Those of us who supported Barack Obama’s candidacy are trying to come to grips with his selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation at the Inauguration. (I’m not even going to get into why, with Constitutional separation of church and state that does not allow even silent prayer in public schools, we permit out-loud prayers to deities many of us don’t worship at Presidential inaugurations, meetings of Congress,etc. But I think that’s something that also warrants attention.)
Obama supporters have put forth many opinions about the Warren fiasco. Some of them decry Warren’s selection. Others, acting as "apologists" for the selection, say that Obama simply likes Warren and it has nothing to do with religion or politics. Still others maintain this is part of Obama trying to look like a centrist so he can get enough support to govern as a progressive (see dailykos.com and streetprophets.com for these and other arguments).
At this point I think the best that can be said is the selection of Warren was a gigantic faux pas. (Why do I start thinking in French when writing this post? Faux pas, loosely translated means klutzy mistake--mixing in a little Yiddish is grounding, lol.).
Warren’s opposition to anything resembling gay rights has gotten the most attention from those who oppose his selection. For some reason mainstream media and blogs don't give as much attention to Warren's opposition to equality within het marriage (he preaches that the husband is head of the family–oh, and btw, men [by which he means straight men] are head of the church), and to his opposition to legal abortion.
UPDATE 1, 12/21: Athana of Radical Goddess Theology left a comment below about Warren's apparent ties to Christian Dominionism. She's posted about it on her blog and I think this info is important enough to include here the link to her post , and to the Newsvine post, which is her source.
Briefly, Obama’s excuse for choosing Warren for the honor of giving the invocation is that this is part of "change" and is his way of being inclusive.
This is certainly is not what I expected when I voted for "change." Rather, to me it seems to be a political attempt to win over (or reward) the Christian right. Didn’t we have enough of that the last 8 years? "Reaching out" and/or trying to appear a centrist to further a progressive agenda (homophobia, anti-abortion, and subordination of women is centrist????) may have their place, but that place is not at the inauguration of a President and Vice President whose party platform is the opposite of Warren's views. If you want to reach out, a more appropriate way of doing so is to have meetings–interfaith meetings wouldn’t be a bad idea–to discuss different points of view. If you personally like the fellow, set up private sessions, have him pray over you to your soul’s content. But it’s NOT appropriate to give one of the most prominent spots on the program to a minister whose views are repugnant to most of those who supported your candidacy.
The invitation has been issued and cannot be taken back, we are told. So can nothing then be done to rectify this mistake?
I’m not sure–I don’t know what the protocol is for these things and I want to say first and most emphatically that I applaud the selection of Rev. Joseph Lowery to give the benediction (and would have also applauded if he had been selected for the invocation). But since the invocation invitation to Warren apparently cannot be taken back, what if you could add another blesser–perhaps have two people share the responsibility of giving the invocation?
Before we attempt an answer, let’s first look at what we have now in terms of "inclusiveness": Giving the blessings in this inauguration are two men, both Christian–in fact, both Protestant Christians. That’s inclusive?
If we could add a third blesser and we really want to be inclusive, we should look for a woman who is clergy in a non-Christian religion. If she's a lesbian, so much the better. Selecting a lesbian to be the other invocation-giver would send a clear message that Warren’s presence is truly meant to be inclusive and not an endorsement of his views. If it’s not possible to get a non-Christian woman clergy at this late date, then you should try for a woman clergy in a religion that, while it may include some Christianity, also honors other paths (for example, Unitarian-Universalism, Ethical Culture, Unity), or if that’s not possible, at least a Christian clergy who is a woman. Plenty of these pop into mind: ordained Protestant ministers, Episcopal priests, even Roman Catholic women priests (yes, they exist).
Does anyone think this has a chance of being done?
No, I don’t think so either. Actually, it is what should have been done in the first place. After selecting Lowery for the benediction, it should have been clear that to achieve inclusiveness, at the very least the invocation should be given by woman clergy–and to really achieve balance it would be preferable that she be non-Christian.
As it stands now the Warren faux pas dims what was a bright star, and the promise of "change" seems to be shifting to "plus ça change, c'est plus la même chose."
Yet at this season of hope and growing light, I will still hope for enlightenment.
UPDATE 2, 12/21: Until we can have enlightenment, perhaps something lighter will do? See possible snark, "Leaked Rick Warren Invocation" on Huffington Post.
UPDATE: 12/23: John Aravosis of America Blog reported yesterday that Warren's Saddleback Church's website has removed its statement that "someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be welcome at Saddleback." Aravosis' story shows the Saddleback site before and after the edit.
Will this flickering candle stay lit after the inauguration?
TAGS:news Barack Obama Inauguration politics and religion Rick Warren women and religion