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Why Does Rick Warren Want to Pay $1,000 to Cut Off Charles King’s Ponytail?

Posted by , February 02, 2010 at 10:19pm

Why Does Rick Warren Want to Pay $1,000 to Cut Off Charles King’s Ponytail?

That ponytail can be yours—if you bid more than Rick Warren

In an effort to raise money to rebuild three clinics in Haiti, Housing Works President and CEO Charles King will auction off his trademark ponytail at a charity auction event called Shear Madness. One week into the auction, who’s the current highest bidder? None other than evangelical megachurch leader Rick Warren.

“For Charles to part with his personal signature is a serious sacrifice by a serious man for a serious cause,” Warren said. “When I heard he planned to do this I immediately kicked off the bidding at $1,000. The cause is worth a hundred times more than that. I pray that I’ll lose this bid by a wide margin, because Kay [Warren] and I will send our $1,000 of support regardless,” Warren said, adding, “What will you do?”

King is an ordained Baptist minister. Warren and King got to know each other when King publicly confronted Warren at the 2006 International AIDS Conference in Toronto about the failure of churches to reach out to men who have sex with men in combating HIV/AIDS. When King wasn’t satisfied with Warren’s answer, he stormed out of the conference hall, but Kay Warren ran after him and asked him to stay and talk. They debated, and their debates have gotten friendlier over the years.

“I challenge Rick and his wife over theology. I think Rick likes going toe-to-toe with a gay activist who knows his Bible,” King said.

King started growing his hair while at Yale Law School in 1986 to ensure that he wouldn’t be hired by a white-shoe law firm and keep himself firmly on the path to fighting for social justice. The ponytail has come to represent King’s commitment to 60s-style civil disobedience in the fight to end the AIDS epidemic, even as Housing Works has grown into the largest grassroots AIDS organization in the U.S. While King engages in traditional suit-and-tie advocacy—he recently delivered the first keynote address to the White House on the relationship between AIDS and homelessness—he has been arrested hundreds of times at AIDS-related civil disobedience actions.

Warren said, “Since he cofounded Housing Works 20 years ago, my friend Charles King has been one of most compassionate and courageous leaders in caring for those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and in fighting the battle against the disease. Housing Works does it all – providing housing, health care, treatment, education, meals, and job opportunities – all in the context of a caring, supportive community. Yes, Charles sometimes ruffles feathers in his passionate advocacy for those hurting most, but he does it from a heart of love. His compassion is powerfully seen in his daily commitment to help those whose battle with HIV/AIDS is complicated by their struggle with addiction or mental illness,” Warren said. “The Bible says, “If anyone has enough money to live on and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person?” (1 John 3:17) We simply cannot turn our backs on Haiti right now. I urge you to join us in the joy of being part of a miracle of generosity.”

Although Warren lives in California, and had to RSVP “no” for the actual haircutting ceremony, King’s friends, coworkers, and colleagues in the AIDS community will gather for the event at the Housing Works Bookstore Café, where the highest bidder will have the honor of cutting off the ponytail. After the high bidder cuts King’s ponytail, King’s hair will be styled at the Revolver salon next door. “Shear Madness” guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres provided by The Works Catering, Housing Works’ catering company, until King returns to show off his new look. King will be blogging about the experience of sacrificing his ponytail starting February 18.

Purchase tickets to the event, and bid in the auction.

All proceeds from “Shear Madness” will go to Housing Works’ Keith D. Cylar Activist Fund, in memory of Housing Works cofounder Keith Cylar, who died in 2004. The fund supports the work of HIV -positive activists worldwide, and this year, the fund will support the efforts of activists in Haiti as they rebuild vital AIDS service organizations in the wake of the devastating earthquake.

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