Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren believes America is being destroyed by "the demonization of differences" and the media is to blame.
"[T]he media often fans controversy and conflict to create a story and we start yelling at each other so much, nobody listens to each other anymore," Warren said in a lengthy video message, posted Monday, addressed to members of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
As the media creates or fuels conflict, it's creating more polarization and causing people to be more rude and inflamed, the renowned pastor said.
Warren also blamed bloggers for contributing to the polarization of the country and said one of his three life goals is to restore civility to civilization.
The evangelical pastor posted his comments on his "News & Views" blog page to address concerns and questions raised by his congregants.
In recent weeks, Warren has been inundated with criticism from evangelicals as well as gay-rights groups after he accepted the invitation to deliver the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration in January. Obama has also been blasted for his selection of the evangelical pastor for such a significant role.
But while countless reports have covered the controversy around homosexuality – Warren supported Proposition 8, protecting the traditional definition of marriage – the Saddleback pastor says the media has totally missed the real story.
"The fact that an evangelical pastor believes in keeping the historic definition of marriage – that's not news ... it's a non-story. And the fact that the gay community would disagree with me, that's not news either," he said in the video.
"What's the real story?" he posed.
"The real story is that a couple of different American leaders have chosen to model civility for the rest of the nation and that Barack Obama and Rick Warren have decided to try to create a new politic that says 'we can disagree without being disagreeable; we can walk hand in hand without seeing eye to eye; we can have unity in our nation without uniformity; and we can have collaboration for the best of America.'"
Although both Warren and Obama are receiving flak, they're both "willing to be criticized in order to try to bring America into a new day of civil discourse and to create a new model that says 'you don't have to agree only with your side on everything; you can reach out in the middle and try to figure out to have a way that we can make America a better place without having to agree on everything," Warren stressed.
"See, that's the story that the media's missing. It's the story of risk-taking."
In the video message, Warren also clarified what he really believes about gay marriage as he responded to questions raised by his congregants.
"My views have not changed in 30 years ... I have been accused of equating gay partnerships with incest and pedophilia. Now, of course, as members of Saddleback Church, you know I believe no such thing. I never have," he said, as he cleared up false accusations and clarified comments he made in a recent interview with Beliefnet.com.
"...I'm not opposed to gays having their partnerships. I'm opposed to gays using the term 'marriage' for their relationship and I'm opposed to any redefinition of the definition of marriage – the definition of marriage that's been universally accepted since the beginning of man," he said.
He also stated, "Now gay partnerships are typically between consenting adults. And while I believe that the gay view of sexuality is contrary to God's word, I do believe that God gives us free choice and He gives us the choice to obey His word or to disobey it.
"Because of that, I believe I must give everybody else that same freedom of choice. I'm opposed in forcing people to act the way I believe that I ought to act. That's not what it's about. It's what I believe God wants me to act and it's the way I believe God wants other people to act but God has given me the choice."
He continued, "Now I believe that God says I must love everybody. You've heard me say that a thousand times. I have to love everybody regardless of the choice they make. In fact, I am never ever free to hate any person."
"Not only God, but America gives us this great freedom to make choices," Warren added. "And so I simply believe that while we're all free to make choices, I think gays should use another term for their consenting adult relationship and partnership. I oppose the redefinition of the meaning of marriage. I hope that's clear."
And in terms how he will deal with the incessant verbal attacks, false accusations and hateful slander, Warren said, "We return good for evil. We return love for hate. We overcome evil with good. We will love and ... we will pray."
On the Web: Rick Warren video message