Thursday, April 09, 2009

too busy judging to listen

If given a choice between two people to have lunch with, I'd definitely choose Jesse Taylor over Rick Warren. Similarly, I'd rather hang out with the commenters of Pandagon than the congregation of Saddleback Church.

That being said, I think this (both the post and the comments section) is pretty unfair. He's and his commenters are not even listening to what Warren is saying.

One of the major points of The Purpose Driven Life, from what I understand, is that even good people like you do bad things. No matter how solid you think your morals are, and how ironclad your willpower and well-arranged your priorities, you are still human; you can't really guarantee that you'll never succumb to temptation. All people are imperfect and have vulnerable moments. If you want to keep yourself from committing certain acts that can damage your life or obstruct you in achieving your goals, the best way to do so is to avoid ever being in a situation where you will be tempted in the first place. If you want to stop smoking, for instance, don't just put down the smokes and swear an oath to quit or steel yourself or whatever: throw away the pack, stop hanging out with smokers, avoid your triggers like alcohol or coffee, keep people around you who are willing to help, and don't drive by the smoke shop.

Anybody who's willing to stop being a jerk for a minute and listen will instantly recognize that this is good advice. In fact, it sounds almost exactly like the advice professionals give on things like smoking.

Rick Warren is a pastor and inspirational speaker. That's what he does for a living. As we've seen over and over again, the biggest threat to a major religious leader's career is personal scandal, almost always relating to sex, money, or power, and it's very common for them to fall for one of them at least once. Warren is saying here that he recognizes that he's not some superhuman who's impervious to the lust for power or, well, lust, but his career and position within it makes succumbing to such temptations especially dangerous, so he takes extra care to avoid situations where he might face temptation. If Jesse Taylor meets someone during a business trip (say at Netroots Nation or something), really hits it off with them, and has a steamy romp in the hotel bed that night, he'll have his conscience to contend with and may get caught by his significant other, but that would be it; if Warren did the same thing, he'd lose everything, and become an instantly recognizable national object of scorn, to boot. Oh, and because his face and name are well-known to so many people, it's much more likely that he would get caught.

He takes the extra precautions to avoid temptation, and keeps the file to remind him of what he stands to lose. It's a little obsessive, but otherwise perfectly logical. To say this is Warren admitting that he's "so incapable of basic human interaction that you must literally be monitored around half the human race at all times," is silly.

There are plenty of places where liberals and feminists have a perfectly legitimate beef with Warren. There's no need to cheapen the discussion with these glib caricatures.


Anonymous said...

Warren's precautions strike me as less a tactic to police his own behavior than to show others that he's policing his own behavior. Maybe it strikes me that way because my experience of evangelicalism is so focused on public show as (hopefully, but hardly ever) being equivalent to private virtue. Whether that should open him up for ridicule or scorn or whatever, I don't know. It does strike me as one more reason why I should pitch him in the big box of Things I Wouldn't Trust If My Life Depended On It.

el ranchero said...

That's almost certainly true. Remember, after all, the guy is selling something (a book and the way of life it espouses). The two tactics aren't mutually exclusive, though, and even if they were, that's a very different charge than the one leveled from Pandagon.