Updated – Integrity statement added at end
President-elect Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to offer a prayer as part of his inauguration ceremonies has provoked strong negative reaction since its announcement earlier this week. Today brings more reactions of anger both on the political left and on the political right.
Daniel Eisenberg, writing a blog on Time Magazine’s website points that the choice of Warren is really, at its heart, pretty boring.
“Liberals are furious with Obama for asking mega-church pastor and evangelical Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his Inauguration. Conservatives are furious with Warren for accepting the invitation (just as they savaged him two years ago when he invited Obama to speak at his annual HIV/AIDS conference). But amid all the shouting about how “controversial” the selection is and what a “slap in the face” it represents to various Democratic constituencies, no one has mentioned what a, well, boring choice Warren is.
[…]The main problem is that Warren, while a Big Deal in the religion world, has lately been much more interested in being a Big Deal than in actually trying to lead a new Evangelical movement. If Obama wanted a truly interesting and visionary white Evangelical, he had better choices (although not all of them would have passed a pro-gay marriage litmus test): Bill Hybels or Tony Campolo or Joel Hunter or Brian McLaren or Leith Anderson.”
Andrew Sullivan is concerned about the message being unintentionally sent by the strong negative reaction to Warren’s pick within the GLBT community:
The greatest distortion of our politics in this respect is the notion that gays are in some way opposed to faith and in some way that our cause is a function solely of the left. Neither is true. Gay people contribute disproportionately to the religious and spiritual life of this country and we seek no attack on free religion freely expressed and celebrated. I find the idea of silencing my opponents abhorrent. Many gays voted for McCain. I believe in family, which is why I have tried my whole life to integrate my sexual orientation with my own family and finally two summers ago, to become a full part of it as a married man. I love my church, however much pain it still inflicts on itself and others. And I am not alone in this, as I have discovered these past two decades.
If I cannot pray with Rick Warren, I realize, then I am not worthy of being called a Christian. And if I cannot engage him, then I am not worthy of being called a writer. And if we cannot work with Obama to bridge these divides, none of us will be worthy of the great moral cause that this civil rights movement truly is.
The bitterness endures; the hurt doesn’t go away; the pain is real. But that is when we need to engage the most, to overcome our feelings to engage in the larger project, to understand that not all our opponents are driven by hate, even though that may be how their words impact us. To turn away from such dialogue is to fail ourselves, to fail our gay brothers and sisters in red state America, and to miss the possibility of the Obama moment.
Obama himself responded to questions about the pick saying:
“We have to…focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans,” he said at a news conference Thursday. “What we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere…where we can disagree without being disagreeable.”
He added that the benediction will be delivered by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, an African-American leader who was a pillar of the civil-rights movement.”
All of the above though may not be enough to smooth over the real hurt being felt by many and most especially by gay and lesbian Christians over the choice.
As Sarah Posner reports:
“Last night I was on the Sirius/XM program “Make It Plain” with Mark Thompson. A listener called in from Colorado, an Obama supporter and a Christian who works on the front lines of serving the poor. To say she was angry or offended by the Warren choice is not quite accurate: She was wounded, particularly by Warren’s denigration of the social justice gospel as inferior to his brand of evangelicalism. “When Rick Warren puts me down,” she said, “he’s negating our faith.””
Integrity: Rick Warren Unqualified for “America’s Pastor” Role. Susan Russell says,
This unfortunate choice is particularly painful to LGBT Americans who have experienced first-hand the destructive impact of pastors like Warren who preach “family values” while practicing discrimination against gay and lesbian families. But it should also be a cause for concern to any American concerned that the exclusionism represented by Rick Warren is antithetical to the President-elect’s core values of inclusion, tolerance and the celebration of difference.