Obama / Warren

My preliminary thoughts on the choice of Rick Warren for the invocation at Obama’s inauguration are that he [Obama] has made a good choice.  That’s not to say that I am any special fan of Warren’s; I find the entire “megachurch” phenomenon to be a bit undesirable mostly for personal theological reasons (i.e., I don’t like a democratized church).  Nor do I find myself able to subscribe to his positions on homosexuality, but it’s important to remember that they will be the views of *any* evangelical, and are held by many, if not most, Americans over the age of, say, 35.

I am not any more thrilled than anyone else on the left about some of the cabinet picks or some of the conservative policies we’re likely to see from Obama.  But the fact is, we voted for a man who campaigned on the idea of bipartisanship.  Now, I don’t know what most progressives consider to be “bipartisanship,” but apparently some think it means “stacking the new administration with leftists.”  Again, I’m as eager as anyone for every neoconservative bungler in Washington to be booted into the welcoming arms of the Weekly Standard before we get involved in a nuclear conflagration with Iran, Russia, and whoever else feels like joining the “axis of evil.”  But as much as I fear the cowboy policies of the modern right, I value more the idea that dialogue and compromise will give our nation the ethical center it needs.  Yes, I agree with the leftists on many things, but one of my sharpest criticisms of the current administration is its inability to understand any subtlety or any opposing perspective.  

By choosing Warren, Obama has angered the gay rights movement, no question.  But then again, Proposition 8 and the debates showed that, unfortunately, this is not yet the time for equal rights.  That’s not a universal indult or anything, but there’s no sense in which Warren (easily the most popular evangelical alive) can single-handedly deprive gay couples of anything.  So, for reasons entirely unrelated to gay rights, I think that Obama’s choice puts an important new nexus on the map: an alliance of reasonable evangelicals and non-doctrinaire leftists, one which will (hopefully) help the Christian right to stop stigmatizing social justice as some kind of threat, and the left to relax its ardent support for, say, abortion on demand or the ardent prosecution of innocuous 10-commandments tablets.

Thoughts?  A wholly quixotic idea?


3 responses to “Obama / Warren

  1. Not completely quixotic, and in fact, wholly worthy of comment, sir.

    I have heard protests from the right (even this evening at church), but my initial reaction has been, and is now, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?? It’s not as though Obama has chosen him as the White House Chaplain or some such thing….the man will offer one prayer at a celebration for the entire nation…sure, there may be others whom I’d rather see, but when offering prayers for many millions, if not billions of people, the chosen pastor, I think, ought to be able to move the souls of as many as possible. I seriously doubt he will broach any controversial topics during his invocation…he will simply pray for the new president and the nation, that they may walk along the right path.

    Yes, he has said some things at which many would take umbrage, but, I believe Mr. Obama is indeed living up to his pledge of bi-partisanship, and I have nothing but praise for him on that account.

    Let the man pray, for God’s sake. And let’s also remember that Jesus himself didn’t always say what people expected to hear.

  2. SLIGHT edit…that should read “protests from the LEFT”……

  3. Thanks for the comment, Garth. I agree that there are plenty of clerics I’d much rather see getting the invocation job. I mean, I’d be happy to see Gene Robinson get it, or a woman (maybe a nun!).

    What I don’t think many progressives are thinking about is that a). Warren is simply the most popular preacher alive, so he has a broad appeal, and b). picking a progressive cleric would be a declaration of war, and setting that tone could result in a Moral Majority revolt in four years.

    Much as I want to see evangelical denominations change their positions on things like gay rights, the environment, and science, there is no way a liberal invocation could possibly help that cause. It would galvanize opposition. But with Warren, people already know he and Obama disagree. So in the end, it’s a good symbolic compromise, I think … imperfect, but at least honest.

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