Jan 08 2013

A Son Dies: Exploring the Personal Impact of Rick Warren’s Hostility to LGBT’s

One hears “where there’s smoke there’s fire” a lot when evaluating the religious leaders who stridently oppose LGBT rights, especially marriage equality.

These men seem to crave the attention of both their congregations and media. They are on tv, radio, and often run for the presidency of the United States.

People like me who watch these men climb the ladder of success and fame on the backs of vulnerable people like LGBT’s wonder when the other shoe will drop.

In fact, I assume these men are following some non-conscious psychic programming to reveal that which they do not want others to see.

This is often most true for men who may be sexually attracted to other men, but try to hide by marrying women. Also there are the many straight men who degrade themselves, their wives and families by affairs, paying women for sex, exposing themselves via social media among many other forms of sexual acting out.

There are plenty of famous examples like Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Anthony Weiner, Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, Larry Craig, and even Abraham Lincoln has some historians believing he was gay.

J.Bryan Lowder, a writer for Slate website offers a sensitive and insightful look at possibilities of Lincoln being gay in his essay, “How gay is Lincoln?” which you can read here.
In todays world, it seems the public figures in religious institutions and politics who are most vocal in their opposition to civil rights for LGBT’s, have one or both feet in the closet.

In the “he that doth protest too much” way of thinking even my elderly mother wonders what the big deal is.

It’s easy to explain this phenomenon as a the best defense is an offense. These guys can reinforce their cred as macho straight guys by bullying those gay kids with their bigoted way of intrepreting God’s love for LGBT’s.
But, I think there is something deeper going on. It may be their non-conscious desire to “out” themselves. They are aware of the conflict they feel between sexual desire for men and living in a culture (what God wants from them)that seems to say traditional marriage to a woman is the norm.

Their internalized homophobia may create a non-conscious acting out of their inner truth. They can not express it in words, but do so in the deeper psychological meaning of their attacks on LGBT’s and their overly simplistic explanations about why God doesn’t want people of the same sex to enjoy the gift of physical love with each other.

A revealing look at Rick Warren can be seen in the youtube video of his Pier’s Morgan interview here. If you have time, watch the video before continuing to read. It’s only about 4 minutes.

Morgan asks Warren about the widely accepted belief that sexual orientation is related to genetics, not personal choice.

Warren dances around the question, but argues that the biological explanation has not been “proven.” He does not list his research sources, but clearly feels uncomfortable, moving around in his chair.
He then proceeds to suggest that all people have feelings about a lot of things, but don’t act on them.

I’ve heard this before…Warren refers to himself when he says he has feelings he doesn’t act on. For a split second, the listeners are left to wonder if he is saying he has same sex attractions.

But no, he goes on to give two examples, punching a guy in the nose and being attracted to other women than his wife.

Punching a guy in the nose and being attracted to other women than his wife? As I listened, I just had a strange feeling that he really wasn’t speaking from his heart of hearts.

It seemed like Warren was trying to project an image of himself as a macho straight guy, but it wasn’t too believable to me.

How many straight guys spend a lot of time thinking about punching someone in the nose? Not many I know. If they did, I don’t think they would say, “I’m going to punch you in the nose…”

Even less believable is the idea of straight guys admitting on national television they are attracted to women other than their wife. When has someone else said something like this? Ok, in recent history, Jimmy Carter talked about having “lust in his heart” at times for other women in a Playboy article.

After the controversy of that article, I can not imaging anyone saying that in public unless they wanted to draw some type of attention to themselves.

Rick Warren is projecting some naive caricature of the way straight guys feel. It’s just not accurate. He tries in this Morgan interview, but in my estimation, fails.

There is another video readily available on youtube where Rick Warren addresses the claims he supported the bigoted Ugandan laws calling for the imprisonment and execution for homosexuals. Watch the December 2009 7 minute video here.
He makes a believable argument that he didn’t speak out about it because he felt he could do more in private diplomacy. He also condemned the harsh Ugandan law.

However, he then moves on to say that God does not support any sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

So, how good is his condemnation of the Ugandan law? It’s pretty weak and his true colors begin to show quickly as he maintains his position that same sex activities are against God’s law, or as he would say, a sin.

In fact, the November 2009 interview with Newsweek focusing on Rick Warren’s relationship with the Ugandan minister at the heart of the proposed hostile LGBT law states:

“But Warren won’t go so far as to condemn the legislation itself. 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.” Warren did say he believed that abortion was “a holocaust.” He knows as well as anyone that in a case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do.”

So, he is unwilling to condemn the proposed Ugandan law in November of 2009, then, probably as a result of the public pressure and condemnation, posted his video to Ugandan ministers (American media too) where he condemns the law, but is clear about condemning homosexuality as well as a sin against God’s law.
Not being able to embrace the scientific consensus that sexual orientation has a lot to do with genetic blueprinting is really abhorrent. Hiding behind God to condemn same sex attractions and behavior makes it all very much worse.
Warren to me, dances around the core issue of whether someone is born gay or not. To him, its a biblical issue and while God loves the sinner, he doesn’t love the sin. So, people who have that “attraction to same sex” sin going on, it’s not a sin until they act on it.

What did these bigoted and harmful beliefs do to his son? It seems doubtful his son could say he was proud of this father who seems to be saying the same sorts of things that other leaders have said who are eventually found to be hiding some sexual secrets of their own, whether heterosexual, homosexual or other.

Warren may be repeating something he believes about himself, this spirit over body thing, and in the process revealing to the world he has this thing going on for himself too.
Psychological researchers understand the process of repetition compulsion, the cycle of repeating core traumas in ones life, perhaps in the effort of finally getting it right.

In this case, men in the closet who are married to women and have some grandiose dreams for themselves may be using the stage they climb onto to reveal what’s really going on for them.

The “smoke” for these men are their repeated hostility towards same sex attractions or any sexuality which doesn’t look like Ozzie and Harriet from the 1950’s.

It’s telling that the Ozzie and Harriet television show portrayed the persona of an American family, not the reality.

In his book The Fifties, David Halberstam in exploring the many the real life problems in the Nelson family, states, “Chief among these issues was the fact that Ozzie Nelson had in effect stolen the childhood of both of his sons and used it for commercial purposes: he had taken what was most private and made it terribly public.”

Remember, Rick Nelson, Ozzie’s son died of what is thought to have been a plane crash caused by drug use in the plane by Rick Nelson.
So, in an eerie way, the lessons of the real Ozzie and Harriet family reveal something in understanding the death of Rick Warren’s son.

Warren tells us in his letter that his son “grew up” in the Saddleback church. What pressures did that create for him? About the gay issue being raised in the media, I am really doubtful that would be as significant as the real relationship between father and son.

What secrets does Rick Warren keep from the public about who he really is? Pictures of Warren from years ago show a slender man with glasses, kind of studious.

Now, he wears expensive clothing in the casual chic mode and does everything he can to hide his expanding bald spot.

It’s also very clear he has gained a lot of weight, to me it looks like about 40-50 lbs. He is overweight. Does he drink alcohol? I couldn’t find any information about this on the internet.

In his letter, Warren says he and his wife had a great time with their son the night of his suicide. What does that mean? Did his son drink alcohol? The letter carefully omits any mention of this in its choice of language like mentally ill and demons.
What contradictions did his son see in his father? Did he see a man who was more concerned with his public image, listening to his marketing team or whatever expansionist Christian churches call this? If Rick Warren had same sex attractions, what personal impact did it have on his son? If Rick Warren hated that part of himself,  wouldn’t have been difficult for him to support his son if he was gay?

The problems with gay men marrying women are complex, the shoe waiting to drop like in the case of George Rekers. Rekers made a lot of money claiming to be an expert in the harm of gay individuals and couples adopting children. His credibility as an expert in the depravity and harm of being gay disappeared when he was photographed on his way back from an international trip accompanied by a young man he found on Rentboy.com (visit at your own discretion).

A close examination of the scientific research also did not support his controversial anti-gay views.
Rick Warren, the anti-gay minister of the popular Saddelback Church, is also in the news often.

He hasn’t run for the presidency, but he has the ear of the current president and sits astride the power of a huge and getting bigger American church.

The name of his church “Saddleback” reminds me immediately of “barebacking” and also how much a sub-group in gay male culture likes leather.

Defenders of Rick Warren would say the name comes from the valley in southern California where the church was founded. EVen if this is the case, why does this church have to scream their opposition to same sex and marriage equality.

The simple answer is Rick Warren is the leader of the church and as anyone understands how narcissistic organizations work, what the leader says goes.

So maybe Rick Warren really believes same sex activities are evil and depraved. If so, he is in an increasingly small sub-group within the American culture.

Check out his website, there is no mention of the church opposition to same sex attractions or marriage equality.

According to other bloggers, the Saddleback website has been wiped clean of all negative references to LGBT depravity after Warren got national recognition leading the prayer service during Obama’s first inauguration.
No, in public Rick Warren wants every one to think he is this really amazingly nice guy who happens to know God and can help you know God too.

The problem is the God he knows doesn’t like LGBT’s. And this is a huge problem and may be a key factor in the death of his son, despite Warren’s self-serving and demeaning letter about his son’s tragic death.

You know the son who was mentally ill since birth? I’m thinking lets’ rule out that “mentally ill since birth” is not a projection of how Rick Warren may have felt about himself.

His letter was a little box wrapped up to neat and tidy. There are reports of a self-inflicted gun wound. Why does Warren not mention this in his letter?

Placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of his son, Warren abdicates his core duty of a father to protect his children.

Why couldn’t Warren say, “It may have been difficult for my son to live in my shadow and I wonder what else I could have done for him. I will also wonder why he didn’t give me another chance to be there for him.”

Or something even more dignified like, “…please accept my family’s desire for privacy as we mourn the death of our son.”
These are the things parents say when their children commit suicide.

Warren’s letter reads like it was written by the “Saddleback team” as a press release to get out in front of the story with the premise that this was just a suicide by a severely mentally ill child of wonderful, wonderful parents who had just had a great time with him.”

What really happened that night?

And the fact that the Saddleback church is in the process of expanding to other cities, states, and maybe the world, could suggest the quick release of the letter was in poor taste and a little too much of a positive spin (if a suicide could ever have a positive spin) for a church leader, Warren, with global ambitions.

We know Warren is associated with expansion of evangelical Christianity to the African continent where the most available bodies for Christ appear to live.

I think the letter could have been delayed, then written more from the heart, rather from the marketing departments head.

This is a story that will not go away.

Reporters are searching for explanations, someone to say the son was gay, Rick Warren may have sexual orientation issues, or there is some trouble in the Saddleback paradise no one wants to talk about.

Candace Chellew-Hodge, founder and editor of “Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians, pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C, and author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008) has suggested Rick Warren’s intense hostility for LGBT’s puts him in the very questionable company of such famous anti-gay leaders like Ted Haggard and Larry Craig.

Now internet twitter comments speculate about whether Warren’s son was gay and therefore despaired about accepting and integrating a same sex orientation.

Having observed Rick Warren over the years, I am less concerned about whether his son was gay or not. Frankly, it is no ones business anyway.

What concerns me more is Warren’s open hostility and bigoted views toward same sex orientation. It suggests he is very fearful, maybe even paranoid of appearing to be accepting of gays loving each other, let alone them having the same civil rights as  heterosexuals.

No doubt, Warren’s Saddleback Church is an example of an amazing spiritual community offering its members and the surrounding community a wealth of support.

However,  Rick Warren may be one of the most influential Christian leaders in America and is known to be involved in the evangelical efforts in Africa by anti-gay Christian organizations. These global anti-gay organizing efforts have widely been reported on in the press.

So why would a young man commit suicide. His father, Rick Warren issued a letter which unequivocally places the blame on his son’s mental illness “from birth.”

It’s difficult for me to believe every detail in Rick Warren’s letter. The internet is swamped with critics of Warren and defenders of he and his church.

I wondered about writing about this myself, but could not quiet my own questions about this tragic death. Warren takes no responsibility whatsoever.

We have learned already his son killed himself with a gun. How did he get this gun and why didn’t his father know about it.

But perhaps the most revealing part of the letter is this excerpt:

“Kay (Warren’s wife) and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, (Warren’s son) said, “Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?” but he kept going for another decade.

Is Rick Warren saying he was shocked his son hadn’t killed himself earlier? Does the son believe he is going to heaven one way or another? It seems this way to me. Where did he get this idea?
I found the entire letter to raise more questions than it answered. Who is Rick Warren really? What was the effect of his right wing anti-gay agenda on his son? Warren’s views are abhorrent to many human beings, whatever their sexual orientation.

Did his son feel the pressure of supporting his father’s bigoted views? Certainly, Rick Warren has many detractors in the world. What did Rick Warren say to his son?

It would be healthy for a parent to empower their children to explore and determine their own core beliefs about the world. Warren’s son was in his 20’s. A twenty-something is not supposed to be in total agreement with his parents.

How does a son disagree with a father who seems so successful on the outside? What did his son see inside his father? A fraud? Someone who panders to right-wing Christian oppression of a vulnerable minority in the world, LGBT’s.

How did Warren’s support for the African policy of killing gays impact his son?

As I write this, I am having an even more difficult time believing anything Rick Warren says about his son’s death.

For now, there are the internet bloggers and twitterers who speculate Warren’s son was gay.

I don’t know if that’s true or not. If it is, it will be just one more gay kid who committed suicide because of the lack of acceptance in his own family.

I am more concerned about the secrets lurking within Rick Warren. Who is he? Why do certain religious leaders end up on television or with huge congregations? The church service is really more of a concert with a celebrity speaker whose talks are designed to inspire both spirit and donations.

Rick Warren has been the subject of rumors and speculations himself.

As we watch the smoke in all this, we have to wonder when and where we’ll see the fire.

No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply