In Defense of Rick Warren

The progressive uproar over President-Elect Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to do the invocation at the Inauguration shows why we are seen as kooks by so many and will remain so unless we change.

Now let me say my bias at the outset, I would have preferred that President-Elect Obama had chosen Rev. Jeremiah Wright to do the invocation as a way of healing the rift in that relationship, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

But, my progressive friends, this is a PRAYER. This is not an appointment to a commission or a place in the government. Get over it!

Yes….Rick Warren supported Prop. 8, but it seems like a lot of people supported Prop. 8 or it wouldn’t have passed. Yes….Rick Warren is anti-choice, but so are a lot of other people.  Yet this is the same Rick Warren that has done so much to help those with AIDS on the continent of Africa and spoken out about the genocide in Darfur.  Saddleback also has many community programs that do good in So. California.  When did progressives stop understanding that people are truly multifaceted? That they can hold beliefs that cross ends of the spectrum?

Have progressives learned nothing from the Civil Rights Movement?  If nothing else should have been learned then this should have been….you have to start where people are; not where you hope they were.  If you continue to demonize those who oppose you then you won’t get anywhere.  Only by talking and genuine listening do things change.

Now what’s better……a Rick Warren that religious progressives can sit down and talk with or a Rick Warren who fights you on every turn no matter what he thinks or believes on an issue?  When President-Elect Obama said that he wanted to be the President of the United States, what did you think that meant; only the part of the U.S. that agreed with him? Or that he was truly interested in having dialogue with people from all sides of an issue?

Cut the President-Elect a break, this is a PRAYER.  As the President-Elect has said, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

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10 thoughts on “In Defense of Rick Warren

  1. While I happen to think that Warren is a schmuck, I find the whole furor bizarre. Warren’s tried hard to portray himself as fair and moderate (note: portray himself). He’s going to use the invocation to make his claim to being religiously moderate, and Christian.

    And then it will be over. He’ll be back in Orange Co., CA (alas) and far from D.C., and the Obamas won’t be attending, nor will Warren be invited regularly to come and pray with the Obamas. It’s political performance art, reaching out…. Obama was elected to be president of the United States, not the president of the liberal base. He’s acting in a manner consistent with the idea that he ought to make everyone feel like the door is open–and HIS words on the subject of supporting LGBT folk, and disagreeing with Warren, ought to be worth more to that group than Warrens couple minutes of time on stage. Lord knows I think that swapping with the Right, and having, say… Sinkford do the invocation and having Obama stand up and dis the LGBT community would be a crappy, crappy deal.

    Warren does his schtick. Right strokes itself over its importance even in the administration of a black-not-really-black, liberal-as-hell-but-not-really-liberal-at-all Democratic president and Obama goes off to deal with real policy and real programs.

    Like getting DADT revoked, with the fawning adulation of the military hierarchy, which has lost a shitload of good people to this moronic policy. Once done… that’s done and there’s no going back. The Right will mumble vaguely, recognize that they don’t mind the idea of gays and lesbians dying for the country (harsh? Yeah. And, I think completely true), and since the military thinks it’s a good idea and… uh… Warren did the invocation, it’s ok.

    Minimal political capital expended, real permanent progress.

    Of course… that will rapidly be a lever for insisting that GLBT veterans — people who put themselves on the line… — get treated equally.

    We’re dealing with people who have, well… fascistic leanings. They’re really BIG on issues of image. Warren doing the invocation? That’s image. Hell, the furor over it only makes it worth MORE to them, and helps “prove” that Obama’s not the liberal nightmare fantasy they were warned about.

    Obama’s smooth. They’ll miss the well packaged content that counts for a hell of a lot more.

    But then, I’m a pragmatic before I’m an ideological purist. The purists want Obama’s cabinet to look like the Green Party put it together in collaboration with Zinn and Nader, and for every element from the center on rightward to be snubbed repeatedly to make up for the last eight years. A different kind of obsession with image over content.

    I’m a political junkie–and I have no clue who gave the invocation at ANY inauguration. It’s a matter of trivial import… give it away for something of lasting value.

  2. Wright’s not been a 100% on Gay issues,

    Yet not all gay members at Trinity agree with that assessment, according to Rev. Irene Monroe, a religion columnist for gay media and a doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. Monroe said some gay members of Trinity expressed disappointment over Wright’s response to a controversial 2005 decision by the United Church of Christ’s national governing body to endorse same-sex marriage.

    About 80 percent of the church’s General Synod voted to approve a same-sex marriage resolution giving all United Church of Christ congregations authority to perform same-sex marriages. The resolution explicitly allows each church to decide on its own whether or not to endorse or perform such unions.

    Monroe said Wright spoke out against the Synod’s position, which she said prompted “LGBTQ parishioners to leave” the church.

    She points to an article written at that time by Wright in The Trumpet, his church’s magazine, calling the same-sex marriage issue a distraction that diverted attention from other, more important issues such as health care and poverty.

    “Are 44 million Americans with no health care insurance less important than ‘gay marriage?’ he wrote. “Why aren’t Black Christians in an uproar about that? Maybe I’m missing something!”

    In a column slated to be published this week in the gay press, Monroe said Wright’s comments in the church magazine highlighted what appeared to be his decision to break ranks with “his liberal denomination to stand in solidarity with a more conservative black church position.”

  3. Wait a second. Give a man who campaigned for Prop 8, identifies gay marriage with incest and pedophilia and who wants the president of Iran eliminated a prized piece of the inauguration — you bet I’m upset and Obama deserves the blowback. As I’ve said before, no honeymoon. Not even on day one. McCain would have been a disaster, but Obama will have to be watched and challenged, at ever turn if need be.

  4. I guess having Rev. Warren do the opening prayer makes good political sense. Here’s the analysis of this from the electoral-vote.com politics web site:

    “The move costs him no political capital at all. Warren gets a few minutes to speak on national TV. He’s not going to use it to bash gays if he has any expectation of becoming the new Billy Graham. But later when Obama does controversial things–like pushing for some kind of national health insurance–he can claim to be balanced by saying: ‘I am a centrist, look, I let Warren speak and I support national health insurance, something for everyone.’ That is hardly an even trade but it will get him a lot of mileage in the media. Despite what some people may think, Obama is a very clever politician and fully understands that making small gestures to the right, however meaningless, generate good will he will need later. The incident brings to mind the comment of John Mitchell (Richard Nixon’s attorney general): ‘Watch what we do, not what we say.'”

    So — I agree with Scott in that we need to watch what Obama does more than what he says.

    If this is the political trade-off that has to be made to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the so-called “defense of marriage act,” putting up with a few minutes of forgettable public prayer is worth it.

  5. ….who wants the president of Iran eliminated…

    Check Haartz for the story on Obama’s intent to extend the US’s nuclear umbrella over Israel. An Iranian first strike on Israel will bring a US retaliatory strike on Iran. Rick Warren suggested taking out one Iranian. Obama may well make it US policy to threaten to take out a whole lot more.

    You may be getting your second Obama alert here Scott.

  6. This is a tough one for me. I want to agree with Kim and the others about Warren, and it is important that he has to make a gesture to the red states.

    I would be furious, however, if anyone supported such a balancing act on race issues. So I cannot support that argument.

    Just because his presidency covers the intolerant as well as the enlightened, does not mean he has to pander to them. You are right, this is just a prayer, but it is a prayer by someone who support bigotry. There are people in this world who may do great things, but still be hateful and oppressive, and as UU’s we must have the titanium ovaries and balls to point and say NO YOU DON’T.

    Who should Obama had asked? Easy, UU minister Moralez who opened a rally for him. He’s not good enough? Then our President. Not Happy with him? John Crestwell at Davies Memorial who is doing great anti-racism and LBGT inclusion work. Want someone white? Fine Laurel Hallman. Want a red state male? I got you: Sean Dennison. UU’s each and every one.

    That’s right, our ministers should have done it. Why? Because we might be a small religion our belief has arms that embrace the whole world. Because we may not have a superchurch, but we have a super belief system.

    Finally, because the assasination of one of our own was major part of passing the Voting Rights act which is directly connected to Obama’s ability to run and win. UU’s, black, white, straight, LBGT, and all the others still generally believe in the idea that sent Viola to help black people she didn’t know in a fight she did not need to go to. That would have been the best message to send to the nation.

  7. Here’s what I’ve been posting on my own and other websites:

    I’m actually OK with Rick Warren being invited to do the invocation (and am actually somewhat relieved that it is NOT jeremiah Wright), mostly because I believe that Warren is eventually going to see the light and get it right on this issue, just as he has on AIDS in Africa, and seems to be now on the War on Terror and Gitmo, and…well let’s just say that he’s a pretty bright guy, he wants to do right, and he truly BELIEVES in the GOSPEL, and isn’t just mouthing some sort of lame Bible College ideology….

  8. Actually back in the Civil Rights days, there was a big split on what approach was best (or at least in the years post-1964) —
    the whole is MLK an Uncle Tom argument.
    40 years ago, racial segregation was legally enforced, and there were separate restrooms, water fountains, and waiting rooms, when I show some of those things to folks who are younger than 40, they are shocked to see that. Permanent Change does and will happen.
    However I understand that folks may not want to wait 40 (or more) years for Change – may not? do not! all of us want to rush into the valley, once we’ve seen it from the mountaintop.
    and no one wants a detour sign to slow us down – and of course Rev. Warren is now a symbol of that detour sign …

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