Obama's Inaugural Cavalcade Continues

Following up on my earlier post about Obama’s choice of the disgraceful bigot Rick Warren to preside at the inauguration, this news: In a response to progressive anger, the transition team has announced that V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop, has agreed to appear as well. (Obama’s spokespeople said this was not a new decision but had been in the works all along. If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.)

On one level, this is a good thing. It shows that progressives had an impact, that our outrage was heard. For the past eight years and more, too many Democrats were willing to offend their own allies by blatantly pandering to the religious right – ultimately a counterproductive and futile gesture, since it infuriates the Democrats’ natural political allies and Christian fundamentalists inevitably vote for the Republican anyway.

Obama’s selection of Warren shows he was not above trying to play this game, but the addition of Robinson shows that the progressive pushback was intense enough to make them realize their miscalculation. Whether this means that liberals have regained a measure of political influence, or Obama’s team will be more responsive to our concerns, or both, it’s a hopeful sign. That said, regardless of whether Robinson or another gay Christian is present, Warren’s inclusion is still a mistake. It still conveys the view that his viciously anti-gay views occupy a legitimate place on the spectrum of respectability, and adding an opposing view does nothing to change that. However, I do confess to feeling some schadenfreude at the wailing and teeth-gnashing of the bigots:

When someone who confesses to be a christian and allows an openly gay minister to be part of this event, one must wonder about the his/her faith. No doubt God loves people but He hates sin. One must repent and turn away from sin including homosexuality. As others wrote previously, God hates homosexuality. Bible is very clear on this.

This is sick. How can he be a man of God if he contradicts what God teaches. It clearly speaks out in the bible against homosexualality…. Stop saying that being gay is fine because it is not.

It seems Rick Warren prays to the God of the Holy Bible who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and Robinson prays to a god who approves of any kind of lifestyle as long as we are “loving”.

in Leviticus chapter 20, verse 13, GOD CALLS THIS LIFE STYLE AN ABOMINATION, God will be your judge just like he will all of us. God Bless America.

But I do have to register a further objection. Progressive though Robinson may be, he’s still a Christian – and between him, Warren, and Joseph Lowery, it seems that only Christian voices are to play any significant role at the inaugural ceremony. If this is a message of inclusion, it’s an insensitive and poorly tailored one. Obama can certainly claim he’s covered every flavor of Christianity, but millions of Americans are non-Christians, including the 15% of the populace that identifies as nonreligious. What recognition will there be for us and for the role we played in electing Obama? Or are inaugural invocations a job for which only members of the majority faith need apply?

I realize the day when a humanist will give a secular invocation at the inauguration is still far off. But the more we push for it, the more we can bring that day nearer. It is never too early to seek after social progress, and the effect of the larger population’s knowing that we exist can only be a beneficial one.

On one further note, I have some additional thoughts on Michael Newdow’s lawsuit against the use of “so help me God” in the inaugural oath. Having listened to an interview with Newdow on Freethought Radio, I understand his position better now. It’s not a lawsuit against religious language at the inauguration in general. The presidential oath as given in the Constitution has no religious language. Newdow’s lawsuit seeks to enjoin Chief Justice John Roberts from adding that phrase when he administers the oath. And this, I have to admit, makes a great deal of sense. Newdow’s position is not that Obama is forbidden to say it himself if he wants to, but that Roberts, acting as an agent of the government to swear him in, may not officially make a religious affirmation part of the secular oath of office. I still think it will be swiftly thrown out by the courts using their all-purpose “standing” excuse, but now that I see the reasoning behind it, this suit looks more meritorious to me than it did before.

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Arc of Fire, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.


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