Obama, Warren, and that Inaugural Prayer

I will give you my reasons why I’m baffled by the reactions by liberal Democrats because President Elect Obama has invited Rick Warren to give the invocation.

First, because Inauguration Day is not a day for triumphalism, domination and a “See, we’re the winners and you’re the losers and we’re now set to take over.” Instead, Inauguration Day is a day for all Americans, Democrats and Republicans and social conservatives and social liberals to attend to the American duty of praying for a new President, saluting our new President, and dropping our differences for a day to celebrate the Great American Experiment in liberal democracy.

Second, because it has been the custom of American Presidents to invite to the podium — for the invocation — a spiritual leader. For years, both Democrats and Republicans, Presidents invited Billy Graham. Rick Warren is such a person.

Third, because Barack Obama has said from the very beginning that he would cross boundary line thinking, that he would surround himself with good and intelligent people, and that he would work for a kinder, more unified America. Inviting Rick Warren, someone with whom Obama disagrees on one issue after another, is such a move. It is the audacity of his hope that we can build a more unified country that respects diversity.

(When Rick Warren invited Barack Obama to his church a couple years back to address AIDS, I don’t recall hearing liberal Democrats fussing and steaming that Obama went there.)

And I’ll give you a fourth, and I’ll make it a challenge to the liberal Democrats who are offended that Obama invited Rick Warren. It comes from Anne Rice, a famed vampire novelist recently turned Christian, who said these words:

I am a baby Christian when it comes to loving. I am just learning. So far were my daily thoughts from loving people that I have a lifelong vocation now before me in learning how to find Christ in every single person whom I meet. Again and again, I fail because of temper and pride. I fail because it is so easy to judge someone else rather than love that person. And I fail because I cannot execute the simplest operations — answering an angry e-mail, for instance — in pure love (from Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession, p. 225.)

I’ll say this one more way: liberal Democrats who are deeply disappointed that Rick Warren will stand at the podium and pray for our President and our country and our world can remember one word of Jesus: “love your enemies.”

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  • Derek

    Check out this newsweek debate for more insight into the issue.

  • breadandroses

    I’m baffled that you are baffled. Really, what sort of person you have to be to be “baffled”? Is this a “turn the other cheek and let’s love our oppressors” thing?
    First of all, it is not Obama’s personal inauguration. This one is a historic moment which is very important to the people, who want to see their president, the one whom they elected, to begin a new era. The United States constitutionally believe in the separation of state and church. Yet, the president will be sworn in and the administration will be blessed by one specific religion. People are not very happy with this in the first place, but there is, believe it or not, a difference between Warren and Billy Graham.
    Second, here are the people who spent the past years to work on the grassroots level to get Obama elected. Who gave their time, their money, their nerves and worked really hard. Who wanted to believe in a “change” that was promised to them. The “change” they now will watch blessing their administration is exactly what they tried to get rid of. Ever since Richard Nixon the right has successfully not only tried to destroy the US, but the world. The last two legislative periods have been, to use religious terminology, an abomination. Instead of getting rid of them, they will be at the front seat now once again. If Barack Obama had wanted, he could have invited Warren to his church, to his home, to a panel discussion. Not to bless him at the inauguration. It is a slap in the face not only to the GLBT community who gave him his votes in an overwhelmingly high number and worked for him. They feel used and thrown away because now they are told that their human rights mean nothing, absolutely nothing. All that counted were their votes. This is not about “unification”. This man is the epitome for everything that is evil incarnate. He has actively been working to strip the GLBT community from their HUMAN RIGHTS. Would you invite someone to bless your administration who denies your human rights and make it about love? He has compared the GLBT community and women to monsters. He has stated that he doesn’t believe that atheist should hold political offices. This man is a slap in the face for about 95% of the people who gave their vote to Obama in the hope to get “change”. They feel used, hurt, duped. They are stunned and shocked. They are absolutely baffled. They have every right to be. I did not vote for Obama since I’m European. I know the moment that, even the right, would get the idea to be sworn in by a minister of the like of Warren people would probably implode from laughter. It would be out of the question completely.

  • breadandroses

    Here you have some voices, who can say it better than I can. Then take a minute, breathe in, and ask yourself if you are still “baffled”.
    Sarah Posner, who has written extensively about evangelical politics for the American Prospect, has a great essay in the Nation, which she concludes as follows: “Warren represents the absolute worst of the Democrats’ religious outreach, a right-winger masquerading as a do-gooder anointed as the arbiter of what it means to be faithful. Obama’s religious outreach was intended, supposedly, to make religious voters more comfortable with him and feel included in the Democratic Party. But that outreach now has come at the expense of other people’s comfort and inclusion, at an event meant to mark a turning point away from divisive politics.”
    Ezra Klein of the Prospect discusses what the choice means for “inclusiveness,” ostensibly the principle gain of inviting Warren: “The going explanation for Warren’s presence on the inauguration podium is that ‘this aims to be the most open and inclusive inauguration in history,’ as Linda Douglas, a spokeswoman for the inauguration committee, told Politico. It’s a peculiar definition of ‘open and inclusive.’ Warren, after all, is the only preacher giving the invocation. He will not share the stage with a rabbi, an imam, a monk, and an episcopalian. And Warren is not being chosen because he himself is open and inclusive . . . The tolerance Obama is asking for, in other words, is not from Warren. It’s from the LGBT community, and women. He is asking them to be tolerant of Warren’s intolerance. It’s a cruel play, framed to marginalize the legitimate anger of those who Warren harms and discriminates against.”

  • Breadandroses: Perhaps a small thing in what you say – but I just got curious about what you mean with “there is, believe it or not, a difference between Graham and Warren”. What would you say is the difference?

  • breadandroses

    Oh, a norwegian! Hello fellow European. So since I’m European I’m not very knowledgeable about every aspect of Billy Graham,in fact, I had never ever heard of Rick Warren before, as most Europeans. What I do know is that it is possible to be an evangelical christian (even thought it seems an oxymoron) and not be of the extreme as Warren, a hate preacher, is. Graham has denied joining Jerry Falwell. Rick Warren is the more dangerous 21th century reincarnation of Falwell. If you want to have an evangelical minister bless your administration, how about James Wallis? But Rick Warren is a direct insult to millions and millions of people all over the world.

  • Andie Piehl

    Thank you, once again, for the example of love and grace in a politically charged environment. No man is Jesus Christ, i.e. perfect, and Rick Warren, like President-elect Obama, is not perfect. God bless him and everyone else in our country at this momentous occasion. I am not an Obama fan, but I sure pray for him to be the man God wants him to be. I trust God, not our elected officials, and I am proud to be an American and most of what that stands for. Let us all stop and demonstrate that we love one another , as we profess, and we can’t, let’s take Ms. Rice’s example and pray to be able to do that.
    Blessings this Holy Week!

  • Elling

    Hi fellow european. As a norwegian I don’t know every aspect of Rick Warren either. But the things I have seen is very much another than the picture you’re painting of him. The things he and Saddleback has done in Africa, the testimonies from their churchs recovery groups, now lately his great teaching on love, does not give me the picture of a hate preacher. Actually I feel very confident he is not.
    Is your anger at him caused by his views, or by his ways of communicating them? Meaning: Would it be possible for you to see someone with a conservative view on Gay marriage as not an insult?

  • Dan

    We are seeing here a vivid example of the extent of liberal tolerance.

  • Dan

    I’ll add to that, without trying to sound harsh. We have heard for years how horrible it is that the right is intolerant of other points of view. Now that Obama, who is demonstrably the most liberal of all US Senators, has power, the outrage over simply a prayer by a pastor who is clearly not the equivalent of Jerry Fallwell, is met with outrage. Simply because he represents a different view, his presence itself must be disallowed. This is hypocrisy. At least conservatives say there are a few absolutes they won’t compromise on up front. Liberals insist there are no absolutes, then seem to find certain things they cannot tolerate on the backside.
    I’m not at all surprised.

  • T

    Scot, I agree. If it were some kind of policy position, the reaction would make sense, but we’re talking about an opening prayer.
    And breadandroses, you might want to research Warren a little more closely. Yes, he does not think the states should change ‘marriage’ to include same-sex couples. The vast majority of pastors in the US feel the same, including Graham. But believe me, he does not have anywhere near the reputation you describe. If anything, he’s been criticized for not being a hell-and-brimstone kind of preacher–he’s quite the opposite.

  • Glenn

    Did the Democrats really intend to be inclusive and court religious voters or not? Can Democrats create enough space for people to align themselves with the party without having to endorse 100% of the platform? If Democrats were willing to engage and court pro-life and conservative voters, why the decision to now go after conservative leaders like Warren? Rick Warren did not endorse a candidate and perhaps gave Obama the largest platform a left-wing presidential candidate has ever had (in recent memory) in the evangelical community. Warren has engaged people on both sides of the aisle and can not be compared to divisive figures like Falwell, Dobson or Robertson. As I heard someone say, Rick Warren is now a 3-d target who is taking heavy criticism from both the left and right wings. I’m baffled but perhaps this is what a public figure who tries to model the Jesus Creed in the public eye looks like.

  • Scot, I’m disappointed, but not baffled. Warren actively supported the California ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. That is as much of an emotional issue for the far left as abortion is for the far right. The notion that Warren hates gays and women is ludicrous, of course. Breadandroses, do you have a cite for this statement: “He has compared the GLBT community and women to monsters”? Nothing I’ve ever read or heard from Warren even comes close to this sort of nonsense. We bemoan the fact that it’s impossible to differ on political approaches to abortion with many folks on the right; the same is true, in spades, with respect to gay marriage and many folks on the left. Personally I applaud Obama for doing this.

  • sean

    Your defense of Obama’s choice of Warren is based on abstract principles: coming together, the nature of inauguration day, celebration of liberal democracy, etc. The reason social liberals find the choice so appalling is far more concrete: the specific choice Rick Warren made to support Proposition 8, which passed and took away the civil rights of gays and lesbians in California. The emotions from that setback are raw. Gays and lesbians were devastated. In defense of supporting it, Warren compared gays and lesbians to pedophiles and people in incestuous relationships, suggesting that gay marriage was their equivalent. He also spoke a blatant falsehood when he said that for 5000 years marriage was between one man and one woman. The comparison he made and the falsehood he spoke were very bad decisions and show (along with the baffling argument that gay marriage would take away from his first amendment rights) that he should have sat this one out and thought it through a little better before he said something. I imagine that the Obama people considered all of this before asking him and decided to ask despite the tragic misrepresentation of reason and Christian faith on Warren’s part because Warren is easy to like and can help Obama reach out to conservative Christians.
    I do not understand the basis of comparison between Rick Warren and Billy Graham except the banal fact that Graham was a prominent religious leader and Warren is a prominent leader. Prominence today says even less about quality than it once did in our age when, for example, MTV simply has to decide who will be the next celebrity. Warren is not primarily an evangelist. He is a pastor and church growth guru who has written a successful book and involved himself in some social issues. In the words of one of my favorite theologians: “the comparison fails.”

  • Josenmiami

    Hi Scot, I totally agree with you and I agree with Dan who succinctly pointed out the example of liberal “tolerance.” Rick Warren reached across the dividing lines to Obama and caught a lot of criticism from the right, and now Obama is reaching across the lines of division to Warren and is getting slammed by the left. Oh God help us!
    Breadandroses, I respect your opinion, but you make two points that I find to be a huge stretch. One, is calling Rick Warren the epitome of evil. I can see how that might be applied to some other evangelical leaders of the religious right in the past (although I would not agree) but I fail to see how one can apply that to Warren.
    The other assumption is equating ‘same-sex marriage’ to basic human rights, and the moral outrage that seems to go with that. I agree that gays should not be discriminated against in the job market or in society; I disagree with Warren regarding a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. We had a similar proposal pass in Florida, and I choose not to vote either way on it out of sense of loyalty to my gay friends and a conviction that this should not be a constitutional issue. However, I can think of no basis to insist with such passion and intensity that gay people have a basic human right to legal marriage. Who granted such a right? What is its source? Where has it existed in society a historical precedent?
    I think Obama is doing exactly the right thing: He is trying to do what he would said he would do: bring unity rather than division, and obviously there will be unhappy dividers on both the right and the left. Scot, you stirred up a real live one here! I will pray for Obama, Warren AND you! Hehehe.

  • Julie Clawson

    Scot – in many ways I agree with your assessment here. But it would help if you would address the real issue being debated here instead of just abstract ideas. If this was an inauguration where the invocation was offered by someone who recently had said racist comments and supported legislation that denied people rights based on their color of skin, would your response be the same? Of course we should love and try to heal the divide, but when a choice serves to directly hurt a group of people how is that possible? This isn’t about triumphalism, but love on a much deeper level. There will be some who are upset that a prayer is offered at all and many others pushing agendas for this prayer. I know there is no perfect choice for this, but perhaps a less divisive choice would have helped.

  • Chad Hall

    T (#10),
    One point of disagreement. You mention “If it were some kind of policy position, the reaction would make sense, but we’re talking about an opening prayer.”
    Not sure exactly what you mean there, but it seems to be sort of dismissive of prayer.
    I think prayer really matters and that the inaugural prayer should be more than just window dressing. Too often we minimize the importance of prayer and belief and assign them to the sidelines as nice cheerleaders or mild endorsers of whatever the main thing is that might be happening (football game, graduation, community gathering, etc.).
    If we say prayer is less important than policy decisions, then as Christians we give away a lot of territory.
    This is not to say that I agree with the outrage some liberals are displaying. I happen to agree with most comments that there is a lot of hypocrisy when it comes to “tolerance.” It seems that only perfectly tolerant people can be tolerated.

  • Doug Allen

    Good choice- and I’m considered a liberal here, I suppose, and a conservative by some at my UU church! Both Warren and Obama model something many of their partisans need to see and hear a lot more of: civility. Rick Warren, like Scot, has pushed the Christian orthodox envelope a a little bit, and most of us here on the blog are grateful for that. Warren needs to push and be pushed a lot more, I think. He may be open to it (I don’t know after reading many transcripts of his interviews), but he is already taking a lot of flack from his more conservatively orthodox followers.
    Not only does Christianity have to come to terms with science (Scot, RJS, and others here are doing a great job on that score), but also with that problem of conscience that Julie correctly identifies as important to liberals (and most of the younger generation whatever their politics) as abortion is to conservatives- gay inclusion. For centuries, most of orthodox Christianity couldn’t find in Jesus’ message sufficient reason for ending slavery, segregation, accepting woman’s equality or the right to marry across racial boundaries, to just name a few. Warren gives far too much credit to Christian pastors and other Christians for ending these shameful episodes. And he is part of the problem when it comes to gay issues. Most of the younger generation will move beyond Christianity if it doesn’t come to terms with 1) science and 2) full gay inclusion in civil and church life.
    Until that happens, I’m happy to call myself a follower of Jesus instead of Christian, but I do wish all of you a very merry Christmas.

  • EricW

    Someone elsewhere has called this kerfuffle “The Purpose-Driven Hissy Fit.”
    (Do you pitch or throw a hissy fit?)

  • Glenn

    Doug #18 –
    Slavery was a very divisive issue in both the English and American church. In America entire denominations were split over slavery – (Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc). William Wilberforce, Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson, Jonathan Blanchard, Charles Finney, Theodore Weld, Harriet Beecher Stowe, etc. were Christians and major prophetic voices in calling slavery immoral while working to end the slave trade. Not to mention the many major African-American voices whose leadership and courage in ending slavery was rooted deeply in their Christian faith. I’m not sure slavery would have ended when it did without the support of Christians.

  • Your Name

    I’m surprised at Scot’s surprise. After the way folks on the losing side of Prop 8 in California have behaved, nothing will surprise me.
    Is it just me, or does it seem that since 2000 the left has gotten steadily worse as losing?
    Breadandroses, et al,
    You see this as “taking civil rights away;” we see it as the people of California stopping unelected judges from creating something that has never existed before — same-sex marriage. That it happened in California suggests that people just aren’t ready to take your side in this issue. Reacting badly is not likely to change their minds.
    Warren is hardly the hatemonger you portray him as, and to claim otherwise only further alienates many you would like to have as friends.

  • EricW

    “Only Democrats, it seems, reward their most loyal supporters by elbowing them aside to embrace their opponents instead.”
    Sure. Just like President Bush embraced Ted Kennedy for the No Child Left Behind Act, and like the former President Bush, his father, embraced Bill Clinton as a partner in some global initiatives.
    Yeah, it’s only the Democrats who start going golfing with the opponents of their base. :rolleyes:
    The LA Times, the newspaper with NO POLITICAL SLANT AT ALL.

  • T

    Below is an excerpt from an interview with Warren that I think is the main fuel to the fire, at least the fire on the left against Warren; having read it, I can see what got the homosexual community so indignant:
    Steven Waldman: But what about, like, partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation [for gay couples]?
    Rick Warren: You know, to me, not a problem with me. But the issue to me is, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
    Steven Waldman: Do you think, though, that they are equivalent to having gays getting married?
    Rick Warren: Oh I do. I just… For five thousand years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion — this is not a Christian issue. Buddhists, Muslims, the Jews, historically marriage is a man and a woman. And so I’m opposed to that. And the reason I supported Prop 8 really, was a free speech issue. Because if it had…. First, the court overid the will of the people. But second, is, there were all kinds of threats that if you… that did not pass, then any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn’t think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships. And that would be hate speech. To me, we should have freedom of speech. And you should be able to have freedom of speech to make your position, and I should be able to have freedom of speech to make my position. And can we do this in a civil way?

    Obviously, the thing that most upset the gay community was not just the support of the amendment, but also the lumping together of homosexual relationships with the others he mentioned, particularly the “brother and sister” and especially the “guy marrying a child.”
    Unfortunately, this was an insulting way to make his point. Both egally and morally speaking, “marrying a child” is a different matter entirely, because it adds the very important issue of capacity to consent to the mix. Warren didn’t make that distinction in this interview, and it implies, which I don’t believe he intended to imply, that homosexual adults seeking to wed are the same as those who seek to sexually abuse children. Again, I don’t think this what Warren meant, but I’m sure that’s what the homosexual community heard, and I can see how they did.
    His point (I hope), which I agree with was that he was against any change to the definition of marriage, and also that there is no legal basis to extend the definition of marriage to homosexual relationships and not also do so for polygamist unions, for example. But it was logically unjustified and hurtful (unintentionally, I believe) to add unions with children into the mix. That said, I don’t think that mistake should disqualify him to offer the inaugural invocation.

  • Eric

    Evangelical christians, individually and collectively, have said and done very hurtful and hateful things to the LGBT community. This is an individual and collective sin on our part, for which we need to ask for forgiveness. And for which I apologize. I think we need to remove the logs from our own eyes before we start taking out specks from other community’s eyes.
    I was saddened by Warren’s comparison of homosexuality to pedophiles, and can understand the anger it causes. And the anger that Obama’s choice of Warren caused.

  • ChrisB

    #20 was me also.
    Ramesh Ponnuru: “By giving Warren a platform, Obama is not endorsing his views—but he is saying that those views are a legitimate part of the national conversation.”
    Bill Bennet: “When Rick Warren is deemed beyond the pale, you know there is a a culture war afoot and I salute Barack Obama for treating it with benign neglect. You can fight this stupidity in the courts and at the ballot box … Or you can treat its tenets as, themselves, ridiculous and beyond the pale as Barack Obama is doing. Good for him.”
    Thoughts I thought were useful to add to the mix.

  • T

    My own comments in #22 begin with the paragraph starting with “Obviously . . .”.

  • Marriage is not a right. Marriage is a civil status. A man and woman come together and unite as a couple. A frequent consequence of that union is children.
    Society has a vested interest in carrying for these most vulnerable of human beings. What has been perceived throughout the ages (in Western society at least as far back as the Greeks) and has been verified by present social scientific research is that the optimal environment for the nurture of children is a family where they are raised by the biological parents. Thus, over the centuries, society has developed traditions and laws that strengthen this naturally occurring civil status. The marriage contract gives legal recognition of this naturally occurring status in order to reinforce its stability.
    It is irrelevant whether each and every union is capable of producing children or the participants are intending to have children. Determining such would require the state to intervene in order to pick and choose who should marry. Rather we know that all children (until recent developments in science) come from male and female unions, and there is wisdom in solidifying such unions. There are other social goods that the traditional institution of marriage provides that I will not elaborate here.
    My point is that a same-sex union is qualitatively different from a marriage. Children do not naturally spring from such a union and by definition attempts to create a family out of such a union require extraordinary and artificial means. The state does not have the same interest in protecting such unions as it does with marriage.
    This says nothing whatsoever about whether homosexual behavior is legit or not. It may be entirely desirable to have legal arrangements where same-sex partners can unite in some way. But it is not a marriage.
    The radical right has used there biblical conservatism on sexual issues as justification for speaking hatefully about people who do not share their religious convictions or their understanding of sexuality. The radical left now tries to shape this a civil rights issue, which it isn’t. People who differ from their righteous position are the equivalent of racists. This legitimizes their intolerance and exclusion of all dissenters.
    That is why Warren is so unacceptable. How ironic that the left incessantly complains that the right is obsessed with homosexuality and doesn’t care about the poor. So Rick Warren gets involved in African poverty and the AIDS issues, among other justice causes. What is the left’s justification for excluding Warren? His views on homosexuality.

  • Nora Beerline

    Just as baffling to me is the right’s criticism of Warren for giving the prayer. Both sides seem to assume that the Obama’s invocation invitation and Warren’s acceptance of the same translates into mutal unequivocal endorsement of their respective political views. On the contrary, this merely signals a willingness by both parties to engage in conversation. And for that reason, I applaud both.

  • josenmiami

    hear, hear! I agree with what Michael said!

  • Your Name

    I’m not baffled by the glbt community reaction, but I do find it baffling what is said about Rick Warren. Rick is a humble, articulate, down to earth kind of guy. And now he is labeled as a “hate preacher” and “extreme”? What?????
    What is the world coming to? If you hold a moral position on an issue that does not mean that you “hate” a certain group of people.
    I do not agree with Obama’s liberal votes in the past, but I respect his willingness to engage people of all backgrounds and viewpoints. Obama has an ability to understand that we can have different viewpoints, but not resort to name calling, posturing, politicizing everything. Let’s learn from him in this respect.

  • Your Name

    I’m getting flashbacks of the Clinton years! Where conservatives, particularly evangelicals were demonized and seen as the epitome of evil. I guess the pendulum has swung to the other side, now we will start hearing anger and hatred from the left (after all these years of hearing it from the right). Oh dear, politics is really not the answer and I think we Christians should simply keep away from these things, to render unto to ceasar what belongs to caesar and stop at that. I don’t think Christ spent any time addressing politics at all, he never even used it to push His mission (someone else suggested using political power – the evil one).

  • Doug Allen

    Thank you for your comments, a good reminder to all of us of the role of Christians in ending slavery. Yes, my masters is in American Studies, and I’ve studied and taught the same. In my original post #17 I meant to say that Rick Warren gives too much credit to Christian pastors and other Christian LEADERS, not Christians, as I mistakenly wrote it. It was an uphill struggle against the powerful in the church- not all obviously, and the ones who dared oppose the status quo are my heroes. Unfortunately, for a long, long time, the majority of Christians opposed women’s suffrage, the end to legal segregation, the end of miscegenation laws, etc. I think those of you who oppose legal marriage for homosexuals are not only wrong (on the wrong side of Jesus’ teaching), but on the losing side just like those who opposed other examples of social injustice. And given the attitudes of the younger generation (see the Pew reports, etc.), such narrow-minded Christianity will suffer. If you support the liberal AND conservative values of freedom and personal responsibility, then gay marriage is a natural extension of rights as so many Christian churches (as well as judges) already recognize. Gay marriages do nothing to demean my marriage which remains beautiful and strong after 40 years. I really don’t want to be divisive, especially on the Jesus Creed blog and especially at this season when the miraculous spokesman for love, charity, and inclusion was born.
    Peace to all,

  • Tom

    There is little to no relationship between slavery, women’s sufferage, and the gay agenda. I get really tired of the implied or direct comparisons that are attempted.
    They are each almost entirely different categories of issues.

  • stephen

    I would like to comment on the assertion that “the optimal environment for the nurture of children is a family where they are raised by the biological parents.” I believe the key variable is being raised in a loving environment. Loving adoptive parents are on par with loving biological parents when it comes to providing a nurturing environment. And way to many children live with biological parents in environments that are unloving.
    I am sure you would agree that love is paramount.

  • Tom

    There is little to no relationship between slavery, women’s sufferage, and the gay agenda. I get really tired of the implied or direct comparisons that are attempted.
    They are each almost entirely different categories of issues.

  • Rick

    Doug #31-
    “And given the attitudes of the younger generation (see the Pew reports, etc.), such narrow-minded Christianity will suffer.”
    Your comment really concerns me. This is not a popularity contest. Hopefully we are not taking such positions based on polling.
    Bob Hyatt’s post at Out of Ur had some interesting thoughts on the topic:
    “…the state needs to get out of the “marriage” business. It should recognize that as long as it uses that term and continues to privilege certain types of relationships over others this issue is going to divide us as a nation and is only going to become more and more contentious. We need to move towards the system used in many European countries, where the state issues nothing but civil unions to anyone who wants them, and those who desire it may seek a marriage from the church. When I pastored in the Netherlands, couples got a civil union certificate at the courthouse and then had a marriage ceremony at the church. This division largely negated the culture war aspect, and allowed those churches who objected to same sex marriage on biblical grounds not only to opt out, but to be able to continue to teach their biblical view of marriage unchallenged by the state.”
    I’m not sure I agree with him there, but it is worth considering.
    However, I do agree with his next point:
    “But even more than changing our system, we need to change our hearts. I don’t know how many proponents of gay marriage will be reading this, so I won’t make much of a plea to them beyond this: please stop labeling opposing arguments as “hate speech” and bigotry. It’s not. It is an out-working of deep convictions and a particular understanding of sexuality as a good gift from a good Creator to be used within certain boundaries.”

  • Doug Allen

    As seen from the victim’s side-
    There is little to no relationship between the Negro agenda, the women’s agenda and the gay agenda. Wrong.
    All God’s children deserve the same love, respect, opportunities, and rights.

  • I have to confess that I was a little bit surprised to read this bit today. Not because I have any problems with the ideas contained here (and the debate on the relevance of Galileo is fascinating for this non-scientist to read), but rather because it takes me back to some debates I was a part of in college.
    I should mention that I went to a VERY small (total enrollment roughly 400) Christian liberal arts college that was probably embarrassed by the word “liberal” in “liberal arts.” There were quite a few students (and teachers) who were very much opposed to the very idea of evolution. What always surprised me at the time was that they seemed to think that the idea of “theistic evolution” was somehow even worse!
    I’m still not entirely clear as to why. One reason perhaps was linked to the conviction that to believe in evolution was to believe in “random selection” and required a philosophy of everything happening according to chance. Positing God’s hand in this was seen as contradictory. Perhaps it was just that believing in “theistic evolution” was to compromise with the philosophy of the outside world, and anything that resembled compromise was, of course, evil and to be avoided at all costs.
    Anyway, I hadn’t heard or thought about these debates in quite some time, and perhaps had thought that it wasn’t such a “big deal” issue anymore. This entry gives me a chance to rethink that.

  • I’m VERY confused. I just finished a post, but the above isn’t it! I wrote that for an entirely different thread….

  • Doug Allen

    Glenn #18 wrote, “I’m not sure slavery would have ended when it did without the support of Christians.” I agree, but let me turn it around. I’m not sure whether or not Christianity (as an institution) would have ended if it continued to support slavery. It’s in that context that I made a point about the younger generation. I very much agree with Bob Hyatt’s paragraph that you are not sure about. I also very much agree that “more than changing the system, we need to change our hearts,” and I believe strongly that that change in heart will be, among other things, a welcoming of gays to all the opportunities and rights of others. In any case, I think we are a little off topic so I’m putting this to bed from my side. As I originally said, I think Rick Warren was a good choice, and I applaud president elect Obama for asking him, and Rick Warren for accepting. I am trying to agree to disagree with some of you in the same spirit that Obama and Warren agree to disagree. What a wonderful example those two are!

  • Michael W. Kruse

    #33 Stephen,
    Clearly there are wonderful single parent families, families with adopted children, and other family instances that are more nurturing than many traditional families. That is not relevant to my point.
    My comments are about macro-level societal patterns. Taken in the aggregate, children raised in traditional families fair better than children raised in other environments in the aggregate. From the standpoint of social policy, there is legitimate state interest in giving preference (not absolutely) to traditional families and having laws that reinforce that give preference to them.

  • BeckyR

    You know that if the gay issue comes up theee will be many comments. That’s sad. We are so attracted to the topic.

  • Trying again….
    Julie Clawson said the following:
    Scot – in many ways I agree with your assessment here. But it would help if you would address the real issue being debated here instead of just abstract ideas. If this was an inauguration where the invocation was offered by someone who recently had said racist comments and supported legislation that denied people rights based on their color of skin, would your response be the same? I know there is no perfect choice for this, but perhaps a less divisive choice would have helped.
    There’s something real here that deserves serious consideration, and the question re: racism is an important one. But I can’t help but wonder if Obama could have chosen any person with whom he has significant differences (and, remember, Obama has always said that he was a person who would “reach out”) for whom a similar criticism could have been chosen. I certainly can’t think of anyone on the right for whom I couldn’t make a case that they’ve said or done things that have hurt others. (Or on the left, probably, but the hurt would admittedly be of a different kind)
    Warren works as a representative of those with whom Obama differs because Warren has also shown a willingness to dialogue. He hasn’t been perfect, even in that area, but the willingness is very important. If we can’t accept that Obama is willing to reach out to those with whom he has these important differences, I don’t see how we’ll ever be able to work past the ideological divides, and indeed the pain that these divides are causing.
    (My first draft was MUCH better, but I’m more than a little tired of reading and posting on this issue to begin with, let alone redrafting the entirety of what I wanted to say here, not to mention annoyed that an entirely unrelated post seems to have showed up in place of what I spent a good half-hour plus writing!)

  • NancyS

    While I am not a fan of Rick Warren and would not choose him I support Obama’s decision. I supported Obama with donations and by working a phone bank, things that I have never done before. I did this because I want to see a new tone and he was the only candidate that was really talking about this and who was willing to engage with those who disagree with his views. Now that he is backing up his rhetoric with action, some are angry. I understand the hurt that some are feeling, especially here in CA with the passage of Proposition 8, but maybe this can be a way for us to move toward constructive dialogue with one another.

  • Tim

    Warren should not have used the example of pedophilia and incest. The former is an issue of consent, and the latter is a medical issue. Polygamy is a better comparison which I will visit shortly. But first, For five thousand years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion — this is not a Christian issue. Buddhists, Muslims, the Jews, historically marriage is a man and a woman
    one woman? Warren needs to read his own Bible. In sharp contrast, nearly every culture on earth has been polygamous and that appears our species has been polygamous for quite some time. Polygamy is still the norm for the majority of cultures counted as people groups, though nor longer in population. But polygamy is still here, even in the west, just under the surface. Wealthier men continue to have mistresses, but even more so, polygamy has changed from polygamy horizontally to serial polygamy in time. Divorce and remarriage is the norm, and the number one factor on whether you will get remarried is that you are a man. Number two, wealth. Indeed, seen in this light at least in polygamous societies the first wives are still taking care of when men pick up more.
    Having said all that, acknowledging it is our history, polygamy is a horrible; polygamy societies are the most violent societies on earth. Why, check out the elephant seals. We’re competing for mates and if you have one man to four women you have three men with nothing to lose. Having the society place social constraints on marriage is a good thing, and probably one of the leader factors of stability in a society. People tend to think of polygamy as bad for women and good for men. For whatever reason, the man who thinks this assumes he is one of the lucky few. In reality, polygamy is terrible for men, unless you are Michael Jordan or Bill Gates there is a good chance you are on the sidelines.
    I’m not sure I could go so far as condemn a society, such as sects of Mormons, who endorse polygamy. Then I have to figure out what to do with King David and God’s specifics laws for multiple wives, etc. It seems those societies have some issues with consent themselves, where stories tend to leak out that girls are being married off against their will. But for every one of those stories, many woman will speak out in defense of their religious context. It might not be fair to condemn them on moral grounds but I feel it is fair as a society to make laws for what we think we provide the most stability. If they are unsuitable for them, they have the choice to leave.
    Does gay-marriage also qualify in this same vein? Will gay marriage hurt the stability of our country. Sometimes I listen to people make this assertion, as it was above. Some of it sounds reasonable, especially with regards to raising children. The LBGT community might be upset at me for this, but it doesn’t seem “fair” to me that someone might be adopted into a family missing a female mother or male father. Of course, such is the case all the time, we don’t enforce fathers to stay or mothers to stay and plenty of people aren’t given this chance. We don’t make people get married or stay married to have children. Likewise, single people can adopt children. And is better for someone to stay in foster care then to be adopted by a homosexual couple? Still, I resonate that this would make people uneasy.

  • Rick

    BeckyR #42-
    “You know that if the gay issue comes up theee will be many comments. That’s sad. We are so attracted to the topic.”
    In regards to the reaction Warren and Obama are getting, should we not discuss it? Would ignoring it be better? This does raise important questions about Christians in the public square.

  • Scot McKnight

    Julie way back up there …
    I’m not ignoring the thread today, but I’m tied up with my James commentary and just doing my best to read the comments to make sure the conversation is civil.
    You ask a good question, but I do think the issue is also abstract and theoretical: Should the Democratic President-Elect Obama have chosen a Republican, spiritual leader to give the invocation?
    One of my points would be this: the criticisms ought to be addressed more at Obama, for the choice, than at Warren, for what he has stated about issues that separate Dems from Repubs.
    Obama didn’t choose Warren because of what Warren said about homosexuality, and I agree with the many that Warren’s analogies are careless and extreme and useless in a moral argument, but because Warren is one of his spiritual advisors or a national spiritual advisor. So, that is the angle from which I think this issue needs to be addressed.
    I stand by this: I like a President who has the moxie to put on the platform someone with whom he disagrees so much. That’s the kind of President we need for these times.

  • I thought this article was interesting:
    Here are a couple of quotes: “Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., has views on gays and gay marriage that are the extreme opposite from mine . . . And Pastor Warren, despite his sincere, religiously based convictions that same-sex relations and marriage are morally wrong, has contributed millions to gays and other people suffering from AIDS and other causes helping the poor and the suffering. He is a good and decent man. And on this occasion in particular, he too has shown the courage to stand up to his base – by participating in (and thus blessing) the inauguration of a pro-choice, pro-stem-cell-research, pro-gay-rights president, to the consternation and displeasure of many religious-right conservatives.”
    For the record, I am mostly in alignment with Rick Warren when it comes to issues such as abortion and gay marriage. However, it would be wonderful to see people on all sides of these sensitive issues be as reasonable as the writer of the article above.

  • Rick

    Scot #47
    “I’m not ignoring the thread today, but I’m tied up with my James commentary and just doing my best to read the comments to make sure the conversation is civil.”
    Interesting coincidence found in your sentence (subtle hint to everyone?). Next you’re going to tell us you are working on James 3.

  • Scot McKnight

    I’m editing what I say about asking God for wisdom!

  • Dianne P

    For me, it would have been ok if Rick Warren believed that homosexual marriage is something that he could not bless in his church, but would have worked FOR the civil rights of those who seek civil marriages. I’m with Julie – way back there. Given his role in proposition 8 (hope I got the number right), not ok.
    I don’t agree with the RW stance on homosexuality (or probably not yours either, Scot 😉 but I sure understand how someone can read the bible and get there – but I do have serious problems with Warren actively working to deny the rights of marriage to all the gay families who exist and simply want to have comparable benefits for their partners and children. For those who don’t care about the partners, I would ask them to consider the children. I believe that gays should be able to marry because a government sanctions marriage in order to provide some stability within the context of the society – visitation rights, orderly inheritance, continuity of property across generations, who signs the report card…. And the families who are of gay parents have children and live next door to you and me. And I want them to be a stable part of my society. Don’t sanction their marriage in your church – ok by me; but don’t work to prohibit them from the same marriage and family rights that the rest of us take for granted.
    My dream is to see someone who has evangelical street credentials – maybe even someone who believes that homosexuality is a sin and that their church could never bless such a marriage – actively work to make civil marriage a reality for gays.

  • Scot, I agree – any criticism for the choice should be on Obama. But if Warren is accepting the role of “most public Christian in America”, there has to be room for those that hold to a different theology than him to disagree. His position makes each of us move beyond simply appreciating the work he has done or even agreeing to disagree with him, to deciding if he truly represents us. This is in many ways far more personal than even the presidential election itself. I hope Warren the best in this role, but feel the emotional need to separate myself somewhat from him as well.

  • Matt

    Dianne P gave this uninformed statement:
    “….but I do have serious problems with Warren actively working to deny the rights of marriage to all the gay families who exist and simply want to have comparable benefits for their partners and children. For those who don’t care about the partners, I would ask them to consider the children. I believe that gays should be able to marry because a government sanctions marriage in order to provide some stability within the context of the society – visitation rights, orderly inheritance, continuity of property across generations, who signs the report card….”
    I will assume this comes from ignorance of California law as it exists today and not from dishonesty. California’s former governor, Gray Davis, signed AB 205 in 2003, which gave registered domestic partners all the same rights as married persons. Prop 8 would not have provided equal benefits to gay couples because they already had them through AB 2003. Instead, it would have merely taken away the “registered domestic partners” title away. In other words, Prop 8 was not about provided equal rights to gays as those who are married, it was about changing the definition of marriage.

  • I don’t agree with the RW stance on homosexuality (or probably not yours either, Scot 😉 but I sure understand how someone can read the bible and get there – but I do have serious problems with Warren actively working to deny the rights of marriage to all the gay families who exist and simply want to have comparable benefits for their partners and children.
    Actually, civil unions, which do exist in CA, are supposed to do precisely that. Now, I think a good argument can be made to say that “separate but equal” isn’t, in fact, “equal.” However, Warren is probably of the opinion that gay families in CA do have exactly the rights you argue for here, so it really isn’t fair to condemn him for opposing Prop 8 alone.
    (There are still plenty of anti-gay statements to build an argument against Warren on, and I’m not saying that none of those are valid. I’m just saying that I don’t think this particular argument has legs.)

  • Anonymouse

    Marriage = male-female, not male-male or female-female.
    There is no such thing as “gay marriage” unless one fundamentally changes the meaning of the word “marriage.” Polygamous and polyandrous covenant relationships still fall under the term “marriage” because they are a male-female relationship. That doesn’t mean I support either of these, just making a semantic point.
    Because of this, there should always be a distinction between gay and lesbian relationships and “marriage.”
    As a trite example, you can power something with alternating current or direct current, but no matter what you call it, alterating current is not the same as direct current, and vice-versa. They are fundamentally different. And even though you can use an inverter to power an alternating current device with direct current, that just adapts the device and the current, it doesn’t make it a direct current device. Calling male-male and female-female “marriage” doesn’t “expand” the meaning of the term “marriage”; it destroys it.
    Male-female is fundamentally different from male-male and female-female, and a society that ignores that is ignoring history, sociology and biology.
    Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of Rick Warren’s reasons for opposing “gay marriage,” it is proper for society to oppose it for the sake of “marriage.”
    Hopefully in the years to come we will see good defenses of male-female “marriage” to thwart the well-intentioned but misguided efforts to redefine and subvert the term.

  • Dana Ames

    I live in California. The defeat of Prop. 8 did not deny anyone their civil rights. As mentioned above, we have domestic partner legislation in force. It is legal for single people or same-sex couples to adopt children. Housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is forbidden. If a same-sex couple wants to tighten things down, they can do that by hiring a lawyer to draw up the instruments for specifics, but that’s really not necessary anymore in this state. It was judicial high-handedness that got the prop. on the ballot.
    I agree with Bob Hyatt. The Europeans are much saner about this than we are. My understanding is that in places where same sex couples can be “married”, the majority of them choose not to be.
    I don’t agree with Warren on some pretty substantial theological points, but he’s “walking the talk” publicly (in spite of some gaffes in verbal expression-and which of us has not done that?) as he seeks to follow Jesus.

  • Prop 8 passed. People get this confused all the time. The proposition was specifically to amend the state constitution to state that only marriage between one man and one woman was recognized as valid.

  • ChrisB

    As Dana pointed out, California gives same-sex couples every conceivable privilege that married couples have with the exception of the use of the word “married.” This whole thing has demonstrated that the issue is not “visiting partners in the hospital” or “inheriting property” or anything else we’ve been told. They want the use of the one word we don’t want to give them.
    The events in California over the last couple of years have shown us that, for SSM advocates, compromise is impossible. They want all or nothing.

  • ardia benjamin

    lets come together in peace ,love,unity for the hope of our country the great america. let us pray that who so ever pray that God hear it.

  • I can think of one more reason to rejoice that Warren will give the Inaugural invocation…
    Inaugurating Purpose Driven R-E-S-P-E-C-T to wit…
    “The New York Times just announced that Rick Warren will conduct the invocation at Obama’s inauguration, followed by Aretha Franklin’s amazing voice.
    So, let’s get one thing straight. For those believers who criticize Warren, please consider rejoicing over this upcoming event. I think the Apostle Paul certainly would.
    It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

  • While I don’t agree with Barack Obama on all policy issues (mainly fiscal), and while I don’t agree with Warren on some of his theological positions, I for one and thrilled that Obama seems to be making good on some of his promises made in the election process. He is surrounding himself with diverse people, who may not agree with him at all times on all points, and he is attempting to bring unity amidst tremendous diversity at a time when our country could sure use it.

  • Dianne P

    Matt, do you really mean tolabel me either “uninformed” AND “ignorance” OR dishonest? do I get to choose? I guess I’ll choose not to take the bait and respond in kind. That’s the blast I should expect for taking my position.
    It’s getting kind of late to press on with this post (wrote a response last night, but when I refreshed the captcha, it reverted to an earlier post, and the current one was lost to the netherworld of beliefnet – after a few good weeks with beliefnet, that seems to be the new pattern – back to copy and paste). But anyway, just to set the record straight, at least for me…
    For many years I strongly believed what has been repeatedly stated here
    – marriage = one man, one woman – if it’s something else, then it’s not marriage.
    – I’m all for rights for gay unions, to protect the stability of the families that they have created for the sake of the children and our society, but also for their own human rights
    – all justice issues can be adequately addressed through civil unions.
    Then about a year or so ago I read a very articulate op-ed piece in the NY Times from someone who carefully explained how this did not work out in reality. Yes I know, that was before California and it’s not the same, but I’ve read similar commentary now about Prop 8. I don’t know why not – perhaps it’s the lag thing between legislation and reality – I think of the civil rights era where discrimination was made illegal, yet persisted for decades in all kinds of areas. I wish I could find the link to that NYT article, primarily because it was so tightly written, but there are many similar ones around. Perhaps they are all misinformed or dishonest, but all I can do is read and evaluate, so that’s the best I can do.
    I’ve come to a place where it’s more important to me that there be justice for families of gay parents than whether the government calls that marriage or not. Though I do wish that they would issue domestic partnership licenses and let the churches deal with the covenant of marriage part.
    I’m neither an attorney (but I’m the mother of one – does that count for anything?) nor am I a Californian (but I did get my degree from San Diego State), so I guess I have no expertise in this. And I guess I’m just an old-fashioned bleeding heart liberal, because the plight of those who are just trying to get by in their relationships and their families seem to have a very large deck stacked against them – as a Christian, for me, in my heart and mind, it’s a justice issue.
    While I think you have some good points Dana, I do take issue with “If a same-sex couple wants to tighten things down, they can do that by hiring a lawyer to draw up the instruments for specifics”. I spend some time with the homeless and urban poor, and for those who struggle with all those issues plus this one on top of it, that sounds a bit to me like – let them eat cake. Prison, the military, medicaid, govt benefits – these are all a pain, but become a nightmare when you try to work in the gay factor. To be honest, I know of no one who really has either the extra time or extra cash to be pursuing their rights in court. IMO, that’s what the law is for – so that each individual doesn’t have to keep pressing the point.
    So while I agree with the point that civil unions SHOULD make everyone’s life just the same as a marriage license would, and I’ve oft repeated that mantra, in the readings that I’ve encountered, that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not at this point in time or in the very near future.
    Onto finishing those Christmas cookies…

  • Darren

    I’m getting rather weary of people stating that gay civil unions are adequate to cover the civil rights that gay families desire. The fact of the matter is, if Christians had actually fought (or were currently fighting) for civil unions to meet those civil rights requirements, there likely wouldn’t BE a push for gay marriage today.
    And I’m really waiting for Christians to put their money where their mouths are. If you’re so OK with civil unions, then stand up, say it, vote for it, and make it happen! In reality though, many Christians only say such things in order to convince others not to stand for gay marriage, but when civil union measures are also up for a vote, they are suddenly silent in their support for civil unions, or they find reasons why they too are “ungodly.” The double talk is absolutely sickening. I kinda thought lying and deception were sins listed in the Bible too, right??
    Scot, while I have no personal problem with the Warren pick, I think that you’re being “baffled by the reactions by liberal Democrats because President Elect Obama has invited Rick Warren to give the invocation” is PERHAPS a sign that you haven’t adequately engaged those who oppose the pick.
    It’s not that opponents NECESSARILY have a problem with loving enemies and sitting down at the table with them for dialogue, but it’s that they’ve also given him a place of prominence and honor. Now, while I find that to be perfectly in line with the Way of Jesus, I also find the argument for those in oppposition of the pick compelling: you can reach across the aisle, have as much dialogue, and be very inclusive (in fact, many want this!), but you can do so without extending him the honor of being so prominent in such a symbolic, meaningful ceremony. He could just as easily have found a pastor who was more inclusive for this ceremony, and still practiced inclusion in his administration.
    Again, I’m not saying that I necessarily agree with that opinion. But I understand it, and I’m far from being “baffled” by it.
    Would it be more easily understood (i.e., would you be slightly less baffled) if framed this way: what if a pastor who was opposed to interracial marriage were offered to pray the invocation at the President’s inauguration?

  • Pat

    Unfortunately, it’s not just liberal dems. Some conservative Christians have condemned Warren for accepting the invitation, so the angst is pretty equal to both sides of the aisle.

  • Your Name

    My heart is broken by this choice. As a Christian and a Democrat who lives in the South, I have had to endure the slings and arrows of those who say that we can not be ‘Christians’ and a Democrat… This has been a painful experience over the past 8 years or so and the preaching of Priests pushed me to leave the religion I was born into and practiced all of my life… Then to give a place of honor to someone who agrees with them… I believein reaching across the aisle – talking to all – but THE place of honor for a person of Faith – this is a slap in the face to all of us who had to endure and be hurt by so called Christians like him who promote intolerance and prejudice… How would Obama fel if the choice had been someone who opposed Integration? He would have been deeply offended and or hurt… What was he thinking? Have dialogue – I believe in that – but honor someone who had to stand up for him when it was difficult…