SAN DIEGO — There comes a moment when you find that you disagree with someone on an issue, and you still agree with him/her on other things and respect how he/she presents his/her views. So you think back to the disagreement, and wish that we lived in a world where we could celebrate our differences instead of always getting hung up on them.
When did we turn that corner? Today, too many Americans are 100 percenters who aren’t satisfied that friends, co-workers and family members agree with them 99 percent of the time, and so they’re ready to go to war over the last 1 percent.
Rick Warren and I disagree on same-sex marriage; he opposes it, and I support it. The senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California is worried about terms, and I’m more concerned with rights.
Warren insists that the term “marriage” should not be redefined beyond its traditional meaning — the union of a man and a woman. I prefer what Thomas Jefferson said about how individuals are endowed by their Creator with “certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” You see, the middle item — “liberty” — gets sticky when society decrees that some can get married, and others can’t.
Even so, judging from a recent interview that Warren gave to CNN’s Piers Morgan, there is much more that we agree on. And much of it involves the bigger issues, such as how human beings relate to one another. I also thought it was great that — with so many politicians, celebrities and other public figures simply telling us what we want to hear whether they believe it or not — Warren did not back down under pressure from the host. In fact, Morgan, who supports gay marriage, exemplified the problem when he told Warren that — if they argued the issue long enough — he would eventually “beat you down.”
Warren stood his ground, and argued his point of view unequivocally. The fact that he was in front of a studio audience that might have included people who disagreed with him didn’t seem to bother him in the least.
Where does that leave us? Should we label Warren a close-minded “bigot,” and dismiss him? Should we question what we believe, and consider that he may be right? I prefer to do neither, and instead just relish the idea that different people coming from different places can approach the same issue differently.
Warren refuses to be labeled.
“While I may disagree with you on your views on sexuality, it does not give me a right to demean you, to demoralize you, to defame you, to turn you into a demon,” he told Morgan.
Warren is absolutely right. We can decide that what someone believes is wrong, but we go too far when we decide that he is a bad person for believing it.
The pastor remembers a time when things were different.
“See, tolerance, Piers, used to mean we treat each other with mutual respect, even if we have major disagreements,” he said. “Today tolerance has been changed to mean ‘all ideas are equally valid.’”
Warren believes this is nonsense, and insisted that just because, as he put it, someone claims “the moon is made of cheese” doesn’t mean that we should hold up this point of view as equivalent to scientific fact.
Finally, Morgan — in a futile attempt to win an argument that he had already lost — played the “Christian card.” He asked his guest, “As a Christian man ... how can you espouse genuine equality if you don’t allow gay people the same rights to get married as straight people?”
Warren insisted that gay people have the same right as anyone else to love whomever they want, and that the only thing at issue is how society defines the institution of marriage.
Still, the host asked, could Warren ever see himself embracing gay marriage?
“I cannot see that happening in my life,” he said.
And why not? Because, Warren declared matter-of-factly, “I fear the disapproval of God more than I fear your disapproval or the disapproval of society.”
Good for him. At that, some members of the audience burst into applause. Apparently, I’m not the only one who appreciates the refreshing blend of candor and core convictions — even from those with whom I disagree.
Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group.