What Message is Obama Sending with Rick Warren?

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What message is Obama sending with Rick Warren? How many more betrayals of the progressive project does he have in store, under the pretext of “uniting Americans” who, in actuality, hold incompatible values

By Rowan Wolf

One has to wonder what message President-Elect Barack Obama is sending with his selection of Rick Warren to give the inaugural prayer. Warren is the head of the evangelical Saddleback Church (comprised of four “campuses”) in Lake Forest, California.

Obama’s selection of Warren is a slap in the face to those who support equality for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people, and recognition of same-sex relationships.

    Warren, who has made it a practice not to endorse candidates or political parties, wrote in October that the issue of gay marriage is not a political issue, but instead “a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about.”

    “For 5,000 years, every culture and every religion — not just Christianity — has defined marriage as a contract between men and women,” Warren wrote in a newsletter to his congregation. “There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population.” (Mooney, CNN, 12/18/08)

While I would challenge Warren’s claim that only 2% of the population is not heterosexual, that shouldn’t matter when it comes to the rights of our population. Nor do I see extending equal rights to all of our citizens “appeasing” a minority population. One might argue that the political embrace of evangelical Christianity is also “appeasing,” but we wouldn’t want to go there would we?

In a June 2008 CounterPunch article, Jeff Sharlet says this of Rick Warren:

    And yet, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, and the business-friendly fundamentalism of the post-Christian Right era don’t set off liberal alarms the way the pulpit pounders such as John Hagee, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson do. The irony is that the agenda of this new lifestyle evangelicalism is more far-reaching than that of the traditional Christian Right: the Christian Right wanted a seat at the table; lifestyle evangelicalism wants to build the table. It wants to set the very terms in which we imagine what’s possible, and to that end it dispenses with terms that might scare off liberals. It’s big tent fundamentalism – everybody in.

    But the ultimate goals remain the same. True, Osteen steers clear of abortion for the most part, and Warren, every bit as opposed to homosexuality as Jerry Falwell was, prefers to talk about AIDS relief. But both men — and the new evangelicalism as a movement — continue to preach the merger of Christianity and capitalism pioneered three quarters of a century ago. On the surface, it’s self-help; scratch, and it’s revealed as a profoundly conservative ideology that conflates church and state, scripture and currency, faith and finance. There’s a sense in which Buchman’s vision of “God-controlled supernationalism” thrives today more surely than it ever did in the 1930s, a period of radical economic upheaval. Only, today we call it globalism.

After having eight years of evangelical power mongers in the Bush White House, are we now to expect more of the same with Obama? Are we being informed that the Obama presidency will continue the goals of the Christian Right in its domestic and international policy? There has been a lot of concern among so-called “progressives” about Obama’s choices for leadership positions, but the tapping of Warren is perhaps the most disturbing decision so far.

Rowan Wolf is a Senior Editor with Cyrano’s Journal Online, where she directs AVENGER212, a blog area focusing on the intersection of politics, environment and what she denominates NEGATIVE SPACE



Editor’s Note: We offer below a brief account of the way most of the mainstream media reported on this issue.

Obama’s invocation pick, Rev. Rick Warren, draws ire of left-wing

Updated Thursday, December 18th 2008, 12:26 PM

President-elect Barack Obama pushed back Thursday at the gay rights groups trashing him for inviting evangelical Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.
“It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans,” Obama told reporters in Chicago. But he noted that he ran a campaign promising to reach out to all sides.
“It is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues,” he said, reminding that Warren invited him to speak at his church knowing Obama disagreed with many conservative religious stances.
“That dialogue, I think is part of what my campaign has been all about,” Obama added. “We’re not gonna agree on every single issue. What we have to do is be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree with out being disagreeable.”
“That’s what America is about,” he continued. “Part of the magic of this country is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated.”
Obama was showered with objections from gay rights advocates upset by Warren’s support for a California ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage. Voters there approved it last month.
One activist group, People for the American Way, said the Saddle Back church leader and popular author doesn’t represent the values Barack Obama ran on during his successful White House bid.
“I’m sure that Warren’s supporters will portray his selection as an appeal to unity by a president who is committed to reaching across traditional divides, said the group’s president, Kathryn Kolbert.
“Others may explain it as a response to Warren inviting then-Sen. Obama to speak on AIDS and candidate Obama to appear at a forum, both at his church,” she said. “But the sad truth is that this decision further elevates someone who has in recent weeks actively promoted legalized discrimination and denigrated the lives and relationships of millions of Americans.”
Joe Solmonese, the head of gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, was harsher, writing in a letter to Obama that his invitation to Warren, “tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table…”
Solmonese ripped Warren for pushing for California’s Proposition 8 that made gay marriage unconstitutional in the state, and urged Obama to disinvite him.
“We feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination,” he wrote.
Inauguration spokeswoman Linda Douglass said that Warren’s invitation goes to the heart of Obama’s philosophy to be inclusive and unite the country.
“Obviously the President-elect disagrees with the pastor’s views on LGBT issues and in other areas as well,” Douglass said, adding that Warren would be on the podium with others who hold opposite views.
“That’s the only way we really find common ground,” she said. “This is going to be the most open, inclusive inauguration in history in many, many ways.”
We suspect attacks from the left are something Barack Obama may have to get used to.
One comment on “What Message is Obama Sending with Rick Warren?
  1. Warren’s selection was offensive in the extreme, and this “inclusive”
    nonsense is yet another illustration of Obama’s addiction to pandering–a man who worships at the altar of mediocrity. On the so-called “conscience rule,” watch and weep as Obama tiptoes through the tulips on reversing this and other similar abominations from Bush-Cheney. Yes, he’s a marked improvement over Bush, but that much could be said for Britney Spears.

    Editor’s Note: Ed Duvin is Cyrano’s Journal’s Editor at large

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