As I was winding down the promotion for my Christmas album I had one more stop last night. I'd agreed to play a song I'd written with my friend Salman Ahmed, a Sufi Muslim from Pakistan. The song is called "Ring The Bells," and it's a call for peace and unity in our world. We were going to perform our song for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a group of Muslim Americans that tries to raise awareness in this country, and the world, about the majority of good, loving, Muslims. [...] I received a call the day before to inform me of the keynote speaker that night... Pastor Rick Warren. I was stunned. My fight or flight instinct took over, should I cancel? Then a calm voice inside me said, "Are you really about peace or not?"Sounds to me like he liked your album and he charmed you a bit, Ms. Etheridge. Not only that, a lot of people are willing to be kind and friendly and tolerant to one person (not to mention one famous person), but still believe, quite fervently, that homosexuals as a group are vile and evil and sinful. Melissa Etheridge's partner, Tammy Lynn, has this brilliant bit to add (pardon my sarcasm, I'm a bit piqued), on her blog (H/T to the The Bilerco Project):
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.
rick is not a televangelist. rick is not falwell. rick spoke of some "stupid" things he's said (his word, not mine), some missquotes that were given, and lots of ammunition from the media. all excellent points. (we're all war-minded right now, you know. it's easy for the media to distract us by throwing us into our own verbal wars here at home.) ) what to do, what to do.... the rest of the public is given an animation of rick warren... and then my wife meets the man behind the projections, the quotes, the "OTHER SIDE". and he is warm, caring, effusive, and LOVES gays. since he nearly swallowed honey when he hugged her, i tend to believe him. he wants our gay marriages to be just as respected and embraced as the straight marriages.Ha! Pastor Warren's pro-gay marriage now? Really? That'll be the day. Hell hath indeed frozen over if you're willing to believe that he's changed his mind (not to mention his church's stance on homosexuality) just like that. Or is he publicly opposed but privately in favor of gay marriage? Somehow that seems extraordinarily doubtful...and highly problematic...and hogwash if I've ever heard it.
And one more thing: Ms. Etheridge, please don't presume to tell me what to think about someone who I personally find completely insidious, who has insulted me and those I love:
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.We should volunteer for his church's causes (when there are plenty of other non-bigoted HIV/AIDS causes out there dying for volunteers and donations)? Excuse me? What sort of public steps is Pastor Warren going to take to make amends to and build bridges with the LGBTQ community? Is he going to publicly apologize for what he's said about us (and no, saying he's sorry to you in private, Ms. Etheridge, is not the same thing)? Is he going to publicly state that he's gay-positive and believes queer folks deserve equal civil rights, gay marriage, and legal protections of all kinds? I highly doubt he's going to do any of those things. I think he's going to say to you, Ms. Etheridge, that's he sorry and that he "loves" gays (just like the lovely Anita Bryant many years ago) and then he's going to continue to preach to his congregation that homosexuality is a sin and he's going to continue to support anti-gay and anti-woman causes. Don't you realize, Ms. Etheridge, that now you're just his token gay woman whom he can hold up to the world to demonstrate his "tolerance"? I'm all for peace and acceptance and good will and gestures of good faith, but I wouldn't want to be the person who helps him pretend he's really all down with women and homosexuals (two for one, what a deal!) while behind-the-scenes he can continue to promote intolerance and hatred. Do you really want to be Pastor Warren's beard, Melissa Etheridge? Really?
Maybe if they get to know us, they wont fear us.
Update: Holly over at Feministe also has a great take on this in an open letter to Melissa and Tammy Lynn.