Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jesus of Nuremberg

It’s not news to anyone who reads this blog that I don’t have a lot of affection for televangelists. On the whole I think they are a bunch of scam artists who exploit the fear and superstition of people for their own self aggrandizement and haven’t had a truly religious experience since their accountant said “tax-exempt.” So when I hear Rick Warren, the TV preacher from Southern California, come up with something like this, I’m thinking that he’s just looking for another flock of pigeons to pluck:

“In 1939, in a stadium much like this, in Munich Germany, they packed it out with young men and women in brown shirts, for a fanatical man standing behind a podium named Adolf Hitler, the personification of evil. And in that stadium, those in brown shirts formed with their bodies a sign that said, in the whole stadium, “Hitler, we are yours.”

And they nearly took the world.

Lenin once said, “give me 100 committed, totally committed men and I’ll change the world.” And, he nearly did.

A few years ago, they took the sayings of Chairman Mao, in China, put them in a little red book, and a group of young people committed them to memory and put it in their minds and they took that nation, the largest nation in the world by storm because they committed to memory the sayings of the Chairman Mao.

When I hear those kinds of stories, I think ‘what would happen if American Christians, if world Christians, if just the Christians in this stadium, followers of Christ, would say ‘Jesus, we are yours’?

First, I think framing the message in the model of lunatics, mass-murderers, and dictators is probably not the best comparison out there, and using it to sell some form of Christianity is even more odious. But what really gets to me is that while Mr. Warren is getting turned on about a stadium full of chanting followers who he envisions changing the world for the better and wanting to to what he perceives to be God’s work here on earth, he’s silent — and not in a good way — on the pending legislation in Uganda that would mandate the death penalty for being gay.

A request for a broader reaction to the proposed Ugandan anti-homosexual laws generated this response: “The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.” On Meet the Press this morning, he reiterated this neutral stance in a different context: “As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides.”

Except that he did take sides during the Prop 8 debate in California last year — guess which side he was on.

Mr. Warren’s reasons for this silence may be based on the fact that he has operations in Africa and Uganda, including AIDS clinics, and he doesn’t want to jeopardize his relationship with the ruling powers there. Plausible, but it also might just be that he doesn’t like gay people and why sacrifice for a principle such as standing up against a heinous and evil law that goes after people you don’t really care about?