Welcoming his guest for a live, primetime interview, Piers Morgan asked the American evangelical Christian pastor and author his opinion on the nature of homosexuality:
"Do you personally believe that gay people are born gay? Or, do they become gay? Are they made gay?" wondered the host.
"You know what - I think the jury's still out on that. It wouldn't bother me if there was a 'gay gene' found," he said, before adding some additional commentary. "Here's what we know about life: I have all kinds of feelings in my life and it doesn't necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling ... Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don't act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn't make it right. Not everything natural is good for me."
PASTOR RICK WARREN, FOUNDER, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: We're grateful to live in this land, a land of unequalled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Pastor Rick Warren at President Obama's inauguration in 2009. He's been called America's pastor and considered to be one of the most influential men in the world both as a religious leader and a philanthropist. He's the author of "The Purpose Driven Life" now marking its tenth anniversary and sales of over 32 million copies. And Rick Warren joins me now.
That must be, even to you, pretty staggering, isn't it? Thirty- two million copies, Rick Warren?
WARREN: Yes, nobody is more surprised than I am. Actually, Piers, I don't think actually anybody bought them. My mom and I gave them all away, all 32 million copies. (LAUGHTER)
MORGAN: We've had a great debate tonight about this fiscal cliff and really it comes down to this. Whether the wealthier 2 percent of Americans should be paying a bigger share of taxation. Republicans almost to a man or woman seem utterly opposed to this, but Warren Buffett, the richest guy in America, is advocating that's exactly what should happen.
You are somebody who's interesting to me because you give away 90 percent --
MORGAN: -- of all your earnings and you famously do that and you've given away millions as a result. What do you think? I mean I'm assuming you would be in the wealthiest who should give away more, right?
WARREN: Well, yes. And actually -- I actually think it's better for people to give it away than for it to be taken away. I would maybe disagree with both sides and say, I'd like to see a tax code that rewards generosity, that rewards behavior that causes people -- see, Piers, if somebody taxes me to do good, I don't get any credit for it. It's not my -- it's not my volunteerism involved. On the other hand, if you incentivize people to be generous which, by the way, America is by far the most generous nation in the world, and one of the reasons for it is actually the tax code.
There are countries that are not very generous because people don't have actually that much to give. And so I would love to see rather than -- you know, one of the things they're talking about right now is well, we don't want to raise taxes so we will lower deductions. And maybe we'll lower deductions on, for instance, charitable giving. Well, what does that do?
It stymies the behavior we actually want to support, that we want to favor, which is teaching people to be more generous. That's good for the heart.
MORGAN: I actually think that's a really good point. I think that that is the last thing they should be doing. They should make it as you say more incentivizing thing to give money to charities because that's actually, as you say, it makes you feel better, doesn't it? Just writing a check to the government.
WARREN: It makes you feel better. It's good for character and, as I said, I don't get any reward for being taxed to help other people. Clearly the scripture says that people who have more are to help those who have less. And actually, the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.
I find that even -- often both sides will agree on the ultimate goal which is to help people. The problem is the dividing over what's the best method to do that. And when we start, you know, denying each other's motivations or questioning each other's motivations and why you do what you want to do, you know, Piers, the bottom line is in America, everybody really wants the same thing. Everybody in America wants good health care -- wants their kids to be healthy.
Everybody wants their family to be safe. Everybody wants the freedom to believe and live as they want to believe and live. Everybody wants our nation to be secure. Everybody wants to have peace. Everybody wants to have prosperity.
The debates are always over how, how do you get there. And when we disagree on the how, what often happens, and I saw this happening -- to me it was very disappointing in the last election cycle, is that people start questioning other people's motives because they have a different method than yours.
I happen to know both Republicans and Democrats who are quite patriotic, and to question their patriotism because they believe in a different method of getting to the goal that we all agree in, to me seems a little disingenuous.
MORGAN: Have you -- have you ever known America to be so divided, politically in particular, with Washington? Approval ratings for everyone in Washington are like record lows. But it does seem to be particularly poisonous.
MORGAN: I thought this election campaign really plummeted new depths on occasion.
WARREN: Well, as you know, it was reported that I canceled the Saddleback Civil Forum on the presidency for this very reason. Early in the election cycle, before the Republican candidate had even been chosen, both sides talked to me about doing the civil forum again, and it was well received the last time, four years ago, and I thought well, OK, I'll think about it.
But I just found that, to be honest with you, in my personal opinion, neither side was really presenting a compelling vision of the future because there was so much negativity over the other guy as a jerk. And we spent $2 billion on this election and literally nothing changed. We have the same White House, we have the same Congress, and we have the same Senate, and I'm going, what was that all about? Was that really necessary? Did that really prove the value of negative ads? Did that really prove the value of demeaning somebody else simply because they disagree with you?
You know, this goes back to the whole issue of tolerance. Tolerance used to mean I respect you and I treat you with dignity, and I could even love you, even though I may violently disagree with you. I totally disagree with what you say but you're a child of God and so I'm going to treat you with respect and dignity.
Now tolerance has changed in meaning. Today, many people actually think tolerance means you must agree with me and if you -- unless you agree with me, then you are intolerant. In other words, if -- they don't understand the difference between tolerance and approval.
If I were to say -- let me just say this. If I were to say I believe everybody in America should be baptized, in fact, I think you should be baptized and you must accept that as a part of your lifestyle, then if you said to me well, Rick, I don't think that's right, I happen to disagree with you, it would be nonsense for me to say to you well, Piers, you're a bigot or you're hateful or you're afraid of me. It's just not true. You just happen to disagree.
MORGAN: OK. But, look --
WARREN: If you only --
MORGAN: I'm going to -- I'm going to --
WARREN: If you only disagree -- if you only love people you agree with, you're not going to love anybody. Because even your wife disagrees with you a lot of the times.
MORGAN: My wife disagrees with me almost all the time. But let's take a break, Rick.
WARREN: Mine too. Mine too.
MORGAN: And we're going to come back and explore tolerance because I'm going to put you to the test.
WARREN: That'll be fine.
MORGAN: Because there are a few things I want to talk to you about on which I vehemently disagree with you.
WARREN: That's fine.
MORGAN: So we'll get into that after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: About 2 percent of Americans are homosexual or gay/lesbian people. We should not let 2 percent of the population determine to change the definition of marriage. God created marriage for the purpose of family, love and procreation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Pastor Rick Warren speaking out against same-sex marriage. And I'm back with him now.
So let's talk about gay marriage for a moment because clearly a number of states in America are moving to legalize this and it's becoming less and less of a kind of hot button issue and more of a sort of inevitable change in social times. Your position has remained pretty entrenched about this.
Here's my issue with it. Unless I'm wrong, and clarify this for me. You base your opposition to it on the literal interpretation of what the bible says about marriage. Am I right?
WARREN: Yes, that's true. Everybody has a source of authority for their lives. Some people, the source of authority is culture. Some people, their source of authority is philosophy. Everybody has a world view. My world view simply happens to be based on a literal and strict interpretation of scripture. Not everybody's interpretation but it is mine.
MORGAN: Right. Now here's my problem. Because I'm a catholic like you, and I respect the bible enormously, and I respect all --
MORGAN: Actually all religious beliefs from everybody. But here's my problem with taking the literal interpretation of the bible to the modern era and not allowing yourself to move with the times and it's this. There are so many things in the bible which are plainly ridiculous these days, right?
Children who curse their parents will be put to death. There would be no children left over the age of 8 in America, right? With the possible exception of yours.
MORGAN: And if you commit adultery, you will be put to death.
MORGAN: But you yourself in an interview with Ann Curry on NBC, which I remember watching, you admitted you have looked lustfully at women but you've never actually sealed the deal. Now if you look lustfully at women according to Matthew 5:28, it says, "I tell you anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." You then go to Leviticus who says, "If you commit adultery, you should be put to death."
You're going to have to stone yourself, Rick Warren, if you take the bible literally.
WARREN: I know where you're going with this. This is a very common misunderstanding on the laws of scripture, Piers. There aren't -- there aren't just one set of laws in scripture. There are actually three sets of laws and they are not equally binding. Many people think every law in the bible is the exact same kind of law.
In the bible, there are three kinds of laws. There are civil laws, which by the way apply only to the nation of Israel. Those are called civil laws. There are ceremonial laws which are the laws that apply to cleanliness as kosher Jews would practice today, in the laws of Leviticus, the priestly laws that are ceremonial laws that involve worship, and then there are moral laws. As a Christian, I'm not bound by the civil laws given to the nation of Israel, and I'm not even bound by the ceremonial laws given to the priesthood of Israel. I am bound, I believe, to the moral laws. The "Ten Commandments" are neither civil laws nor ceremonial. Those are moral laws. They were the ones chiseled in stone.
And so when people make this -- it's a very common argument. Yes, but what about this law and what about this law. Well, granted, OK, that was that law for that point in time, and I'm under no obligation to do that. But when a law says, for instance, you will always tell the truth, you may not lie, sorry, that doesn't matter how times change. I am --
MORGAN: But here's my -- here's my -- here's my confusion about you.
MORGAN: Because you've been with your wife Kay, extremely generous in tackling things like AIDS.
MORGAN: You've given millions to helping fight AIDS.
MORGAN: Don't tell you don't have any --
WARREN: And worked with gay organizations all around the world.
MORGAN: Right. Right. So you clearly have no problem with gay people per se.
MORGAN: And yet you want to prevent them having the same rights to get married as straight people. That leads me to I suppose a more obvious supplementary question. Do you personally believe that gay people are born gay? Or do they become gay? Are they made gay?
WARREN: Yes. Yes. You know what, I think the jury's still out on that. It wouldn't -- it wouldn't bother me if there was, quote, "a gay gene" found, because here's what we know about life. I have all kinds of natural feelings in my life and it doesn't necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn't mean I act on it.
Sometimes I -- as you pointed out, sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don't act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn't make it right. Not everything natural is good for me. Arsenic is natural -- MORGAN: Yes, but that's -- but that's why, Rick, that's why -- I have to jump in again.
MORGAN: That is why, though, this is such an interesting debate, because, you know, I just -- I just believe fundamentally and passionately that gay people are born gay. I don't think you become gay. And I think if you were able to convince yourself that they were born gay, you would see it differently. You would see it as a natural condition that people are gay, and then you may change your mind about their rights to have the same fundamental rights as straight people.
But if you still believe that they're not born gay but become or get turned gay, then I can see that you can hide behind that as the justification, if you like, for not endorsing same-sex marriage.
WARREN: Sure. Sure. I do not believe attraction is a sin, but I do believe that some actions are sin. I'm not responsible for all of my attractions. We know, for instance, that some people are born with natural predispositions toward certain things, either good or bad. Every one of us have those.
I may not -- I'm automatically attracted to certain kinds of art, certain kinds of music, certain kinds -- I don't think that's a matter of right or wrong. But the bible clearly states that I am absolutely in control of my actions, and since I have chosen as my authority for my life not the government, not common culture, like that. And by the way, I appreciate the way you're developing this right now, because this is the very kind of discussions that we need to be having that are saying, that treat everybody with dignity, that treat everybody with love, but could disagree on certain issues and still say, you know what, I don't agree with that guy but I think he has come to his position from his background and from his basis.
MORGAN: OK. Rick, we're going to take -- I want to take a short break. Let's continue this after the break. And also talk about this fantastic story today, Angus Jones from "Two and a Half Men" who described his own show as complete filth.
MORGAN: Yes. Want to know if you agree with him or not. WARREN: I haven't heard this yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGUS JONES, ACTOR, TWO AND A HALF MEN: Because people will see us and be like, oh, I can -- I can be a Christian and be on a show like "Two and a Half Men." I -- you can't, you cannot be a true God- fearing person and be on a television show like that. I know I can't. I am not OK with what I'm learning what the bible says and being on that television show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Angus T. Jones, the young star of "Two and a Half Men," attacking his own show, calling it filth and saying it goes against his Christian values.
I'm back with Pastor Rick Warren.
A quite extraordinary 24 hours in that young man's life.
MORGAN: He's now recanted and apologized, I suspect at the behest of his publicist and employers. But clearly he felt very compromised by his new Christian beliefs in terms of what he'd done on the show, where the show to most people is just a bit of fun, a sort of fun comedy. Do you think he's taking it too far? And what would you -- what would you counsel him?
WARREN: Well, I don't really know his motivation behind it, so I would -- I would like to talk to him first before I would comment on his issue. I would say, and I think pretty much there's agreement that there has been a coarsening of our culture over generations and generations. And I know that things that used to happen in college, you know, filtered down to the high school level into the junior high level.
I was talking to somebody today just in the green room and they were telling me that they were -- their junior high -- I mean grade school teacher was asked everybody in the class to write a letter on friendship, an essay on friendship. This is a group of fifth graders. And one of the girls wrote an essay on friends, you know, with benefits on the concept of, you know, having sex with whoever you want to.
And this is a girl in the fifth grade. And so it's obviously that things are getting -- the standards of morality seem to be going lower and lower in our culture.
And another thing that's happening is that the Internet has definitely increased the level of rudeness in our society. We are losing, Piers, the civility in our civilization because it's very easy to hide behind a screen and to lob emotional -- emotionally loaded words and attacks at people without even -- you know, in the protection of your own security of your home, and I -- I would love to see liberals, conservatives, Muslims, Jews, Christians, gays, straights, and everybody else form a coalition to end stereotyping. I think that's an important thing that would be --
MORGAN: Well, I agree with -- I agree with that. Unfortunately I've got to be stereotypical as a cable news anchor and be bloody rude to you, I'm afraid, Rick Warren, because I've got to end it. We ran out of time. But I really enjoyed the conversation. I think it's an important conversation.
WARREN: Good to talk --
MORGAN: About a number of these issues. Please come back and discuss it in more depth soon.
WARREN: I enjoyed it.
MORGAN: The book "The Purpose Driven Life," of course, 10th anniversary expanded is on sale now. Very good to finally get to interview you. I enjoyed it.
WARREN: Thanks, Piers.
MORGAN: My thanks to Pastor Rick Warren. "AC 360" starts in a few moments.