Obama and the Warren Controversy

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Dr. J.’s Commentary: Exposing the Mythical ‘Middle Ground’

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Despite Warren’s progressive image and focus on social issues, he is closely aligned with conservative evangelical viewpoints. On the eve of the 2004 presidential election, Warren sent an email[15] to his Saddleback congregation telling them that there were five non-negotiable issues that should determine their vote. What does each candidate believe about abortion and protecting the lives of unborn children? What does each candidate believe about using unborn babies for stem-cell harvesting? What does each candidate believe about homosexual marriage? What does each candidate believe about human cloning? What does each candidate believe about euthanasia—the killing of elderly and invalids?  Warren chose not to overtly endorse a candidate, however the message clearly was an encouragement to vote for George W. Bush.

Right-wing commentators such as the sometimes hard-to-categorize Pat Buchanan, comedian Bill Kristol, still-trying-to-shake-her “Reagan Hagiographer” label Peggy Noonan, and so-called “even-handed” cable news personalities such as “Morning Joe and Mika” are all het-up about why the “left” (these folks wouldn’t know a real Left if they saw one) is so het up about Obama’s choice of Rick Warren for the Inauguration Invocation. “It’s a free country,” they say. “There’s a wide range of views on gay marriage” (which happens to be Rick Warren’s least odious on-the-gay-question position), they say. “Obama is showing himself to be tolerant,” they say. Obama is looking for “common ground,” they say. 


“You’se guys” (which is what they would say to us lefties if they spoke Noo Yawk) are just a bunch of whiners. Or worse, you are just as bad as the Christian Fundamentalists (except I cannot remember when any of the above listed “authorities” ever criticized the latter group for anything. But that’s another story.)

Then they proceed to talk about Warren only in the context of his opposition to gay marriage and trot out all of the traditional arguments in defense of their position that “traditional marriage” is “between a man and a woman” and thus should not be/cannot be changed. Two problems here, folks. 

First, if that were the only way that Warren demonstrated his antipathy towards gays and equal civil rights for them, one could have a rational argument with him and the people he represents. One could cite the usual arguments. First, the “nature of marriage” has changed oodles over the centuries: under slavery, slaves couldn’t marry each other; in the 19th century, women were their husbands’ property; in many states until various times in the 20th century, women had no property rights; until relatively recently in a number of states, so-called “mixed race” marriages were illegal (that one being particularly puzzling: since very few African-Americans are of “pure” African blood and therefore at least one partner of a proposed “mixed” marriage was already “mixed” courtesy of a slave-master or a successor, exactly where and how was the line drawn); in the present time, although polygamy is technically illegal, it is openly practiced in various rural areas of certain Western states, with penalties being exacted only very occasionally, usually when there is a very big difference between the age of the “husband” and one or more of his “wives.” However, in my view, the most important argument in favor of legalizing gay marriage (and I have written extensively on this one elsewhere), is that banning civil gay marriage violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. 

The second, and much more important, problem with Warren is that, as is well known, opposition to the institution of Gay Marriage is for him only a cover. This guy is a true homophobe. In one context or another, homosexuality is akin to incest (a matter of opinion and definition), homosexuals are pedophiles (and surely, let’s not let facts get in the way: the last time I looked, 95% of cases of pedophilia that come to light are committed by straight men, most often on their own children), gay marriage is akin to polygamy (although Warren happily allied himself with the Mormon-funded pro-Prop 8 campaign while the vast majority of practicing polygamists in the U.S. are Mormons [heaven help the Muslim who tries it]), homosexuality by nature in the nature of child abuse, and he may well hold to the James Dobson view that homosexuality is a choice. This is as if (forgetting about all of the evidence supporting the in-built explanation) anyone would actually want to choose to be a homosexual in this most homophobic of societies in the non-Muslim world, a society in which one of the two major political parties runs in major part on the practice, just as the pre-Civil Rights Southern Democrats ran on racism and the post-Civil Rights Republicans did too (until they discovered homophobia and were able to turn down the former, some). 

So. The supporters of Obama’s position, from within his Campaign-soon-to-be White-House staff, and from within the Commentatariat say that what he is doing is showing that he is “open to other points of view.” That “he wants to bring us as a people together, not divide us.” That “we need to find the middle ground.” Well, I see two problems with that one. First, what is happening here is that homophobia is getting a pass; it is being treated as just another “point of view,” another “perspective.” After all, there are indeed many voices in the United States. They should all be heard. Oh really? There are many anti-Semitic preachers in our Nation. They have “another point of view.” Showing his “openness” to “other ideas,” why should Obama not invite one of them to give a prayer at the Inauguration? There are many racist preachers in our Nation. (Although we don’t hear much about either group, The Southern Poverty Law Center could tell you a bunch about both.) How about inviting one of them? 

“Well that’s different,” many folks would say. And aye, folks, there’s the rub. Homophobia has now replaced anti-Semitism and anti-black racism as the “OK” prejudice in this country. And in the name of “openness to other ideas,” it is being promoted by all sorts of folks, such as the aforementioned “authorities.” What we as a nation have to realize and realize very quickly is that there is no DLC-type “middle ground” on these questions. We are moving quickly in the direction of having an officially approved prejudice, one approved in search of that mythical “middle ground,” by oh-so-ironically the first African-American U.S. President. HOWEVER. You either are a homophobe or you ain’t. Just like in Harlan County, in the famous Depression-era United Mine Workers song: “They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there. You either are a union man or a thug for J.H. Blair.” There is no “middle ground.” 

In Nazi Germany, before they came for the Jews, they came for the Gays. In “The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2001-2022″ published by its pseudononymous author Jonathan Westminster in 1996, first the “Christian Republicans” came for the gays. It was only when they were all killed or expelled that they returned to the blacks. As for the Jews, the antifascists among them were classified as “Renegade Jews.” The fascist government went after them too. Beware America, beware. It is a very slippery slope that we are now collectively sliding down.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and a www.TPJmagazine.us Contributing Author; a regular Columnist for  BuzzFlash; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online; a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC; and a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/. 

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