Many sharp journalists, such as Michelle Goldberg, Sarah Posner and Max Blumenthal, are cranking their talents into exposing the angry underbelly beneath Rick Warren's carefully airbrushed and polished public persona. And, a number of political bloggers [1, 2, 3] have noted Rick Warren's support for the virulently anti-gay Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, but the story has lacked some needed historical context; In 2006, Warren publicly lionized (literally) Akinola three months after the Archbishop had endorsed legislation more draconian than comparable anti-gay statutes passed prior to World War Two under the Third Reich.
As I described in a December 18, 2006 Talk To Action story, a schismatic faction of Virginia Episcopalian churches had just voted to align themselves with the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, who earlier that year had thrown his substantial political weight and religious authority behind draconian Nigerian anti-gay legislation to, among other strictures, "make it illegal for gay men and lesbians to form organizations, read gay literature or eat together in a restaurant."
Although I missed it at the time, the proposed legislation was apparently denounced, according to the current Wikipedia writeup on Akinola, by the US State Department: "The proposed legislation was formally challenged by the United States State Department as a breach of Nigeria's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
It was one of those rare examples from the last eight years, it would seem, in which United States foreign policy clearly aligned in support of basic human rights. Rick Warren, however, appeared to be on the other side of the issue.
In my post, I went on to chart, in very specific detail, the ugly reality that the Akinola-supported legislation was actually harsher than similar anti-gay legislation, 1935 revisions to Paragraph 175 of the German penal code, applying to homosexuality, voted into law during the early years of Hitler's Third Reich.
As described on an activist blog that specialized in covering the controversial anti-gay legislation [and whose author has contributed to Talk To Action], in February 2006 "the Primate of All Nigeria and leader of the Anglican Communion's largest Province, Archbishop Peter Akinola, endorsed legislation that would ban most basic civil rights for gay and lesbian Nigerians, and enforce that ban with a 5 year prison sentence."
On April 30, 2006, pastor Rick Warren wrote an op-ed, for Time Magazine, which lavished praise on Akinola, likening the cleric to Nelson Mandela:
"Akinola personifies the epochal change in the Christian church, namely that the leadership, influence, growth and center of gravity in Christianity is shifting from the northern hemisphere to the southern. New African, Asian and Latin American church leaders like Akinola, 61, are bright, biblical, courageous and willing to point out the inconsistencies, weaknesses and theological drift in Western churches."
"...Akinola has the strength of a lion, useful in confronting Third World fundamentalism and First World relativism."
"...I believe he, like Mandela, is a man of peace and his leadership is a model for Christians around the world."
Rick Warren's support for Akinola is not an anomaly but appears to be, rather, the rule. As detailed at Talk To Action by Richard Bartholomew (author of the exceptional Bartholomew's Notes On Religion),
The Kampala Monitor reports:
Dr [Rick] Warren said that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. "We shall not tolerate this aspect at all," Dr Warren said.
Warren was speaking in support of Ugandan Anglicans who intend to boycott the forthcoming Lambeth Conference, and this harsh rejection of tolerance for gays and lesbians may have serious consequences in a country where homosexuals face harassment and and the threat of imprisonment.
Warren's comment is of a piece with his support for Martin Ssempa, the Ugandan evangelist who has been a keynote speaker at a Warren conference, and who has received US global AIDS prevention funds. As I wrote in August, Ssempa wants to ensure that homosexuality remains illegal and that gays and lesbians are identified in the public mind as sexual abusers. Ssempa calls for media censorship against opposing views and the dismissal of dissenting academics, and last summer he organised a rally with the theme "A Call for Action on Behalf of the Victims of Homosexuality", at which he railed against "molestation and sodomy."
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