January 11, 2009

Rick Warren: Burning Condoms for Jesus

English: Rick Warren speaks at the 2006 TED co...
English: Rick Warren speaks at the 2006 TED conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
President-elect Obama made a big mistake when he selected Christian extremist and known bigot Rick Warren to speak at his inauguration. So far, he has ignored the public outcry from his supporters and is rapidly losing the political capital he accrued with this observer during his admittedly impressive campaign. In defending Warren, Obama loves to tout Warren's work on AIDS in Africa. I admit that this sounds impressive, but I am less impressed with breaking news about Warren's association with a lunatic pastor who has been burning condoms for Jesus.

According to Max Blumenthal of The Daily Beast, controversy over Obama's selection of Warren prompted additional investigation of what exactly Warren did in Africa. For something so seemingly laudable, Blumenthal found that Warren was surprisingly tight-lipped about his work in Africa. Now we know why.

However, an investigation into Warren’s involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education. More disturbingly, Warren’s allies have rolled back key elements of one of the continent’s most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations’ special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is “resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred.”
Instead of praising Warren's work on AIDS in Africa, Obama's transition team should have realized that he was actually doing whatever he could to undermine reality-based approaches to the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. In the opinion of this author, this news is right up there with the most damning things we have yet heard about Warren. It should certainly be grounds to uninvite him from the inauguration.

Okay, but burning condoms for Jesus? Come on! No, actually that was a serious accusation.

Warren’s man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempe enjoys close ties to his country’s First Lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa’s stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.
Is this the sort of company Obama plans to keep as President? Does he really want to ask Americans to embrace this sort of idiocy. I hope not, and I look to Obama to pull the invitation for Warren to speak.

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