Why Rick Warren?

 

By Kevin Gosztola
 
The recent announcement that the man who may lead the most “purpose driven life” in American society, Pastor Rick Warren, will be providing the invocation proves that progressives and liberals are willing to acquiesce and let the Obama Administration set the terms for change and proves that the Obama Administration will be all too willing to give individuals that promote hatred and intolerance of human beings a seat at the table.
 
The news that Pastor Warren was providing the invocation at the inauguration was quickly overshadowed as it became apparent that progressives and liberals were going to be rationalizing and justifying Obama’s decision so that progressives or liberals could be “okay” with Obama’s decision.
 

 

Thom Hartmann, writer of Cracking the Code, described the story of Greg Mortensen and three cups of tea, which he mentions is a metaphor for hospitality.
 
Hartmann writes:
 
    “You'd think that we'd have learned from these experiences - particularly those of us who call ourselves "progressives" -  that you get your desired results faster when you embrace, engage, and nurture your "enemies" than when you physically or rhetorically bomb them.”
 
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right?
 
One would never have thought that we were electing Don Corleone to the presidency in November, but more and more individuals from the left seem to be rationalizing Obama with logic that one might find in the storyline of a Mario Puzo story.
 
Huffington Post had pieces of writing that clearly acquiesced to the decision Obama made.
 
Lee Stranahan encouraged people to “embrace what you have in common with Rick Warren.”
 
“Like my comrades, I think Warren is dead wrong on same sex marriage. But the reality is that at the end of 2008, a majority of voters in California agreed with him. A majority of Americans agree with Warren about same sex marriage and many more states have made marriage equality unconstitutional than have ratified it…
 
“ … If you are mad about Rick Warren, I'm not attacking you. I understand your anger and I'm not saying it's not justified. But it's all right to let your anger go, too. It doesn't mean surrender; it doesn't mean giving up the struggle for equality.
 
“It means doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. It means winning, right now - because the fight against hate starts whenever you want it, in your own heart. You can win a battle right now by not hating.”
 
The editorial is loaded from beginning to end with wishful thinking.
 
So what if a “majority” agree with Pastor Warren’s hateful positions toward the LGBT community? What about it being necessary to take a moral position that does not promote hatred of the LGBT community or blame members of the LGBT community for divisions over what marriage is and isn’t in this country?
 
And, why should we be in favor of legitimizing Pastor Warren?
 
It’s one thing for Pastor Warren to invite Obama. He might get more people to join his congregation, which means more book sales and more money for his religious ventures in American capitalism. But, Obama's invitation signals that his election meant Americans wanted people like Pastor Warren to be involved in Obama's presidency.
 
Allowing Pastor Warren to be up there legitimizes words and judgment like this:
 
“The issue to me, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.”
 
This Rick Santorum-gay-marriage-is-going-to-lead-to-man-on-dog-sex kind of thinking is primitive and ignorant and deserves no place in American society. It deserves no place in American politics.
 
Pastor Warren’s mentality does not just feature a brand of archaic social conservatism. Warren recently indicated support for the assassination of a world leader when he appeared on Hannity & Colmes:
 
    HANNITY: Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, wants to wipe Israel off the map, is seeking nuclear weapons...I think we need to take him out.
 
    WARREN: Yes.
 
    HANNITY: Am I advocating something dark, evil, or something righteous?
 
    WARREN: Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped. And I believe...
 
    HANNITY: By force?
 
    WARREN: Well, if necessary. In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers...
 
Like Pat Robertson who called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, Warren essentially called for the assassination of Ahmadinejad.
 
Such support reveals the dark intentions of people like Pastor Warren, against whom Americans must stand up and fight back.
 
Pastor Warren also counseled Sarah Palin during the 2008 Election. (For those interested in what was said, go to HuffingtonPost and listen to the audio of the phone conversation between the two.)
 
The Human Rights Campaign’s President Joe Solmonese rightfully responded in defense and support of the LGBT community:
 
“Dear President-elect Obama -
 
“Let me get right to the point. Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans. Our loss in California over the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped loving, committed same-sex couples of their given legal right to marry is the greatest loss our community has faced in 40 years. And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.”
 
“Rick Warren has not sat on the sidelines in the fight for basic equality and fairness. In fact, Rev. Warren spoke out vocally in support of Prop 8 in California saying, “there is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population ... This is not a political issue -- it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about." Furthermore, he continues to misrepresent marriage equality as silencing his religious views. This was a lie during the battle over Proposition 8, and it's a lie today.
 
“Rev. Warren cannot name a single theological issue that he and vehemently, anti-gay theologian James Dobson disagree on. Rev. Warren is not a moderate pastor who is trying to bring all sides together. Instead, Rev. Warren has often played the role of general in the cultural war waged against LGBT Americans, many of whom also share a strong tradition of religion and faith.
 
“We have been moved by your calls to religious leaders to own up to the homophobia and racism that has stood in the way of combating HIV and AIDS in this country. And that you have publicly called on religious leaders to open their hearts to their LGBT family members, neighbors and friends.
 
“But in this case, we feel a deep level of disrespect when one of the architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination. Only when Rev. Warren and others support basic legislative protections for LGBT Americans can we believe their claim that they are not four-square against our rights and dignity. In that light, we urge you to reconsider this announcement.
 
“Sincerely,
 
“Joe Solmonese
“President
“Human Rights Campaign”
 
Peter Daou wrote a post that showed what was being said on the discussion board of Barack Obama’s transition website, Change.gov:
 
"I'm saddened to hear that Rick Warren will be involved in the official inauguration procedures. We've had eight years of policy made by the greedy, with injustice inflicted on the poor, ill and minorities and justified by right wing religious leaders who divide people into ‘us’ and ‘them’ to gain power and money. ‘Hope’ to me means policy based on science and priorities on human rights and fairness. Warren opposed fair treatment for gays, and his views on abortion and stem cell research are scientifically absurd. We ‘reality based’ Americans worked hard to elect President Obama because we can no longer afford this kind of divisive nonsense. Surely there is a religious leader available who is more in tune with reality and who doesn't use divisive positions that play one citizen off another to build big empires.
 
 "Giving a voice to those who have different opinions IS important. However, Rick Warren is using his voice to take away the rights of others. I am a staunch supporter of women's rights, LGBT rights, and Mr. Obama, but this decision is making me wonder if those three aren't compatible. Is this a sign of things to come?
 
 "I am profoundly saddened and personally insulted, Mr. Obama, that you have chosen a representative of hate and divisiveness as a participant in your inauguration. The selection of Mr. Warren goes well beyond ‘reaching out to those who disagree.’ It represents an endorsement of bigotry, ignorance, and hatred.
 
"I am so disappointed in the choice of Rev. Warren. I cannot understand why the Obama team would try to justify this selection as an olive branch to conservatives and in the process alienate so many people who helped to put President-elect Obama in office. This is a sad day. This is a slap in the face to LGBT people and all of their supporters like me."
 
Those who connect Obama’s inauguration with the history of civil rights will have a tough time dealing with the idea that Pastor Warren is allowed to participate in the inauguration.
 
As Isobel White properly states, Obama “could have chosen any clergy member in the nation to deliver his invocation. So why one from the state where religion has so recently been a painful dividing line? One who spoke out so publicly in support of Prop 8, stating that ‘there is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population ... This is not a political issue -- it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about’? One who continues to argue that marriage equality silences his religious views?”
 
Many look at the fact that Joseph Lowery will be present at the inauguration and cite his credentials in the civil rights movement in America as reason that it is “okay.”
 
But if that justifies this, then we will be in for a presidency where somebody like John Yoo and someone from Amnesty International decide the policy on torture. We will be in for a presidency where someone like Michael Crichton (who died recently) and somebody like Al Gore decide the policy on global warming. We will be in for a presidency where somebody from SEIU and somebody from Wal-Mart decide the future of unions.
 
Consider the fact that right now a person on the fringe right has more chance of influencing Obama's transition than a person on the fringe left. Think about it --- Mike Pence has more of a chance of influencing Obama than Dennis Kucinich. How backwards is that?
 
At some point, progressives and liberals have to admit that an inclusiveness that throws truth and reality and logic and humanity under the bus is not reasonable at all. And it may seem unreasonable to explain to Obama that one does not support his all-inclusive decisions, but if they produce outcomes like this one concerning Pastor Warren, Obama’s leadership may not be the hope and change America needs.
 
The inauguration will be linked to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement in America.
 
Jeffrey Feldman put Obama’s decision into historical context:
 
“Thinking about Obama's presidency in terms of an 'epicenter' of civil rights changes how we think about Rick Warren speaking at the inauguration.
 
“Rick Warren is not just a pastor opposed to gay rights. He is a highly political leader of a mega-church who has compared abortion to the Holocaust and opposed marriage reform in terms equivalent to the bigoted plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia -- the landmark 1967 civil rights case overturning anti-miscegenation marriage laws. In an era where gay rights are the epicenter, Rick Warren is a widely recognized voice arguing against those rights.”
 
Translating Rick Warren into the terms of previous civil rights eras is the key to seeing why his role at Obama's inauguration is so troubling. By comparison, if this were Lincoln's inauguration, Rick Warren would have been the equivalent of a pro-slavery pastor giving the invocation. If this were Wilson's inauguration, Rick Warren would have been the equivalent of an anti-women's suffrage pastor saying a prayer. For FDR, he would have been the same as inviting a pastor opposed to rights for the poor. For Kennedy, he would have been the same as inviting a pastor who spoke out repeatedly about the dangers of desegregation.
 
In each of these cases, for the president-elect to invite a voice known for arguing against progress -- and to do so in the name of political peacemaking, as Barack Obama has done with Rick Warren -- would have revealed a tinkerer on civil rights, not a leader.
 
The denial of marriage rights for certain Americans is not, of course, a "social issue," as President-elect Obama has argued. Like the denial of citizenship to African-Americans, the denial of voting rights to women, the denial of basic needs to the impoverished, and the refusal to dismantle Jim Crow laws, the denial of marriage rights is a persistent failure in our system. It is a failure that cannot be fixed by tinkering with politics. It can only be fixed by persistent vision and leadership.
 
Americans must demand persistent vision and leadership. And part of that demand must include expectations that progress cannot and will not be made with leaders like Pastor Warren at the forefront.
 
Kevin Gosztola goes to Columbia College in Chicago where he is studying film. He hopes to become a documentary filmmaker. He is currently working as a production assistant on a documentary called "Seriously Green," which traces the development of the Green Party throughout the 2008 election. He has a passion for journalism and writes articles or press releases in his spare time.

 

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