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Rick Warren: It's only a prayer, for the love of God

Dear fellow Liberals,

Listen up.

Obama's decision to ask Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration is not a slap in the face. It's not a betrayal. It's not an indication that Obama is a secret conservative who is going to force you to have babies with a non-same-sex partner.

It's a freaking prayer.

Yes, he's ultraconservative on social issues. He supported Proposition 8. He thinks abortion should not be legal. But he appears to be a rare evangelical leader who actually walks the walk. Due to the success of his book sales, he not only doesn't take a salary from the church, he's paid back his salary from the last 25 years and he claims to give away 90% of his income. He's also committed to raising awareness of critical global issues like climate change and poverty. He's the Tony Robbins of Evangelism, encouraging his flock to lead "purpose-driven lives."

Warren has been invited to the inauguration to say a prayer. He's not lobbying. He's not setting policy. He's not invited to the Cabinet meetings. He doesn't get a vote in Congress. It bears repeating: He's only going to say a prayer.

What's more, Rick Warren's inclusion in the festivities sends a signal that Obama wasn't just blowing smoke when he said he intends to be the president of all Americans. I spent the last eight years not just feeling marginalized by the guy in the White House, but feeling utterly invisible to him. I'm not interested in having the same thing happen to my countrymen and women who hold views different from mine. They live here too, and they should have the attention of the president. All opinions deserve to be heard and respected, if not for their content, then for the holder's humanity. Warren has the 4th biggest church in the country and he's a religious leader of international stature. Whether we like it or not, a lot of Americans agree with him.

And anyway, it's generally a pretty good idea to let all ideas see the light of day before making policy. The White House has been devestatingly myopic for eight years and the country is in some serious trouble as a direct result.

So, my suggestion is that we all take a deep breath, bow our heads in reverence or at the very least respect for tradition, choose to listen or not, and let the dude pray.

Gotta tell you - I was thinking of writing a post on this topic but taking the other tack: That Obama could have chosen any of dozens of prominent, well-liked ministers who have more enlightened views on social issues and made a serious misstep by picking Warren.

This isn't just a prayer after all. It's an incredible honor for an important moment during what will likely be the political event of the year. It gives the guy an enormous stage and a bright shiny spotlight.

And I still feel Obama's selection is a slap in the face to gay rights advocates, who are still reeling from the passage of Prop 8.

Yet I have to admit your argument was persuasive. Warren is indeed not your father's evangelical, and Obama is showing he is indeed committed to listening to all of this country's citizens (a refreshing change from the last eight years).

Of course, I still wonder when this country realizes that the core underlying civil rights question for gays is as important and not much different than it was for blacks.

Most importantly, gay rights advocates will certainly take it that way.  Can you tell them that they're wrong to do so?  How would feminists, for example, feel if Obama had invited Rush Limbaugh?

There is something to be learned here in Obama's response.  He said that we need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.  There is a truth in this perspective.  One of the reasons that Prop. 8 succeeded was that gay rights advocates didn't do enough to reach out to people with contrary views.  They bet that culture had just come along enough to be on their side automatically.  They bet wrong.

Which brings us back full circle to Warren.  Here's the bottom line: The GLBT community just isn't that important to Americans yet.  That's where we're at.  They just don't matter enough to us, socially and culturally, at this point in time.  It's still acceptable to have a "contrary view" that, fundamentally, dictates that these aren't people, but rather an opt-in subculture of deviant behavior.  And they most certainly aren't entitled to rights as the rest of us are.  That's how the barometer reads right now.

Here's another test: There are people out there who still feel that black people are inferior to white people.  That's just their contrary view.  What if Obama had invited one of them?  Could we disagree without being disagreeable?

great, great points DF. Obviously, we can't force society to get to that 'enlightened' point, and the fact Prop 8 can pass in one of this country's more liberal states and that even a politician like Obama can't say what I would bet are his true feelings on this matter (that gays should have the right to marry) out of fear it would preclude him from getting elected, proves that we are still a ways away from that moment.

However, in the meantime, it is in Obama's power to steer discussion on this issue, through means both subtle and direct. That's what leaders do. By selecting Warren to lead the invocation, he has chosen not to do so this time.

Obama has never supported gay marriage. He has supported civil unions. He's been on the record for a long time.

http://lesbianlife.about.com/od/lesbianactivism/p/BarackObama.htm

I'm aware that's what his official stance is. I'm just saying his stated position is one of political expediency and not a firmly held belief. No way of proving that, of course, but it's what I feel.

You guys should read this:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/brbuchwal/2008/12/is-warren-worth-it.php#comment-3318412

She makes my point better than I did.

I am in 100% agreement with you when it comes to the marginalization of the gay and lesbian populations and the denial of human rights. But you catch more flies with honey. If we want to change opinions--which I would argue is a better goal than just dismissing anybody that doesn't hold our opinion--we have to open dialog. Today, I could not imagine a member of a racist group being invited to participate in the inauguration. But I can imagine that in 1964 there were plenty of participants who held views that today we consider absolutely unacceptable. It takes time.

So let's say the 10,000 people who attend Warren's church and the millions of others who read his books are pretty much 100% anti-gay marriage right now. Do you think they'll be more or less willing to change their minds if they feel like their point of view is being heard?

I'm not suggesting it has merit. I'm not suggesting they are right. It does not and they are not. If they don't change their minds, their children or grandchildren will. It's only a matter of time. I simply think that we can move that process along if we do it with kindness and respect rather than disdain and hatred. There are enough people in the world peddling that. We don't have to be among them.

 

I've read the linked comment, but there are two glaring flaws in this line of thinking.  The first is that it assumes that there is nothing to choosing Rick Warren.  The same goes for your "it's just a prayer" argument.  This is either willful ignorance or naivete.  The choice of Rick Warren is neither arbitrary nor meaningless.  To treat it as such is something that I can't take seriously.  It grossly ignores not only contemporary American social and culture realities, but also Obama's obvious political savvy.

The second flaw is false equivalence.  The views of people like Rick Warren aren't merely just a differing opinion from GLBT activists who are seeking equal treatment in society and law.  This is nothing but a ruse, and one of the greatest evils of religion.  Intolerance is couched in a nice, friendly, traditional package, but the reality is this: Rick Warren and those who are aligned with his philosophy are intent on maintaining a status quo where the GLBT communities are not welcome at the table.  How insane is it to plea that they ought to be given one?

This isn't about convincing fundamentalists to change their minds, just as the black civil rights movement wasn't about convincing racists to change their minds.  It's a fight for the control of mainstream perception.  What Obama has decided to do is give Rick Warren a very important, very strategic place in the middle of the chessboard.  He did not do so accidentally.

Another angle to ponder: Did the breaking point in the black civil rights movement finally come when national leadership decided to push racist ideas to the margin and accept the new paradigm as dominant?

DF, I most certainly agree that this was not an accident. Rick Warren is the lead Pastor and founder of one of the largest churhes in the country. The congregation has many moderate Christians. Where better to attempt to open a dialog?

I'm certainly hoping that we can get to a point where Gays and Lesbians attain equality w/o having to go through the riots like we did with the race issues. That can only happen through dialog and that can only happen when hearts are softened on both sides. If gays want to ram it down everyone's throats, they'll probably get it using that strategy, but it will be ugly. If Christians want to dig in and block it, they may be successful for a while, but eventually, when the numbers of gays who are fed up w/ being patient get large enough and militant enough, it will be equally ugly.

We have a PE who is commited to fixing this...All I want is to give him a chance, and if he sees inviting Warren to give the invocation at HIS inuguration, as a way of opening that dialog, who are we to question that?

I'm glad we cam agree that the choice of Rick Warren was most certainly, shall I say, purpose-driven.  However, I fail to see how this has anything to do with opening a dialog.  Exactly how does this happen by asking Warren to perform this ritual?

Also, how is the irony of pleaing for the inclusion of people who are by creed and conviction committed to exclusion being lost here?

I'm not gay, but I live in California and have gay friends.  I can tell you that they are deeply hurt by living in a society which so outwardly tells them that they simply aren't entitled to equal rights.  To turn your argument around, what of their inclusion?  Do you really want to tell them that they are being too liberal?  Too whiny?  That they ought not take their desire for equal rights and "ram it down everyone's throats"?

How does it come to pass that the banner of inclusion is being waved on the behalf of the Rick Warrens in our society?

I have absolutely no doubt that Obama has decided that this is the move for him to make right now based on the political climate.  I think that he is perhaps the most savvy politician I've seen in my lifetime.  I believe that I've seen evidence that he is adept at reading the political landscape.  I think that this is the reason for the way that his health-care proposal was crafted.

This was an easy read.  American public opinion on this is clear.  Obama has made his choice based on that read.  It may be that he could do very little to change this landscape right now.  Even so, you can't simply tell people not to react to it.  The choice was made because people will react to it.  I think it's fair to say that he's hoping for a more positive than negative reaction, but you take the good with the bad in these matters.

Also, I don't follow your "who are we to question that" whatsoever.  I'm an American citizen, that's who.  He's not a monarch.  Come January 20th he works for me and every other American.  Sure, he gets the consitutionally provided latitude to go about that as he sees fit, but I'm never precluded from questioning those choices.

I didn't mean that the choice was arbitrarty or meaningless. Clearly, Obama is sending a signal. What I meant by "just a prayer" is that the guy is not going to have a seat at the policymaking table. Obama strongly supports equal rights for the GLBT community and he's been pretty clear about that. Clearer, I would argue, than any other president ever has been before. 

I could also argue that your points show a little bit of willful ignorace and false equivalence as well. No, I can't imagine an openly racist figure being invited to speak at the inauguration in 2009. But I can imagine it happening 50 years ago. If you want to draw parallels between the Civil Rights movement and the GLBT Rights movement, let's draw them. I think they are for the most part valid. But you can't draw a parallel between where the rights of the GLBT community stand right now and where the Civil Rights movement stood 50 years ago in terms of where we are in the fight for equal rights, and then expect a comparison between where the two movements are right in this moment to hold water. 

I stand by my point that Obama promised to be the president of all of us. Left, right, poor, rich, gay, straight, bigots and all. He's sending that signal loud and clear in pretty much every move that he makes. 

I'm not concerned with Warren saying a public prayer because I know that the views that Warren holds that I consider objectionable are not going to get play in an Obama administration. But Warren has considerable influence over a great many people and that can go a long way toward solving some of the most pressing problems of the day, like climate change and poverty. Politics, the good kind, requires compromise and working on common ground, even when you might have great disagreements on certain issues--even issues of human rights. I think to dig in your heels on a single issue is naive and dangerous. We have eight years of experience to point to where that can lead.

I don't think any one of us really know as much as we'd like about who will truly have a seat at the policymaking table.  I think you're right that Obama has been clearer than others before him, but let's take that in consideration with what's come before.  The bar here is not high at all.

I don't see how I've drawn any false equivalence here.  I can imagine the occurence 50 years ago as well.  Doesn't it behoove us to learn something from our history, or are we just going to continue to stand in a moment that we've come to recognize and excuse our present actions with the actions of the past?  In other words, would it have been any more right 50 years ago?  There's chasm between what's right and what's fashionable.

How exactly does being POTUS of the whole US require Obama to do this?  What's upsetting people is that Obama has judged the moment thusly: It's more important for him to make evangelicals feel included than it is for him to make other groups feel similarly.  Again, I will point out that somehow we're sincerely discussing being inclusive in terms of giving the leader of a very exclusive movement a very high profile opportunity.

For members of the GLBT community, the ideas of Warren and those who share his views rule the day.  It's not a question of whether they get play.  So long as Obama maintains the status quo, that's it.  They will continue to be a second class of citizen.  That's all the play Warren's ideas really need at this point.

I have a hard time believing that you would stand face to face with any of my gay friends and tell them that their unwillingness to give up on pursuing equal treatment is naive and dangerous.  Obama made his choice.  He'll score points with Warren's flock for this, but he's earned the scorn of others.  That's the trade he decided he wanted at this point in time.

I wouldn't stand face to face with any of your gay friends, or any of my gay friends, and suggest that they give up anything. Perhaps I'm not making my case clearly enough.

First, I think that Warren at the inauguration sends a signal to conservatives, and particularly evangelical conservatives, that they will not be shut out of Obama's White House in the same way that liberals were shut out of Bush's White House. Had Bush been more inclusive, I don't believe for one minute that he would have every been convinced to push any part of the liberal agenda, but the recognition that there was another point of view in the world other than his would have been a nice step.

Second, conservatives and liberals have been digging in and hurling invective at each other for my entire adult life. They win some battles, we win some battles. But at what cost to the overall health of the nation and the tenor of the public debate? Both sides are going to continue to fight. That's the nature of politics--human nature. But as we continue to fight over social issues, we can't afford for that fight to stand in the way of progress on issues like education, the environment, infrastructure, and the economy. It's easy for politicians to take a popular stand on social issues because opinions are largely geographically based. So, they use it as cover to ignore the hard stuff. It's the ultimate divide and conquer strategy and it's worked so well that we literally hate each other. The conservatives, and especially some religious conservatives, say absolutely appalling things about the left, and about gays and lesbians. But if you think they are the only guilty ones, listen to some of the language that the left employs. It goes both ways. And the only way forward right now, when both sides are so entrenched in their beliefs, is to find some common ground. That is what Obama recognizes and that is what he is trying to do.

Finally, I am absolutely committed to equal rights, to protecting a woman's right to choose, to universal health care, to ending the war in Iraq, to progressive education reform, to preserving and strengthing the labor movement, and to a whole host of other issues on the liberal agenda. I have and will continue to speak out, to advocate, to lobby my congresspeople, to argue with my conservative friends, and to be very vocal in pointing out discrimination and bigotry when I see it. But the world is more complicated than I am right and you are wrong. To make true progress means to make compromises along the way and to make everybody feel like they are part of the process. Change is hard, I'm sure you recognize. But it can be easier if we're all a little less strident. If I have to take the first step toward that and have faith that those who disagree with me will follow, I'm willing to do it. Because there's little choice if we really want to face up to and solve our problems.

I don't know where I got the idea that stubbornness was the purview of the right. There is as much stubbornness on the left, and maybe more. I hope all the two year olds have fun throwing their tantrums, because when they are through screaming at each that it's my way or the highway, and flailing about until they knock themselves unconscious, they are going to realize they wasted a bunch of time, not to mention their diginity, and not one thing will have changed.

I am almost beside myself w/ disbelief that this has become such an issue. I've thought for ages it was all the fault of the right, and lo and behld the two extremes are equally culpable. I hope they come to their senses before this deteriorates any further. Whodda thunk the left would conspire with the right to try and derail Obama's Presidency. Already.

Still, I think you might need to find your zen. Arguing about it is good and we shouldn't try to stifle the debate. I'm not arguing for us to stop advocating our points of view--it would be hypocritical to say that all sides need to be listened to and then to suggest that one side should shut it. Again, I just think you catch more flies with honey. Smile 

You're getting so upset that you've resorted to name-calling (two year olds)...time for a deep breath?

I have to agree w/ you there, O...I got myself a head of steam worked up! I'm just sooooo frustrated. Working together just seems like such a simple concept, but it is obvious that it is anything but simple. If we can't even find a place to start in small communities such as this and over at TPM, how are we going to do it in the big world?

Thanks for the whack! I needed it!

What exactly does giving Rick Warren a singular place of prominence in an historic event have to do with governing from the middle or pragmatic compromise?  That's a bridge too far.

As it stands right now, there are people who will watch a man who is a vocal opponent of their rights bless the first Presidential term of Barack Obama.  I personally feel compelled to try to see that image in my head as they might see it.

Obama could have gotten anyone to do this.  There aren't many who would have turned it down.  The choice of Rick Warren accomplishes the very specific purpose of ingratiating him with a specific group of people, which has also earned him the ire of another group.  I have no doubt that he is fully aware of this.

I really can't understand your insistence on finding some kind of equivalence between these points of view irrespective of content.  It absolutely baffles me that anyone could say to a persecuted group that they must be more tolerant of the intolerance aimed at them if they want to be considered to be engaging in reasonable discourse.

In case you didn't see it, Jon Stewart recently interviewed Mike Huckabee and they discussed the issue of gay marriage as candidly as I've seen anywhere on television.  Stewart makes two very strong points on the issue.  One gets to the heart of why these simply aren't two equally stubborn groups with merely different points of view, and that is that religion is far more of a choice than is homosexuality.  The fact that religious voices insist that it is a choice is part of the problem.  This is really no different than the insistence of the religious that we "teach the controversy" of evolution.  This is the source of the false equivalence.  Just as a belief in creation does not make evolution any less factual, neither does the insistence of the religious make gay people any less gay.  Just like black people can't be less black.  The second point he makes is that this disagreement finally makes it incumbent upon gay people to make the case for why they ought to have equal rights.  How unfortunate this is, and what it says about the maturity of our culture, is something that shouldn't have to be explained.

I did see that interview and I agree with everything John Stewart said. But you see that he didn't get angry and he didn't accuse Huckabee of being anything but wrong.

It's absolutely not false equivalency to suggest that everyone has the right to their opinion. It's what the freaking first amendment is based on. You might not agree with the opinion that being gay is a choice or an abomination. I don't agree with it either. But people who think that have a right to think that. I understand your point about it being preferable to marginalize people with this point of view, but you can't marginalize over half of the population, with regard to the issue of gay marriage. So, you have to co-opt them. You don't do that by calling them names and telling them how wrong they are. 

The Civil Rights movement wasn't about insulting stupid, racist whites. It was about protesting and speaking out and sitting at lunch counters. It was about making the point that all men (sic) are created equal. And it was about demonstrating that point in action. 

I am as mortified by Prop 8 as you are. Never should rights be restricted constitutionally. And I'm angry that groups from outside of California had such influence. But I see that as a single issue and a separate issue. I can imagine how it must feel to be invalidated by your government. But the fight is not over. It's far from over. And in the end, our side is going to win.

Rick Warren at the inauguration doesn't have anything to do with governing from the center. It has to do with being the president of everybody. I'm thrilled that people who I am in direct opposition to are supporting Obama. It means he might actually be able to get something done with broad support instead of contantly struggling in the face of hysterical opposition. Obama is the president and Obama supports GLBT rights. And frankly, I don't understand your insistence on making it about Warren instead of about Obama.

Co-opting is not the same as exalting.  Tolerating is not the same as promoting.  There is a vast middle ground that is ignored here when these things are treated as equivalent.  Why is asking Rick Warren to bless your inauguration the only way to be everybody's president?  I don't expect Obama to publicly lambast him either.

Also, it's worth noting that though we've been dwelling on Warren's stance on gay issues, there are plenty of other reasons to object.  Obama grabbed hold of a lightning rod.  Whatever his reason, he did it with intent.  In that way it's completely about Obama.  I doubt he is surprised at all that certain people are upset about this.

Maybe I'm just not seeing the same kind of reaction that you are, but I find it to be perfectly reasonable to object to this decision.  For some people I think that it's simply unavoidable.  I don't see the hysteria or the vitriol or the name-calling that you've mentioned.

I don't see that he's exalting or promoting Warren. He's asked him to particpate. Do you remember who gave the invocation for Bush? I don't. It's a ceremonial thing. It's a five-minute prayer that sends a signal to Warren's followers that they won't be marginalized by Obama like the left was marginalized by Bush. I still think it's a small thing, especially considering Obama himself said that he has always been and will continue to be a fierce advocate for gay and lesbian rights. But I don't live in a state where legislation was recently passed that restricted rights, so you're right that maybe we're just not having the same experience right now.

I don't recall who performed it for Bush, but I have a feeling that people will remember who did it for Obama.

I think the distance that we can't seem to close here is that I don't see why you have to honor this man in order to make his people feel like they won't be marginalized.  If he had some other person do it would they then be marginalized?  What about all the groups that also aren't being included in this way?

You mention some of the current political conditions elsewhere in this thread where you point out that there likely won't be much federal movement on this issue in the near future.  I would also agree that this means that for now the matter would appear to up to the state's, but this is exactly why some people object to this so strongly.  If we accept that Obama won't be doing anything about this politically, then voicing his support for civil rights means relatively little.  Conversely, what he is doing is featuring a man who was a vocal proponent of Prop. 8 while the sting of that blow still lingers.  Absent any significant political support on this issue, his assurances of support seem like cold comfort.

Orlando, thanks for opening this on Dag.  This is at least the third time that I have had to back off from my open mouth and screech mode since Obama was elected.  I think that after 8 years of Bush abuse it is a knee jerk reaction to anything that is one millimeter to the right of center.  I voted for Obama because he said he was going to change the way government was done.  I knew when I voted for Obama that he wanted to listen to EVERYONE in the room, and I respected that.  I applauded his willingness to bring republicans into his administration.  Now that he is actually putting what he said into practice I have to bite my tongue.  I have repeated to everyone I know whether they wanted to hear it or not that Obama said he was going to be President to ALL Americans.  All the KKK people, all the homophobes, all the theives and my ex husbands.  That includes me, thank god Obama is president. 

I would prefere that NO prayers be said at the inauguaration.  Beyond that Warren is not writing policy.  Maybe we should stop putting horns over each other's heads no matter what side we are on.  Meanwhile if I have to keep doing deep breathing it is probably about time I matured a little. 

All your ex-husbands! Hilarious.

I would prefer that there not be a prayer too. I always feel uncomfortable in a public setting when I am forced to participate. But out of respect for other people's tradition, I bow my head and engage my thoughts with something mundane, like my shopping list. But as long as we have to have one, I don't really care who's giving it.

I'm very torn on this issue and keep writing and deleting my comment. On one hand, I agree with Orlando that the symbolism of the invocation is not worth getting worked up about. Whether Warren or anyone else delivers the invocation won't change a thing. I also don't think that it's Obama's job to throw tasty morsels to liberal constituents. I don't get the sense of resentment and betrayal that so often happens in politics. Obama is not my friend. We don't even know each other. I will be disappointed and frustrated if he fails to implement progressive policies, particularly the issues that he pressed during the campaign, such as health care reform. I won't be outraged.

On the other hand, I think that Warren's position, as well as Obama's, are simply wrong. It's entirely appropriate for people to speak out against those positions, and I'm glad that they're doing so. The more people who speak up, the sooner things will change. But I would frame it that way. Not: "Obama is ignoring us liberals." Rather: "Obama is not doing the right thing."

I don't mind his position on gay marriage with one caveat--if it's civil unions for same-sex couples, it's civil unions for all couples. The government recognizes the civil union, which grants the same rights to any couple that enters into one. Then, what you do in your church is up to you. I don't mind calling it marriage either. It just needs to be equal across the board in terms of benefits and rights of the partners in the relationship contract. Other than that issue, he's a strong advocate for GLBT rights, including the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, which was ridiculous from the beginning.

whoa! on the one hand you want to talk about the need for baby steps and incremental progress and then you want to a diss Clinton initiative that for its time was just that as 'ridiculous.' i agree it's a tough rule to support or enforce or whatever you want to call it and that clearly its time has passed, but back then, it was an admirable first step in getting people in the military and society at large more comfortable with the idea of gays serving our country in the armed forces.

that's why i agree with the earlier comments that federal support and explicit legalization of civil unions for homosexuals would be welcome, even if it falls far short of the ideal. i also agree that i don't see that happening anytime soon.

DADT wasn't just a baby step. It was the only step and then Clinton never pushed harder. And while I do agree that incremental progress is better than no progress at all, I don't believe that someone should ever have to hide who they are to get or keep a job. That's pretty despicable. I didn't like it in 1994 and I still don't. 

I support equal rights for GLBT. Just as I think DADT is ridiculous, I think it's ridiculous to restrict rights in a constitution and I think it's ridiculous to decide who gets to love and how they get to codify that love.

I think civil unions is the best answer, as long as it's civil unions for everybody regardless of sexual orientation, because it takes religion out of the legal contract. However, if we can't have that, then gay marriage should prevail--whatever rights straights have, gays should have. It's that simple to me. But looking realistically at the political climate, it's unlikely that a legal challenge would be upheld at the Supreme Court level (a la Roe v. Wade), and I don't see Congress taking it up in the midst of a total shut down of our economy. So, that leaves it up to the states. And the state governments are by and large going to pass legislation that reflects the views of that state's population.

Where does that leave us? We have to convince the majority of the American people that gay rights are human rights and we have to do it state by state. How do we do that? I don't know. But I do know that it won't be through demonizing conservative christians and catholics, telling them how backward and stupid and hateful they are. 

Rick Warren at the inauguration is a separate issue. I'm totally going to plagarize now an idea that I read in a comment somewhere that basically said Obama is unwilling to exclude anybody but that the GLBT community is getting the better end of this. Obama supports 99% of what they support and is 100% opposed to Warren's views on the issues. Warren isn't going to convince Obama. But by asking Warren to participate, a whole bunch of evangelicals could possibly not dismiss everything Obama says right out of the gate, which leaves potential for growth. And after all, it is still only a prayer. It's 5 minutes at the start of a remarkable day that is about Obama, not Warren.

I wanted to offer some thoughts on this aside from the Prop. 8 implications.  First, I'm an atheist.  You could call me a teapot atheist, or a "weak" atheist, but I'm definitely not agnostic.  I do not believe in any gods.  As such, evangelicals make my skin crawl.  Simply put, they give me the creeps.  A guy like Rick Warren might not seem as creepy as a Falwell or a Hagee, but to me his slick, Orange County sheen is a whole different kind of creepy.  Just as Obama is not your father's Democrat, Warren is not running the Jim Baker playbook.  If you don't believe me, here he is preaching in a Hawaiian print.

So, part of what Warren represents is that evangelical Christianity, which I feel I must point out represents some very radical fundamentalist beliefs, is not going anywhere.  It's digging in, getting younger and hipper.  It's getting more media savvy.  It's sitting on a couch with Oprah.

Remind you of anyone?  Here's a hint: We just elected him the next POTUS.

In this sense, Obama's relationship with Warren is not surprising.  They both embody the reinvention of old ideas.  However, to me Obama represents the reinvention of some ideas which are far overdue.  Warren, on the other, represents ideas that have long had a very undesirable stench about them.

I've no doubt that Obama has his political reasons for doing this, but every choice has a cost.  He could have just as easily found someone far less controversial if it means nothing more than a prayer.  How about this: Pull an Armed Forces chaplain out of Iraq to honor their service.  Warren was chosen for a reason, but whatever gains that creates for Obama will be balanced by certain losses.  That's just the way things work.

Rick Warren: It's only a prayer, for the love of God

If it was for the love of God, maybe I  wouldn't find  the choice so  offensive.  But I doubt love of God has anything to do with this choice.  Try something more  like cynical quest for political advantage, instead.

Do you really think it's cynical? I think it's calculated, but not cynical. Obama's never made a secret of the fact that he values difference of opinion.

Two thoughts:  Obama's selction of Warren absolutely reflects Obama's lofty intention to govern in a less partisan, less divisive way -- to disagree without being disagreeable. To be inclusive and be everyone's president. Fair enough, if that was the only goal.

But I also think Warren's selection is also very much a purely political calculation. Triangulation, folks, pure and simple. Obama needs to show that he's not beholden to any of the special interests that aided his election. Trust me, right now, Emanuel, Plouffe and company and loving the controversey, becasue it shows the nation that Obama is not simply going to cave to a liberal agenda or special interests groups. It will not be the last time he appears less than sensitive to a key constituency -- in fact, he'll throw folks under the bus if he has to -- the only question is -- which group will be next, and on what issue? 

At risk of projection, my perception of Obama's approach to politics is that he doesn't get stuck on symbolism. That is to say, he compromises for political calculation when it doesn't matter very much. The most obvious "caves" during the campaign--FISA and drilling--occured when it was clear that he couldn't stop the bills, at least not without jeopardizing other provisions that he deemed desirable. Likewise, Warren's invocation offers political benefits with very little impact on gay rights, so Obama's gets his bipartisan popularity at little policy cost. That enables him to build political capital for the occasions on which he can make a policy difference.

I'll be more concerned if I see him cave or compromise on issue which has a significant impact and for which an uncompromising stand would be able to change the game.

I grew up listening to TV preachers. Read their stuff. Spent time with that whole crowd. And all I can say about Warren is - setting his stance on Gay Marriage aside - I find him smarmy as hell. I found "Purpose Driven" to be shallow. Dull. And truth is, I don't think his backers are as strong, as solid in their stance, as the old time Fundamentalists. He's bridging to Oprah, yes, but it's not solid footing for him. If Obama feels he gains more by bringing the people who tread this territory onside, then, ok, I get that. But. I'd warn him that these people are not going to stay there. Nor will Warren. And that the tide of history, which most definitely IS moving on gay issues, IS looking pretty invincible. I'd have gone for a Spiritual leader more solid in their stance. It's about time.

I find my aunt's brother-in-law smarmy. But I don't demand that he not get to sit at the Christmas dinner table. I just make sure I am seated at the other end.

Yes, of course I agree that it is good that we can have this discussion. The only thing I miss is the presence of our TPM “friends” who could tell us how stupid we both are, using language that would make us uncomfortable.

You say that all views are not equal and do not deserved equal time and prominence. I agree. For example, I do not think that a guy who is convinced that space aliens are living in his shed and controlling his actions with radio signals they transmit through his braces deserves a public stage. I do, however, think he deserves kindness and understanding, and perhaps a little psychiatric assistance.

I’m not drawing a false equivalency between marginalizers and marginalized. We’re ALL marginalizers and we’re all marginalized. Just because you are so certain that you are on the correct side, it doesn’t mean that you should seek to marginalize those on the other side. I know it’s tempting. I know it’s satisfying. I’ve done it myself. But it doesn’t work.

Martin Luther King wasn’t an effective leader because he preached that it was the blacks’ turn to take over and screw the whites. He was an effective leader because he preached truth and justice. He preached that every person, regardless of any characteristics of that person, deserved not just rights, but also respect.

You say I’m drawing false equivalencies. I say you are doing to the other side exactly what they are doing to you. You don’t have to like them and you don’t have to agree with them, but if you care at all about helping them to see what is right and what is just, you’d do better to respect them, not for their views, but because they are entitled to them.

You seem to be saying that by demanding equal treatment under the law, gays are doing to evangelical Christians what has been done to them.  Is that correct?  If so, then I most certainly do say that you are drawing a false equivalence.

EDIT (I wrote this after Orlando responded below, so she hadn't seen it when she responded): Simply choosing not to feature a bigot prominently in your inauguration is a far cry from the marginalization and persecution that you seem to be equating it with, which I find to be doubly curious in the face of the fact that the exception is being made for a man who actively engages in real, not hypothetically posited on an Internet forum, persecution.

No, I'm not talking about the law at all. I'm talking about trying to silence the conversation. Of course gays should have equal protection under the law. That's not at issue for me.

Sorry, I was editing my above comment before your response came through.

Who's trying to silence a conversation?

EDIT (Sorry, I'm editing again): I understand where you personally stand on the issue.  I'm not presuming to question that.  However, I don't understand how objecting to Obama choosing to honor Warren in this way equates to putting the kibbosh on dialogue.  Evangelical Christians have not only very prominent feature in our society, but also, clearly, entrée to power all the way up the Whitehouse.  Perhaps I'm just not understanding you, but it seems to me that there's a comparison being drawn here between not inviting Warren to convocate the inauguration and silencing his point of view.  I don't think that's rational at all.  The man obviously has a very solid platform for making his point of view known.  Arguably, it's influenced the constitution of my state.  People aren't saying to Obama, "Obama, why aren't you razing Warren's church and driving his followers into the sea?"  They're saying, "Uhh, dude.. why'd you have to go and do that?"

"Silence the conversation" wasn't the best descpription of what I mean.

I'm not saying that not having Rick Warren at the inauguration would marginalize the evangelical community. I'm saying that there are those on the left who would be perfectly happy now that we control Congress and the White House, to adopt the same attitude toward the right as the Bush administration had toward the left. I've seen that attitude coming through both explicitly and implicityly on some of the lefty blogs. That's what I think is dangerous. And that's what I think that the evangelicals are expecting. It's happened before--one side comes to power, dismantles much of the work that the other side has done, and then pays zero attention to what the opposition thinks.

Warren's inclusion sends the signal that Obama doesn't plan to follow this path. I think that's important.

 

So then what happens once Obama, if we presume he's being honest here, gives them exactly what they don't want policy-wise?  Regardless of gesture, doesn't this ultimately amount to exclusion from shaping the agenda?

EDIT: I also don't really spend a lot of time digesting the "lefty" blogosphere.  I can't stand kos, myDD or HuffPo comments and I barely read TPM comments at this point.  Mostly because people say things like what you've described and it makes my brain hurt.  Then I remember that it's just someone venting on an Internet forum and remind myself not to read that stuff anymore.

Response to DF upthread.

One thing it seems that we can agree on is that this gesture is highly symbolic.  Symbols are, of course, important because of their meaning.

See, I think that symbols aren't very important, or at least not nearly as important as people make them out to be. People attach great import to them, but in the end, they don't do very much. Obama's choice for the inaugural prayer will do very little to affect the cause of gay marriage one way or the other.

I was often struck during the primary with Obama's disdain for symbolism, e.g. "If the word 'reject' Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word 'denounce,' then I'm happy to concede the point and I would reject and denounce." What does it matter whether he "denounces" Farrakhan? What does the denouncing accomplish? Or another example, why would it matter whether Obama meets with Ahmadinejad? People complained that such a meeting would offer legitimacy to the Iranian regime. Of what value is such alleged legitimacy? What can they buy with it, trade it for?

Of course, since Obama is not President yet, he can do very little beyond the symbolic. He can hire people, plan his inauguration, and make pronouncements. Until he's President, all the obsessing over symbolic gestures is, to me, wasted energy.

Symbols might not be important. But what about signals? Signals are important. Especially red, flashing ones.

I tend to agree about symbols, but I also think that's a condition of a more rational mind.  I think Obama has that kind of mind.

However, that may have perhaps done him some harm here.  The problem with Warren is that he's a symbol who, in the mind of many people who arguably have a valid point, just did something.  And it's something very powerful and very tangible and it means a great deal to them.

I would agree that there's been a tendency to obsess over what he's doing.  I think part of that derives from the absolutely lame nature of our current government.  Everyone has completely given up on anything happening until Jan. 20th.  However, whereas I think that some of the obsessing over his cabinet appointments has been excessive, I can completely understand the outrage on this one.  If you're a member of the GLBT community in California, or elsewhere, or even someone who supports those efforts, Rick Warren is nothing less than a general in the war against your way of life.  I don't think it's reasonable to ask people not to feel that way.

And I think he missed a fantastic opportunity here by not asking Rev. Wright.

Hah! The current brouhaha is nothing compared to what it would have been if he'd picked Rev. Wright. But I think Obama is legitimately pissed off at that guy.

Here's what Frank Schaeffer has to say about the Warren mess:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/obama-was-right-to-pick-w_b_152330.html

Schaeffer was on Fresh Air last week on NPR. If you missed it, I'm sure you can download the podcast. It was a really interesting interview.

Nice link to Frank "Genghis" Schaeffer.  He said it better than me.

I hope that he's right about this being a move that will allow Obama to smooth things over with evangelicals.

I don't blame people for being outraged at the choice of Warren, but I think that Obama's position on gay marriage is more outrageous than his choice of minister for the inauguration. It just doesn't look like he's prepared to go to bat for gay rights, where I think that he could make a difference.

But if Obama does apply political capital gained through symbolic choices like Warren to effect concrete actions on gay rights, like a national civil union law, then I think those choices are worthwhile. Trading symbolism for action is a bargain.

PS Wright would have been a most amusing choice.

I can tell you that at least in my experience here, there is definitely the perception that Obama was silent on Prop. 8.  There doesn't seem to be confidence that he is really behind the gay rights movement and that's absolutely part of this.  Watching Warren bless his presidency will sting a lot for some people.

I would also say that I don't think that it's anything near hatred or even vitriol.  It's more like a very heartfelt disappointment, almost as if it doesn't quite jive with what he claims to be.  I don't think that it's the sort of thing will linger at all if he actually is able to truly make progress for gay rights.

Wright would have been priceless.  Or maybe Farrakhan?  They could fist bump.

Actually, I think the best curveball of all would have been this guy:

See what you started, Orlando? A good, reasoned discussion, with lots more respect for opposing opinions than most websites are offering up on this topic. Dagbloggers are a class act.

What  few  seem to have noticed is that Warren is not getting a spotlight all to himself. He will deliver the invocation -- whatever that is -- but Rev. Joseph Lowery will do the actual benediction or blessing. And Lowery, from what I read, is a strong advocate for gay rights.

By bookending things this way, I suspect Obama thought people would get his underlying message of inclusion. He misjudged how much bitterness Prop. 8 left, and how  easily Warren's notoreity would push Lowery off the stage. But it's a done deal; he can't disinvite him now. Live with it.

(In passing, everyone must realize the prayers of both men will be carefully scripted, or at least vetted, by the Obama team: the words "gay rights," "abortion" and "same-sex marriage" will appear in neither.)

Some people are irate that the inauguration will give Warren unwarranted validation. But it cuts both ways: By accepting the honor, Warren is validating Obama's administration to his followers and like-minded evangelicals.

And that, folks, is political capital you can't buy (ask Gov. Blagojevich). When, during his first year in office, Obama scraps "don't-ask-don't-tell," and Warren raises just the mildest peep of disappointment, think ba ck to the debate we are having here tonight -- all praise the wisdom of Obama!

There would appear to be some validation of your point that this cut both ways in this observation that some of Warren's followers aren't thrilled with the idea either.

See. Obama's got us finding common ground already and he's not even president yet.
Another thing strikes me as I continue to hear about this subject. Now, as I'm reading other thoughts and opinions, I still have mine, but I have DF in the back of my head, making his case. I haven't changed my mind, but I'm also seeing things from his perspective more than I was two days ago. And that is another reason I think reaching out to evangelicals by having Rick Warren at the inauguration is not the worst idea ever. When we know each other, even a little bit, we are more respectful and more open. It's a lot easier to be dismissive of an idea when you have never spoken to or never met the person expressing it. We don't know whether the people on the right will ever be open to us or even reasonable, based on what we've seen for the past 20 years. But we've got to at least try to change the debate or we'll be stuck in the same cycle for the next 20. I don't think I could stand that.

Orlando, I am one of those "people on the right" and am also a Christian.  I would like to say this was a great post and a very good discussion from all.  There were so many issues touched on throughout the discussion. On many points I found myself nodding my head in agreement to the discussion and on others I natrually disagree with.  But the one thing I noticed while reading your post is that I never felt attacked for how I think or believe just because mine is different from yours.  Plain, respectful discussions such as this ON BOTH SIDES would go a long way in bringing people to a point of compromise that would be acceptable to all. Thanks!

Thanks, Terri. I'm very glad to hear that. Although sometimes passionate advocacy for the positions I believe in leads me to be a jerk, the best conversations I've had about issues are the ones where all sides listen as much as they talk. 

I hope you'll keep coming back to Dagblog. Our conversations here are generally like that (so far).

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