Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trying for balance

Juan Cole has a fascinating post up today. It begins thus:
I was in Long Beach,Ca. on Saturday for the annual conference of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, where Pastor Rick Warren and I were both headliners.

Also appearing on the stage Saturday evening were Melissa Etheridge and Salman Ahmad, singing Ring the Bells.
It was clearly the kind of event designed to bring people together and that challenges our divisions.

Juan has a lot to say about his experience of Rick Warren, mostly positive. The most critical comment came in this section:
Warren also talked about the increasing rudeness and rancor of public life in the United States, and urged greater civility and willingness to work with people across the spectrum of opinion. He said, "We can disagree without being disagreeable." He also made a point of saying that al-Qaeda is no more representative of Islam than the KKK is of Christianity. Contrast that to the sorts of things Mike Huckabee or Rudi Giuliani said during the presidential campaign.

But just a gentle reminder to Warren that saying for Melissa Etheridge to be married to Tammy Lynn Michaels is equivalent to pedophilia or incest is not actually very civil or nice or humane.
Toward the end we have this:
I came away liking and looking up to Warren. In fact, I wonder whether with some work he could not be gotten to back off some of the hurtful things he has said about gays and rethink his support for Proposition 8.

Maybe Melissa Etheridge, who is otherwise very angry about Prop 8, saw the same thing in him.
I am a huge fan of Juan Cole and I appreciate his making the effort to share this. If you read the article you will learn more about Warren, the good stuff you have heard is there but don't see in rants like mine. Still, I had to respond and here is the comment I submitted:
Juan, I appreciate your putting in some balance on the Rick Warren controversy and there is no doubt that he is leading evangelicals into some important areas of social ministry. More power to him on that. It is still a huge problem that he has also worked hard to take away civil rights from a chunk of the population and compared their relationships to incest and pedophilia. He may think he loves gays but it is the kind of "love" that nobody with any dignity wants because it comes across as devoid of respect. I grew up in an evangelical atmosphere and know it well. He wants to love gays into straightness and his church welcomes gays so long as they renounce their "lifestyle." He may be affable as all get out but to many he remains an oppressor, and that casts a serious shadow over the good things he is doing in the world. Ms. Etheridge is much more generous than most are ready to be. I would love to know the content of their conversation.
Radical shift-of-topic warning:

Now, there is something in Juan's article that also deserves a lot of attention and I want to point it out. The event was the annual conference of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Before I go further, I just want to praise MPAC as the most wonderful people. This is the American Muslim community at its best-- socially and spiritually active, deeply interested in civil rights, and insisting on reclaiming their religion from extremists. Many of them are religious and social liberals who dislike fundamentalism. Anyone looking for a worthy charity to donate to in this season of giving should seriously consider MPAC. It is an American organization and only accepts money from Americans, and Homeland Security presented there, so it has all the bona fides.
Juan's article is here.

If you want to know what is going on in Iraq on a daily basis you could do no better than to read Juan's blog Informed Comment. Grandmère Mimi and I are long-time fans of his work.
--the BB

1 comment:

Jane R said...

Thanks for this, Paul.

My friend janinsanfran has a good post on same.