Rick Warren wants you to know that his invitation to Barack Obama's Inauguration isn't the slap in the face to the gay community that it may appear to be. And what, exactly, is Warren's defense?

He totally has gay friends, you guys! "I have many gay friends. I've eaten dinner in gay homes," Warren says, "No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church." Warren also cites a "wonderful conversation" and a signed cd from Melissa Etheridge as a means to boost his "But I love gay people!" credibility. You know what, Mr. Warren? I have "gay friends", too. Though when I go to their houses to eat dinner, or hang out and watch a movie, I don't leave a note saying, "Be back soon, off to a gay home!"

Warren seems a bit taken aback by the hostility he's encountered since getting the Inauguration nod. "The hate speech against me is incendiary," he tells NBC's Ann Curry, "Tolerance used to mean, "I treat you with respect even though we disagree." Some people want tolerance to mean now that all ideas are equally valid. That's nonsense. There are some things that are right and there are some things that are wrong."

As a librarian, I felt a need to correct Mr. Warren, who seems to have gotten some bad information. A little reference for you, sir:

Main Entry:
tol·er·ance
Pronunciation:
\ˈtä-lə-rən(t)s, ˈtäl-rən(t)s\
Function:
noun
Date:
15th century
1: capacity to endure pain or hardship : endurance , fortitude , stamina
2 a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own b: the act of allowing something : toleration

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The act of allowing something, you say?! Like, perhaps, allowing fellow citizens their basic rights to marry and live how they choose, even if it conflicts with your personal religious beliefs, which, if I'm not mistaken, have no place in a Constitutional setting?

The line that you'll most likely hear all over the news today is this one: ""You don't have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand." But when he sits down with a major news organization and gives quotes detailing how even if it was scientifically proven that being gay is biological and not "a choice", he would still consider homosexuality to be wrong, Warren's "Let's all be friends," rhetoric rings pretty hollow.

Warren compares being gay to being immature and slutty, and tries to tie the idea of biological homosexuality to the urge of a straight man to sleep with multiple women. "I've had many gay friends tell me, "Well, Rick, why shouldn't I have multiple sexual partners? It's the natural thing to do." Well, just because it seems natural doesn't mean it's best for you or society. I'm naturally inclined to have sex with every beautiful woman I see. But that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. And why should I reign in my natural impulses and you say, "Well, because I have natural impulses towards the same sex, I shouldn't have to reign them in." Well, I disagree. I think that's part of maturity. I think it's part of delayed gratification. I think it's part of character."

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You know what else is part of maturity and character? Love. Open-mindedness. Tolerance. And not "Everyone should agree with the Bible or else" tolerance, Mr. Warren, tolerance for people who do not see the world the way you do, who just want to live and love and marry and have the same rights as everybody else. Because the world is not made up of "gay friends" and "gay homes", Melissa Etheridge signatures do not excuse you from your hateful statements masked as "tolerance", and millions of people are raising their hands to you and saying, "Hey, we just want to be treated as equals," and you, Mr. Warren, are the one who is refusing to look them in the eye and take that walk with them.

President-elect Barack Obama has weighed in on the controversy with this: "During the course of the entire inaugural festivities, there are going to be a wide range of viewpoints that are presented. And that's how it should be, because that's what America's about. That's part of the magic of this country ... we are diverse and noisy and opinionated."

Yes, President-elect Obama, we are diverse, noisy, and opinionated. And you can let Rick Warren say his prayers and complain to Ann Curry about the reactions, and you can quietly sidestep the real issue at hand here, but that noise is only going to get louder, and louder, and louder, until you can't avoid it any longer. And maybe then, we'll really see what America is about.

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Rick Warren: Pastor In The Political Spotlight [MSNBC]
Warren Defends Obama Inauguration Invite [HuffingtonPost]
Warren Supports Program That Seeks To Cure Gays of Same-Sex Attraction[ThinkProgress]