Rick Warren is not only pastor of a mega-church (Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California) and the author of mega-selling books (The Purpose Driven Life being the most famous), he has also become a mega-contributor to bettering the lives of people in underdeveloped places, including Uganda.
Recently, he has become a mega-target as some of the local pastors with whom Warren has worked in Uganda have turned on him: they strongly support the passage of anti-homosexual legislation that would be some of the world’s harshest, while Warren opposes it. The pending measure would criminalize homosexuality and even charge people who don’t report gays with the “crime” of “aiding and abetting” homosexuality. Penalties for “aggravated homosexuality” could range from 20 years in prison to execution.
The pastors, including Martin Ssempa, who once worked cooperatively with Warren on an AIDS project, see homosexuality as a great evil that must be confronted with harsh legal measures. Warren himself is quite conservative and does not any type of sex outside of heterosexual marriage, but he takes a more compassionate approach to human needs and opposes passage of the measure.
After Warren wrote an open letter expressing his concerns about the legislation, a group Ssempa leads called “the Uganda National Pastors Task Force Against Homosexuality” responded, according to Associated Baptist Press, by calling for Warren to “issue a formal apology for insulting the people of Africa by your very inappropriate bully use of your church and purpose driven pulpits to coerce us into the ‘evil’ of Sodomy and Gaymorrah.”
The intemperate use of bad puns like “Sodomy and Gaymorrah” and the suggestion that Warren is trying to coerce anyone into a homosexual lifestyle says a lot about the level of discourse, which has apparently been encouraged in part by visiting U.S. evangelists other than Warren (according to this article at Time.com), folks who echo the same tired mantra that tolerance of homosexuality will be the death of civilization.
I’m with Warren on this one. Believers have only so much energy: better to spend it practicing positive compassion rather than punishing perceived sinners. The gospels suggest that Jesus was far more interested in feeding the hungry than in flushing out homosexuals, and that should be enough said.