Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Obama + Warren = ?

I urge all of you to attend to this.

Anti-gay pastor Rick Warren has been selected to give the benediction at the Obama inauguration. This is a nightmare and an insult to the LGBT community and their straight allies. As many of you will recall, Rick Warren brought the full force of his charisma and his thousands of zombies to support the anti-gay Proposition 8 in California last month.

Is this the "change we can believe in"? I think not.

I received an invitation to join this Facebook page, called "No Rick Warren at Obama Inauguration." If you're on Facebook, go there. You will also find there some letters that people have sent, asking President-Elect Obama to reconsider Warren's invitation. You can also see some letters that have been sent.

Even if you are not on Facebook, you can send a letter to President-Elect Obama. Just go here and write.

I sent my own letter to President-Elect Obama. Here is what I wrote:
President-Elect Obama,

I have learned that you may have invited Rick Warren to offer a prayer at your inauguration. I am a passionate Christian -- in church every Sunday (and more) and deeply involved in my church's ministries. But Rick Warren is not the face of Christianity. Over the past couple of months, he has proven himself to be the heir to Hateful Religion.

Rick Warren took a very active role in advocacy for Proposition 8 in California. Is this the kind of "Christian" you wish to have offer a "benediction" -- a blessing -- at your inauguration? If so, I suggest you distribute a handout of asterisks, outlining those from whom Pastor Warren and you choose to withhold a blessing.

As one of your very many gay/lesbian supporters, I will consider Rick Warren's presence on the podium a profound and intentional slap in the face.

I wish God's blessing and God's wisdom to you in your administration. As you know, millions of us have great hope for you and your leadership.

Sincerely yours,
Lisa Fox
During the election, we were led to believe Barack Obama was committed to bringing people together. In choosing Rick Warren, he gives assent to Warren's agenda of hate and division. What a terrible way to begin the new administration!

Write to President-Elect Obama! Go here and have your say.


Blogger Laura Toepfer said...

There is another way to look at this: as a calculated political move to bring in more people who were unsettled by Obama's election, particularly right wing Christians. As an image thing, I absolutely feel as you do, that this is a slap in the face. However, people who hold different views from me and whose votes and support Obama is going to need (more importantly, Congresspeople whose votes he's going to need and who need to havae the support of their constituencies) are going to see this and think maybe this guy is OK.

As a political move, I think it's very savvy and does, in fact, bring people together. I do understand how this sets the tone and sets teeth on edge. But it also sets the tone that Obama intends to represent all Americans. It's another post-partisan gesture.

I honestly can't get up in arms about this (yet). I suspect that in the long run this may be one of the more canny things Obama has done. I'm waiting to see what the actual legislative agenda looks like.

The inaugural benediction is truly of minimal importance. Can you name any other person who has given one? I can't.

Maybe I'm being naive and totally misunderstood Obama and what he truly stands for, but I don't think so.

The think I find truly amazing, actually, is that Rick Warren accepted. Some conservatives are going to feel betrayed, too. On both sides, there's a risk.

12/17/2008 10:51 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Laura, I am having a very difficult time separating the responses of my head and my heart to your comment.

My head sees some sense in what you are saying. If Obama wants to be a typical politician, then perhaps the choice of Rick Warren makes a kind of cynical sense. Alas, I believed Obama was something more than a typical politician.

Now ... let us shift the reference. Imagine Jimmy Carter giving a role to the staunch segregationist George Wallace. Or imagine Bill Clinton inviting Strom Thurmond to share the podium with him.

Would you still be making the same apologies?

I agree with you that no one will remember who gave the benediction. But Obama's choices signal his beliefs. Choosing Rick Warren says nothing but "hate" and "cave-in" to me. Maybe it says something different to other people.

I do appreciate your thoughtful response here. I admit I'm feeling pretty raw and reactive.

12/18/2008 12:20 AM  
Blogger FranIAm said...

With all due respect and as someone who has tirelessly defended Obama to many as they began to feel disappointed in him, this IS a slap in the face to me.

While I support politically saavy choices, even if I do not agree with them, this one steps too far off the cliff!

If Rick Warren said what he said about people of color, I don't think any of us would be so sanguine.

I am not such an ideologue that I suggest that everything pass through that sort of filter, but this goes beyond bridge building and directly into pandering in my opinion.

12/18/2008 6:36 AM  
Blogger said...

Maybe he should have invited Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Now that guy can bring people together. Would that have been a better display of his true character? After all, he attended church there for 20 years. This entire debate is ridiculous. Why can't we be in the same room with people that disagree with us and still hold strongly to our beliefs? Just because Warren participates, doesn't mean Obama is a hate monger the same as his association with Rev. Wright doesn't mean it either.

12/18/2008 7:59 AM  
Blogger Suzer said...

While I understand the first reaction to this choice, I'm trying to wait and see how it shakes out. I suspect that this is a savvy political move on Obama's part. Reading the post and commentary on Skeptical Brotha's blog offered me some different insights.

Before I read that, however, a thought crossed my mind. Obama has been forthright about his support of, at the very least, civil unions. I suspect, as a Consitutional scholar, he actually believes in marriage equality, however he realizes that the rest of the country isn't quite there yet. Having recently visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, I am reminded that it takes time for change to happen. The civil rights movement did not begin (or end) with MLK, Jr.

The Rick Warrens of the world, and their followers, are the folks who are more likely to eventually understand marriage equality as a justice issue -- whatever their religious opinion is on the matter. They are more progressive in some respects than, for example, Dobson or Phelps, and as far as evangelical Christians go, Warren is fairly middle-of-the-road. Before change can happen, though, much dialogue must occur. Dialogue will not happen if we continue to be so divided, and I wonder if Obama is using this opportunity as an olive branch. Change will not happen if we don't welcome those who disagree into our midst, into our homes, into our political party(ies).

Perhaps I'm too naive, too hopeful. But after the sting from this apparent slap in the face wears away, I think that this may be a good thing. Time will tell. I do not think Obama is aligning himself with all of Warren's beliefs simply by asking for him to deliver the invocation. Let's communicate our concern, but allow room for an explanation that may be more complex than it first appears.

12/18/2008 8:56 AM  
Blogger Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Brava! Liza

12/18/2008 1:30 PM  
Blogger IT said...

I am a Californian. On election day, 3 weeks after my marriage, I was turned away from the No-on-8 campaign (they couldn't use me) and went home, only to answer the phone to a robocall from Yes-on-H8 with Obama's voice saying "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman".

I hope I am wrong, but frankly, I expect NOTHING from Obama's administration on gay rights. It's the usual thing. Where are we gonna go? he gives Rick Warren a bully pulpit, and the GLBT community gets a marching band.

Gee thanks.

12/19/2008 12:47 AM  
Blogger IT said...

So why is most of the press under the impression that Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist, is so different from, say, Focus on the Family president James Dobson? "It's a matter of tone," says an amused Mr. Warren, who seems unable to name any particular theological issues on which he and Mr. Dobson disagree.

From Warren's own mouth..


12/19/2008 3:00 PM  
Blogger Lindy said...

To put this matter in perspective I think we have to draw a distinction between "issues," which are fair game for debate, and "human rights," which are not.

We can debate global warming, the economy, various wars, all that. But we must never give in on the full humanity of every single one of us. That is not up for debate. At all. It's not.

Putting Rick Warren front and center at this highly symbolic event sends a clear message that gay men and lesbians don't really matter, pandering to the rabid religious right does.

Barak blew it on this one.

12/20/2008 1:05 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I am grateful to you have offered comments here. I have not grown more sanguine about this.

Rachel Maddow (on MSNBC) stated (rightly, I think) that this is a "lose/lose" proposition: Progressives will be angry when they realize all the hateful things that Warren has said. Conservatives will be angry that Warren is willing to stand on the podium alongside President-Elect Obama. Either way, Obama has made an unfortunate selection.

In the last few days, NPR & MSNBC have carried stories about the deep objections to Warren's inclusion at the inauguration.

Mind you, I don't want to silence Warren. I do believe in the 1st Amendment. But I am still livid that Obama would invite Warren to offer the invocation. Not only has Warren been one of the most vociferous opponents of equal rights; he has also advocated murdering the President of Iran. This man is not a Christian; he is a demagogue.

12/20/2008 8:33 PM  

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