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Obama Watch: Rick Warren and the Politics of Inclusion & Exclusion


Does Rick Warren’s homophobia mean Barack Obama
should not have tapped him to give the invocation at the inauguration?

During the day, yesterday, the announcement about Warren drew comment from every direction, including" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> from Obama himself.

The LA Times has an editorial on the topic, which was, I’m sorry to say, not one of its best, and mostly missed the point.

The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan went through his own narrative arc during thie course of the afternoon. Here’s Sullivan, several posts into the day, after the announcement was made.

Civil rights are not about left and right; they are about right and wrong. And the hurt that this choice has caused is not a function of an alienated base, it seems to me, so much as salt on the wound of Proposition 8. I understand why Obama did this. I just wonder if he understands how deeply hurtful it is to be asked to pray with someone who has compared my marriage with the sexual abuse of children, incest and polygamy. Yes, I am, in Warren’s eyes, the equivalent of a pedophile, as is my husband. This comparison is what Warren calls his commitment to “model civility. Some civility.

Several hours later, he wrote this:

My own view at the end of this deeply upsetting day is that we should all take a deep breath. That doesn’t mean forgetting this; or denying the untruths and prejudices of Rick Warren. It means focusing on getting Obama to support the substantive work of equality; and making the case ourselves.

Personally, I’m very ardently in favor of the reach-across-the-barriers concept—at least in the abstract. It is time we start healing the terrible and scarring divides in this country that the last administration used for political gain. And if Rick Warren thinks that my immortal soul is damned to hell for all eternity, what of it? He does a great deal of good, as well.

But he is also for restricting the rights of my friends and fellow citizens if they happen to be gay. And he said so in odious terms when he actively stumped for Prop 8.

So what to do?

For some further clarification, I turned to my very smart friend and former student, blogger Zach Sire, to see what he had to say.

Here’s a clip from his post (but the rest is worth reading, including his clip from—and reply to—Wonkette):

Your Barry inviting “Dr. Rick” is not a slap in the face to gays as much as it is a disingenuous olive branch to evangelicals. And they’re falling for it! You see, Obama is all about trying to please everyone with gestures and concessions. Until he actually starts enacting policies and putting forth his specific agenda, none of us should be freaking out. So, chill.

And remember, the other religious person on the bill on inauguration day (who is in fact overseeing the benediction) is Rev. Joe Lowery. Lowery founded the SCLC with Martin Luther King and, hold on to your hats, is a supporter of same sex marriage. You don’t see the religious right freaking out about this, do you? (Maybe you do, but I haven’t seen anything about it as of yet.)

So yeah. Relax. Warren is, as everyone knows, a tool. We should be proud of Obama for using him as well as he is. If this endears another couple hundred thousand evangelicals to Obama, and thus helps him out in 2012, then that’s fine by me.

Frankly, this whole issue would be a lot easier if Prop 8 had been defeated, and Californians could go back marrying the people they love, and Rick Warren could invoke to his heart’s content.

But that isn’t how it is.


  • Rev. Wright would have been a more appropriate choice. He could say “GD America” right at the end of the prayer and get cheers from the Obama supporters.

  • Let’s make racial equality a social issue, too, Barack Obama. Go ahead and sign up a white supremacist to give the final benediction Jan. 20.

  • Here’s a concern, but not to Obama: No Southerners yet in Obama Cabinet

    Gordon Taylor, a former chief of staff to a southern Democratic member, said some Blue Dog Democrats didn’t even realize the gap in geographic diversity until it was pointed out to them.

    …Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln…said geography isn’t a concern to her, either. “I would love to see Southerners in the Cabinet, yeah absolutely,” she said. But the first priority should not be geography but “good competent people.”

    Then, if competency is the first priority, let’s dump affirmative action.

  • Warren was named one of “America’s Top 25 Leaders” in the October 31, 2005 issue of U.S. News and World Report. Warren was elected by TIME magazine as one of 15 World Leaders Who Mattered Most in 2004 and one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” (2005). Newsweek magazine called him one of “15 People Who Make America Great”, an award given to people who, through bravery or generosity, genius or passion, devote themselves to helping others.

    Warren no longer takes a salary from Saddleback Church and has repaid all of his salary from the last 25 years back to the church, due to the success of his book sales. He says he now “reverse tithes”, meaning giving away 90% of his income and living off of 10%.

    His five-point plan for global action calls for church-led efforts to tackle global poverty and disease, including the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to support literacy and education efforts around the world. In February 2006, he signed a statement backing a major initiative to combat global warming, thus breaking with some of the U.S.’s high-profile evangelical leaders, such as James Dobson, who had opposed such a move.

    In 2005, Time magazine reported that Warren had been asked by Rwandan President Paul Kagame to help his country become a “Purpose-Driven nation”. To implement this, Warren has enlisted over 2,000 Saddleback Church members to go to Rwanda in small groups to initiate a national strategy, and the cooperation of 600 Rwandan churches. Business leaders and leaders of parliament in Rwanda are also involved.

  • Pokey, all good points. He has a lot of really great and incredibly admirable qualities, which is why Obama chose him and, in many ways, having Warren speak a wonderful choice.

    But he’s said very, very saddening, deeply things about gays.

    When I began the post, I fully intended to have it be in favor of Warren speaking, because he seems so decent in so many ways, but the more I read, the more torn I became.

  • Rick Warren — “Most people know, I have many gay friends, I have eaten dinner in gay homes, No church has done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church.
    Kay and I have given millions of dollars helping people who got AIDS through Gay relationships, So they can’t accuse me of Homophobia, I just don’t believe in the re-definition of marriage.”

  • The LGB community have had their rights taken away thanks to Prop 8 and Warren’s support. I agree with Obama and Pokey that he has done some good things, and that he is a good choice in the sense of “reaching across the aisle” and the “I see one America”.

    But to ask the LGB community to not be ticked off that Obama has a guy up there who a) supported Prop 8 and b) compared gay marriage to incest, pedophilia and polygamy is completely understandable. The voters of California just made them 2nd class citizens and we expect them to be alright that Obama has a major voice of that movement at his inaguration???!!!

  • I don’t like what is happening in this country. If a person disagrees with another’s opinion, or world-view, he is immediately vilified. I remember when Republicans weren’t vampires and Democrats weren’t satanists. This will lead to some serious persecution someday – even to death.

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