By Woodrow Jarvis Hill
To understand why I approve of putting Rick Warren on that stage, I need to go back to an eariler writing of mine, "Abortion is a Moral Choice".
More to the point, I must, first, go back to a section of the article that sparked my writing:
I don't remember the day. But that day didn't come until after I'd met people -- surprise! -- who'd chosen abortion. It came after my school friends became parents; after I began having sex and selecting birth control; after I experienced and witnessed sexual harassment.
In short, it happened after pro-choice rhetoric took a human shape. I saw those I loved. I saw myself.
I didn't "switch sides;" I'm against the notion of "sides" in the first place.
One of the hardest things I have to do, is fight and support for a ruling, and it's support network, that I think was wrongly decided and painfully implemented.
Yes, as I've said before, and will say again -- I think Roe. vs. Wade is bad law.
But it's also right. It's what the law should be, by and large. There is no doubt in my mind that Abortion Rights are proper and important -- and if I ever doubt, all I have to recall is the faces of those women who told story after story of lie before the ruling. Of facing not just coathangers, but all manner of barbarous chemical aborifacants, and the ugly hands of Doctors who did the safer of the underground procedures, but at the cost of a women's dignity and money.
You can't pay me enough to go back to that system. And you can't pay me enough to switch.
And yet, I'm fully aware that the ruling left America behind. It was, sadly, ahead of it's time. It is simply the case that the average American was, at that point, still unaware of the horrorshow of underground abortions. They still thought it was a procedure done, by and large, by "bad girls" -- and that the exception they snuck in, was much like the exceptions many Pro-Life folks give themselves, today, when they get Abortions.
If there had been a National push, a dialog, a way to frame Abortion Rights in similar ways that MLK et.al. framed Civil Rights, and that, indeed, Feminists developed for other parts of the cause, I think our National dialog on abortion would be much different, today. If "we" had worked to not press the right simply in courts and legislatures, it might have come out much as Miscegenation did; since Interracial Marriage was so closely tied to the growing mass consensus that Racism Is Wrong, even though the majority of Americans were against it when Loving vs. Virgina came down, that law was far easier to integrate (pun intended) into the National Landscape.
There aren't many exceptions with Gay Marriage, but there is one rule. There needs to be a dialog. There needs to be words spoken, in public, over and again. There needs to be communication, not just with the unwashed masses, but also with people who oppose the idea. This is how Racism became a non-no -- not because of laws, but because of words and deeds and actions that alerted a sleeping America that there was a horrid wrong being perpetrated on some of her people. The images of attacking dogs, police beating, and water hoses upon peaceful marches weren't just a side-show, they were the show, and the showcase for why action was needed right now. They were the way to open up the dialog .
And just as the people who led the Civil Rights movements, and movements before and since, had to dialog with people diametrically to them, so now have we a change to open up dialog with Pastor Rick Warren. To shift his words and perhaps even his deeds. To provide him with God's Own Truth as to the results of his words and actions on Gay Marriage -- and so much more -- over the last few years. If he is, indeed, a Christian man, as he says, and the harbinger of a new detante and re-focus for Evangelicals, then we who stand for not just openness, but diplomacy and dialog with most, should embrace this furor, build upon the media fury, and expose him to the honest assessment of America; that a man who speaks hate about people who love is a man who misunderstands his own words, and risks hypocrisy -- a sin mentioned far more often by Jesus than Homosexuality; indeed, any sexuality.
I know what you say, "But Woodrow, what if it doesn't work?" Well, perhaps one should ask a certain M. Etheridge how her attempt went, first:
I told my manager to reach out to Pastor Warren and say "In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him." They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.
When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.
And now, Warren's church has pulled the "No Homosexuals Need Apply" language from their website.
"All symbols," you might say. The post noting the pulling even goes so far as to imply Obama might have had something to do with the pulling, with (so far as I know) no evidence.
But the entirety of this fight is about symbols! And if someone who is standing as a symbol, takes pains to stand up, and do things that walk back from the nature of what makes him an unacceptable symbol, what then the symbolism?
Perhaps this is the point where we can stop demonizing our opposition as a kneejerk reaction. This is the point where we understand that they are wrong, yet are too also human. That change doesn't have to be about broad symbols and lines int he sand, but about the slow and painful, slogging work of Just Talking. That we take to our rigtheous and right anger, and descend upon the streets as a last resort, after talking and attempting to understand have failed.
Not every fight, not every social ill, not every opponent can be worked this way. But, perhaps -- just perhaps -- Obama looked at Warren, and saw someone who could be changed, who could be led to understand the pain so many Homosexuals see in the American society -- as got a taste of after McClurkin. And he risked all this displeasure, all this anger, to give him that chance.
It seems to have already paid off. We shall see, going forward, if A Change is Gonna Come, indeed. I close with more of Melissa Etheridge's words:
Brothers and sisters the choice is ours now. We have the world's attention. We have the capability to create change, awesome change in this world, but before we change minds we must change hearts. Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket. But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen. They don't hate us, they fear change. Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world.
Maybe if they get to know us, they wont fear us.