The reaction has been swift and negative:
Obama had a chance to set a non-sectarian, progressive tone at this event, and he has chosen to kow-tow to the wretched evangelical movement.
It is a grave disappointment to learn that pastor Rick Warren will give the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama… Rick Warren gets plenty of attention through his books and media appearances. He doesn’t need or deserve this position of honor. There is no shortage of religious leaders who reflect the values on which President-elect Obama campaigned and who are working to advance the common good.
… by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.
[Obama] won’t be as bad as the Clintons (who, among leading Democrats, could?), but pandering to Christianists at his inauguration is a depressing omen. More evidence that a civil rights movement needs to realize that no politician can deliver for us what we have to deliver on our own.
Sorry, Mr. President, this will NOT be an inclusive event. If you are to dismiss the 16% of the population by INSISTING on preaching about God, you are not being inclusive. The prayer at the nomination was bad enough, and you’re making it worse for your inauguration by employing Rick Warren to preach.
My message to the critics:
Chill. The. Fuck. Out.
I’m not happy with the pick, either. Warren isn’t a “moderate” Christian by any means. Most Christians who are famous enough to have any name recognition are not. But you can’t expect Obama to shun all Evangelical Christians because of their absurd views. He’s going to need their support in the future. Putting Warren in the spotlight during his inauguration is an easy way to show Christian America that he has a connection to their world.
The Obama camp has tried to respond to these charges by essentially saying, yes, Warren is a bigot, but he and Obama have quite a bit else in common. It won’t make a difference. Rick Warren might have a stellar record in some areas, but his anti-gay views are self-inflicted stains on his own reputation.
I don’t buy for a second that this is Obama’s way of shunning all GLBT or atheist Americans. (He already has one gay woman in his Cabinet, he may choose another for a more prominent post, and his new Secretary of Education proposed a gay-friendly high school in Chicago.) I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an atheist in the bunch, either. But true to form, they’re not being open about that.
Anyway, you can be angry about Warren’s views. I am. They’re misguided and they cause a lot of emotional pain for our gay friends. He’s even said that he could not vote for an atheist for public office.
Look: Obama’s a Christian. We can’t get pissed off every time he reminds us of that. He wants a Christian pastor to deliver the invocation — as is tradition for a new President. He’s not trying to say this is a Christian nation or that he doesn’t care about the non-Christians in this country. He also has a close bond with Warren, who helped him make inroads with many Evangelical Christians over two years ago when Warren invited him to speak at his church.
If anything, let Obama appease Warren now by letting him be a part of the inauguration.
Then cut him loose.
We don’t need Warren’s ignorant opinions seeping into an Obama administration over the next eight years.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be upset with the choice, but let’s keep it in perspective. This isn’t a big deal in the long run:
Quick: Who delivered George W. Bush’s Invocations in 2001 and 2005?
Rev. Franklin Graham (2001)
Rev. Luis Leon (2005)
Remember those historic invocations?! Remember how they divided our country and played to the Christian Right?
Warren’s invocation, like those others, won’t be remembered for very long. It’s a quick prayer. It shouldn’t be there in the first place, but it is. (That we have an invocation in the first place should be the point of argument, not Warren’s selection to deliver it. Atheist Michael Newdow tried to put a stop to the prayer in 2005 but lost his case.)
All that said, perhaps Bush should get some credit for having chosen Rev. Leon a few years back. He was obviously a Christian, but a far more inclusive and equality-minded than his replacement:
The Rev. Luis Leon’s flock describes him as a liberal thinker who preaches inclusiveness in his sermons, furthers social justice in his work and welcomes same-sex couples in his congregation.
Obama could’ve done better if he wanted a Christian representative; he did just this a couple months ago when he chose Christian author (and a person who actually voted for Obama) Don Miller to give the benediction at the Democratic National Convention.
But Warren’s more famous and Obama’s still trying to win the Purpose-Driven crowd over.
I can let this slide. It’s just not worth getting worked up over right now. I’ll save my breath for when Obama takes office. You should, too. If he starts letting the Christian Right guide his policy-making at that time, we can be as critical as we need to be.
(Thanks to Greta Christina for the link!)