on something. It would cause me to rethink whatever it was.

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