Rick Warren has clarified his comment from a few days ago, which was apparently taken out of context – including by us. He wasn’t talking about violence; he was talking about sex. Nonetheless, everything we wrote about it still stands. First, here’s what the pastor said:
My tweet was a brief response to a question to me about SEXUAL PROMISCUITY. It had NOTHING to do with the tragedy in Colorado! I had received this email from a dad: “Pastor Rick, my daughter told me her teacher said in class “There’s nothing wrong with sex with multiple partners! Sex is a natural, innate drive, and any attempt to limit it to one, single partner is a manmade construct.” THAT is what I was commenting on.
Fair enough. But regardless of whether he was writing about sex, murder or any other human activity, the fact remains that humans are animals – plain and simple. Nonhuman animals are not some “lower” creation. And when it comes to sex, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the human male, in particular, is wired for promiscuity. Whether or not our evolving society and culture approves of that, and how we should relate to it, is a whole other matter.
You only have to look at a truly monogamous species, like the albatross, to see what natural monogamy looks like. Those birds mate for life. They don’t stray. Indeed, when one of the pair flies off for months on end to bring back food for the family, the other remains entirely “faithful.” It’s the way they are.
In the world of the great apes (of which we are one of the five species), things are different – and more complicated. And it’s helpful to know what those differences and complications are.
It’s quite likely, in fact, that Rick Warren is taking the teacher’s response out of context just as much as his own comment was taken out of context. It’s unlikely that any responsible teacher would be telling a student that it’s perfectly OK to go have sex with another student. More likely he or she was saying that it’s helpful to understand that this is a natural, innate drive – not something to feel bad about but part of our nature as great apes, and something to be channeled into appropriate conduct. That would be sane advice to any teenager.
By studying the other great apes, who are our cousins, we can learn a lot about how each species evolved. Bonobos, for example, came to use sex in very different ways from their close relatives the chimpanzees. How and why was this? How did our own human society evolve? What can we learn about ourselves that will teach how to live better lives? And whatever our particular religion or culture, how can we relate to our natural instincts in a way that’s in accord with our faith and beliefs?
But to pretend that we humans are not animals, as Rick Warren is saying, is dangerous nonsense. To suggest that other animals don’t have their own moral codes and ethical systems is plain ignorance. And to argue that all other animals are promiscuous is just untrue.