melissa etheridge and rick warren are getting it right

Melissa Etheridge got it right when she decided to reach out to Rick Warren, and Rick Warren got it right when he expressed regret for how he has spoken about gay folks and prop 8:

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… 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.
When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.
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.

For her whole response, go here .
When respectful conversation and “generative friendship” happen, as Etheridge suggests, all parties are changed. Etheridge makes clear that once she met Rick, she exchanged her previous stereotype of him for a more charitable view … And hopefully Rick will continue changing too, the more he gets to know more gay folks through this controversy.
Interestingly, there are signs – maybe cosmetic and temporary, maybe deeper and lasting – that this positive change is happening in the Evangelical community at large. For example …

The Saddleback Church website recently dropped a section that said gay people couldn’t be members.
Here’s what the site says now (attributed to Tom Holladay, not Rick Warren). It’s certainly far from gay-friendly, and expresses the same position that Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, or Pat Robertson would express, although probably in a less anxious tone:

Question: What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
Answer: The Bible very clearly says that homosexuality is a sin.
“Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin.” Lev. 18:22 (TLB)
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor 6:9-11 (NIV)
While all sin is destructive, Romans 6 warns us of the great dangers of sexual sin when it says, “Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.” (1 Cor 6:18 NLT) This includes not only homosexuality, but all sexual immorality: adultery, sex outside of marriage and pornography. We must not act as if homosexuality is the only serious sexual sin, and we must not act as if homosexuality is not a serious sexual sin.
I’ve heard it asked, “Isn’t being homosexual something that a person is physically born with?” First of all, there are absolutely no facts to support this claim. From time to time studies have been reported in the news that seemed to indicate this, but every one of these studies has proven to be wrong. Secondly, even if some physical difference were discovered, it would be no excuse for sin. We know that some people can develop a stronger physical addiction to alcohol than others, but that’s obviously no excuse for living an alcoholic lifestyle.
Finally, a word about being judgmental. It’s not judgmental to say that what the Bible calls a sin is a sin, that’s just telling the truth. Not being willing to talk to someone caught up in sin or not believing that they can be forgiven or thinking that you are not just as in need of Jesus as they are… that’s being judgmental.

Here’s what was recently removed …

Because membership in a church is an outgrowth of accepting the Lordship and leadership of Jesus in one’s life, someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted at a member at Saddleback Church. That does not mean they cannot attend church – we hope they do! God’s Word has the power to change our lives.
In equal desire to follow Jesus, we also would not accept a couple into membership at Saddleback who were not willing to repent of the sexual sin of living together before marriage. That does not mean this couple cannot attend church – we hope they do! God’s Word has the power to change our lives.

Whether this removal means anything, time will tell.
In the meantime, this is a challenging moment for people who sincerely hold traditional views but don’t want to hurt their gay friends, neighbors, relatives, and fellow citizens. And it’s a challenging moment for those who are hoping for a change in those traditional views – but repeatedly encounter the kind of resistance and response expressed in the statements above.
What Melissa said is true all around: “Maybe if they get to know us, they wont fear us.” Melissa and Rick are moving us in a hopeful direction – toward one another. May the movement continue.