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Wayne Bessen

Purpose driven lies

When some evangelical Christians express their unique brand of “love,” it is usually time to run in the other direction. They seem to think that love is insulting people with a saccharine smile and patronizing them with phony compassion. May I suggest we buy these evangelical Christians dictionaries so they can understand the true meaning of the word?

Exhibit A is Pastor Rick Warren (pictured right), author of the best selling book “The Purpose Driven Life. On World AIDS Day,” he and his wife convened a conference of 1,700 evangelical pastors to urge them to minister to people with AIDS.
“The fact is the evangelical realm of the church has failed in this area,” Rick Warren told “ABC News.” “They put it off too long; they didn’t care.”

“We’ve been wrong,” said Kay Warren, his funnel-cake-sweet wife. “We need to repent, say we’re sorry, and open our doors to everyone who’s HIV positive and say, ‘He loves you."

Ostensibly, this sounds promising and a potential bridge to evangelical Christians who have been a major cause of great suffering during the AIDS epidemic. If you dig beneath the surface, however, it becomes clear that this effort is shallow and the love conditional.

“People ask me, is homosexuality evil? I say, it’s just not natural,” Warren told ABC.

For a moment, let’s forget that homosexuality occurs in nature, and is therefore natural. Let’s forget that gay people have existed since oxygen. Let’s forget that same-sex behavior is quite common in the animal kingdom. Let’s forget that gay people are in every known society, no matter the strictures placed on them. Let’s also forget the avalanche of new science that points to biological origins for sexual orientation.

What we will focus on is the impact of Warren’s ignorant statement and how it is a catalyst for spreading HIV. Indeed, Warren is not part of the solution, but part of the problem. 

The Warrens can offer all the syrupy “love” they want. But, from my experience, the very people they are most likely to reach, gay Christian closet cases, will only hear their unloving condemnation, which can lead to self-destructive behavior.
If they really want to stop the transmission of HIV, the Warrens will find the moral courage to proclaim that same-sex love is equal to heterosexuality. They will recognize the inherent beauty in gay relationships and celebrate successful same-sex unions.

The Warren family can also begin by holding their fellow evangelicals accountable for their homicidal assaults on the gay community. For example, the American Family Association is hawking an “ex-gay” video, “It’s Not Gay.”

On the cover of the video is Michael Johnston, an HIV-positive “ex-gay” leader who left the ministry in 2003 after he allegedly had unsafe sex with several men in Norfolk, Va. The AFA’s spokesman Buddy Smith publicly acknowledged Johnston’s failure calling it a “moral fall.”

So, it is disgusting, even demonic, for the AFA to continue promoting a product featuring the disgraced ex-gay. They are not only committing fraud, but they are helping to spread HIV. If Rick and Kay Warren want to be useful, they can call the AFA and demand that this garbage be expeditiously pulled from their website and an apology be immediately issued to the LGBT community. 
AIDS has killed millions of people while evangelicals have been, at best, indifferent. It is great that they want to get in the compassion game a quarter of a century after the fact. However, if evangelicals want a truly loving marriage with the gay community, they need to treat us with respect in both sickness and in health. If they are going to condemn our loving relationships in the bedroom, there is no place for them at our bedsides. The last thing anyone needs is more phony love and purpose driven lies by intolerant right wing ideologues.

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