Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pastor Warren at the Inauguration

Pastor Warren at the Inauguration
By Jerome Grossman

On January 20, Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States of America. Surprisingly, Obama has invited conservative evangelical Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the religious invocation to the two million people attending the ceremony in Washington, the 300 million Americans watching on television, and the billions around the world watching and listening as power changes hands in the world's unchallenged superpower.

Important political and social groups in the coalition that won the election for Obama are deeply disappointed at the choice of Warren. The pastor is a key figure in the opposition to gay rights, gay marriage and a woman's right to choose abortion. His rhetoric is exceptionally harsh, comparing gay marriage to “An older guy marrying a child" and to "One guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage", as well as comparing gays to pedophiles.

Gays and lesbians and supporters of abortion rights contributed mightily to Obama's campaign and gave him almost all their votes. Other enthusiastic supporters, civil libertarians and believers in the constitutional separation of church and state are stunned by the Warren invitation, that this man will address the world on behalf of Obama and the United States.

But they shouldn't be: they haven't been paying attention. During the campaign, in his march from liberal to the right, Obama vowed to expand President George W. Bush's faith-based initiative. In July, 2008, Obama proposed "Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships" that would include $500 million a year to faith-based service programs across the country. The plan would expand Bush’s programs that have been widely criticized for violating traditional separation of church and state by subsidizing religious institutions.

The Bush program also faced accusations of favoritism, especially toward evangelical groups. By appointing Warren, Obama is sending a message to those groups: the money will continue to flow, not only to the evangelicals but also to the African-American churches, not particularly rewarded in the Bush administration. As Obama subsidizes all religious institutions, the black churches will have the opportunity to catch up for past neglect. Honoring Warren is one way to begin the process. It won't be exactly a bailout, but it puts all the God-fearing on the gravy train. Let the strict constitutionalists worry.

On July 2, 2008, the Wall Street Journal printed an editorial entitled "Bush's Third Term" arguing that Obama was embracing a sizable chunk of President Bush's policy supporting retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies, backing off from immediate and complete US military withdrawal from Iraq, modifying his position on NAFTA, supporting the death penalty for rape, spending more money on faith-based charities, supporting the landmark controversial 1996 welfare reform etc. The Journal was obviously trying to diminish Obama but the honor to Warren gives their analysis some credibility.

However, calling Obama’s reign the equivalent of Bush's Third Term is too great a stretch, carrying the political analysis too far and insulting to the new president. There never was a president as inept as George W. Bush, who set records for incompetence and lack of understanding. Obama may fail to satisfy his basic constituency on some issues but he will know what he's doing at all times.


an average patriot said...

You're right Jerome!
I just love it! It is vintage Obama reaching out to both sides, i think this is great! While gay rights groups were busy objecting to the selection of Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren, who opposes same-sex marriage, to give the invocation at the inauguration, they may have failed to notice who is giving the benediction.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, 87, is best known as a civil rights icon and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He also comes from a liberal Christian mainline religious tradition, the United Methodist Church.

In 2000, Lowery, gave what was described as an electrifying speech calling for gay clergy, to the dinner during the general convention of the United Methodist Church, the nation's second largest Protestant denomination.

According to Affirmation, which describes itself as newsletter for United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns:

Lowery, noted over the years for his ability to not only "talk the talk" but "walk the walk," addressed a series of justice issues that still challenge us in this first year of the 21st century. Among these issues are ... the risk the church takes when it restricts, limits and excludes those whose orientation is homosexual. Dr. Lowery wondered out loud, "how could the church, because of a person's sexual orientation, deny ministry to those whom God has called?" He then suggested that he would prefer to err on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion.

And in 2004, he told ABC News he supported same sex marriage:

When you talk about the law discriminating, the law granting a privilege here, and a right here and denying it there, that's a civil rights issue. And I can't take that away from anybody. So Obama's ceremony will begin and end with high profile pastors. He defended today the choice of megachurch pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life and omni-present evangelical figure on the public scene, to offer the invocation.

Still, some people say there shouldn't be prayers offered at this civic event -- separation of church and state and all that. Others say this is an overwhelmingly God-believing nation (however you see God) and that everyone shares in asking God's blessings for its leader. For many years, the familiar face at the podium was Billy Graham, who called on the Lord on the president's behalf. At George W. Bush's first inaugural, those prayers took a sharp, sectarian turn when the invocation by Franklin Graham, standing in for his frail father, and benediction by Texas pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell each concluded in Jesus' name.

Critics observed that by doing so, they cut out a swath of American citizens who don't pray to Jesus but do want to say amen to blessings for their president. Franklin Graham gave no ground on this. Caldwell later said he would have handled his prayer differently, to be more inclusive.
Will the prayers by Warren and Lowery include all the millions tuned in? Is this a civic event or a religious event? Can it be both? Will supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage be able to say, "Amen?"

There is no way you can compare this man who is going to unite us if we let him to Bush the Divivde and Conquer Divider!

Yiayia said...

Thank you for stating an explanation that tempers the angry ones who think they are owed something for voting for him to be himself.

It is so easy to criticize, so difficult to get the facts to understand.

Susan said...

As a conservative and fundamental Christian, I don't see Rick Warren as being conservative. Lately people have been calling him a fundamentalist, which I'm sure he hates, because back in 2006 he was quoted in an interview about being upset that people were confusing fundamentalists with evangelicals.

Pastor Warren knows that he has to try to keep everyone happy in order to retain his popularity. It must be a difficult job.


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