Melissa Etheridge to gays: Turns out Rick Warren's a great guy, so let's let it go

Hope and change.

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…

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.

I know, call me a dreamer, but I feel a new era is upon us.

“A new era is upon us”? Man, that must have been some phone call. In fact, Warren’s position on Prop 8 was always more lukewarm than was advertised and he’s taken steps in the last few days to downplay Saddleback’s views on gays. It can’t hurt either that he’s gotten a vote of confidence from The One, whose Absolute Moral Authority is more absolute than most progressives’. Whatever the reasoning, it’s a shrewd move by Etheridge: There isn’t much politically that gay leaders can do for Warren, but as a hugely influential evangelical there’s a lot he can do for them by helping to mainstream gays and gay rights with values voters. The media will lionize him for it, too, which adds to the incentive. The question is, is this brand of identity politics capable of laying aside grievance and victimization and building a bridge if it’ll benefit in practical terms from doing so? What’s more important, in other words, the identity or the politics?

Here’s Warren addressing MPAC recently, affirming that he loves everyone (atheists too?) and emphasizing Etheridge’s point about restoring civility to disagreement. A common theme today.