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Posted by on Dec 18, 2008 in Politics | 22 comments

Obama’s Rick Warren Invocation Pick Sparks Left And Gay Firestorm

Walking a tightrope in a time of high-stakes issues is never easy and it’s too early to tell but safe to say this: with his choice of prominent evangelical minister Rick Warren of California’s Saddleback Church to deliver the invocation at President-Elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, Obama is now walking a mighty shaky tightrope.

The dilemma:

THE SIGNAL OBAMA WANTS TO SEND is that Warren, who hosted him and then-rival Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain in a major presidential debate, symbolizes Americans who feel frozen out by the Democratic Party in the past and that they’re welcome under the Obama era’s bigger umbrella.

THE SIGNAL THE LEFT AND GAYS ARE GETTING FROM OBAMA is that he has a tin political and, in their view, moral ear, since Warren opposed Proposition 8, the California measure that scuttled gay marriage in the state.

THE QUESTION IN HARD-NOSED POLITICAL TERMS is whether Obama is now going to start his term with some Democratic progressives poised to spring against him on other issues — and whether his new coalition could shape up as being a hard-core centrist (center-left, center-right, center) who might not totally agree with him and with the right and left furious at him and opposing him.

THE QUESTION IN MORAL TERMS will be debated since both sides on the gay marriage issue insist they are correct and the other side is morally blind. To many on both sides, there is no compromise on this issue or enabling the enemy on the other side in any way.

The Politico reports:

Barack Obama’s choice of a prominent evangelical minister to deliver the invocation at his inauguration is a conciliatory gesture toward social conservatives who opposed him in November, but it is drawing fierce challenges from a gay rights movement that – in the wake of a gay marriage ban in California – is looking for a fight.

Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California, opposes abortion rights but has taken more liberal stances on the government role in fighting poverty, and backed away from other evangelicals’ staunch support for economic conservatism. But it’s his support for the California constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that drew the most heated criticism from Democrats Wednesday.

“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. “[W]e 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.”

The rapid, angry reaction from a range of gay activists comes as the gay rights movement looks for an opportunity to flex its political muscle. Last summer gay groups complained, but were rebuffed by Obama, when an “ex-gay” singer led Obama’s rallies in South Carolina. And many were shocked last month when voters approved the California ban.

In the view of conservative blogger Glenn Reynold’s there is another issue dealing with elections:

… Obama To Gay Rights Progressives: Drop Dead. You know, as I’ve noted before, the reason not to get too excited about elections is that the guy you like generally turns out to disappoint you, and the guy you don’t like generally turns out not to be as bad as you feared. A lot of Obama voters are encountering the downside of this phenomenon. . . .

The Huffington Post sees a real rift with progressives this time:

Ever since Barack Obama was elected president, the media has been pining to write a story about liberal dissatisfaction with his transition efforts. By and large, the meme has been blown out of proportion, as the press overestimated how divisive Obama’s cabinet choices were for progressives.

The press may now have its conflict moment. And it comes in the form of the spiritual leader chosen to launch Obama’s inauguration.

On Wednesday, the transition team and Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced that Rick Warren, pastor of the powerful Saddleback Church, would give the invocation on January 20th. The selection may not have been incredibly surprising. Obama and Warren are reportedly close — Obama praised the Megachurch leader in his second book “The Audacity of Hope.” Warren, meanwhile, hosted a values forum between Obama and McCain during the general election. Nevertheless, the announcement is being greeted with deep skepticism in progressive religious and political circles.

“My blood pressure is really high right now,” said Rev. Chuck Currie, minister at Parkrose Community United Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon. “Rick Warren does some really good stuff and there are some areas that I have admired his ability to build bridges between evangelicals and mainline religious and political figures… but he is also very established in the religious right and his position on social issues like gay rights, stem cell research and women’s rights are all out of the mainstream and are very much opposed to the progressive agenda that Obama ran on. I think that he is very much the wrong person to put on the stage with the president that day.”

At issue, however, is a different way that Obama looks at the big umbrella: he is wants to let some come under it even if some of those may not yet let everyone come under their umbrella:

Warren does have a rather peculiar relationship with the incoming president. The two share a general ethos that political differences should not serve as impediments to progress. On topics like AIDS and poverty relief, they see eye-to-eye. But Warren’s domestic and social agendas are at odds with Obama’s. And for the gay and lesbian community in particular, the choice is a bitter pill to swallow.

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Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • DLS

    The current Outrage! [tm] is childish as well as betraying the extremism (and at times, the frequent anti-religious bigotry, _real_ hatred rather than the fake charges of same made against the Right, and against the religious) of the Usual Suspects.

    Obama has been on record during his successful campaign as holding the fully _mainstream_ position, being opposed to gay marriage, while supporting civil unions.

    Abortion extremists are just being scum.

    Obama has made an outreach before to the religious community, and is reciprocating in a way the invitation by Warren for Obama to speak _at_his_church_ during the campaign. Nobody mainstream has any objections to this or is any way surprised by this.

    In addition, Obama has been outreaching to the religious, which isn’t necessarily because of the presence of the quiet Religious Left (when not engaging in crime such as the “sanctuary” movement and anti-military stunts during the Reagan and Bush administrations, which merit prison time or being shot when trespassing on military property), but more importantly, exploiting the trend among young religious people, that are more leftish than their older counterparts. (Environmentalism is a typical frequent favored cause of these young people that is commonly in the news.)

    Obama is being smart and sensible, not engaging in stunts and extremism. That it should upset people tells more about the upset people than anything about Obama.

  • christoofar

    So this is the only minister available for the Inauguration? What a stupid choice to make, in lieu of Warren’s controversial stands.
    Yes, Mister President, be sure to alienate as many people who helped elect you as possible.

  • DLS

    “On topics like AIDS and poverty relief, they see eye-to-eye. But Warren’s domestic and social agendas are at odds with Obama’s.”

    Warren is not making the decisions in Washington; Obama and the Democratic Congress are. The shared issues are why Obama is working with Warren, and would likely be the object sometime of federal money given to religious organizations for good works, like poverty relief, AIDS, help to Africa, and so on.

    Calm down, lefties. First the economy has to be set right before you can expect the feds to play by _your_ rules, even if many of you were Obama’s original foot soldiers.
    It’s not like he’s going to rush to bail out Detroit simply to repay the UAW, after all…

  • AustinRoth

    Hmm, seems I remember that a lot of the people who helped elect him also hold views against gay marriage.

    The nutroots have been left at the (gay) alter yet again, it seems. Apparently they are only good for window dressing and as attack dogs during an election, but have little to no real political power.

  • Maybe he should have invited a minister that actually believed in the teachings of Jesus rather than this huckster who has advocated for institutionalized bigotry and assassination.

    • AustinRoth

      Yes, like maybe the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

  • jeff_pickens

    I wonder, now that the Saddleback Church seems to have America in it’s saddle, if each presidential election will be accompanied by an “invitation” to a debate hosted by “America’s beloved, different-kind-of-evangelical” Rick Warren, with obvious consequences if such an invitation were politely declined.

    And I applaud the question raised by others: why is there this symbolic gesture in the first place? What does Rick Warren, who has publicly commented about my (and other’s) non-belief as being somehow “self-centered” and “irresponsible,” (never mind spending eternity in his creator’s Hell) have anything to do with my America?

    I personally think he’s a modern-day Norman Vincent Peale with a twist of vehement fundamentalism, who despite “giving away all his income” appears to be quite well-fed on most of his Saddlebacked studio mega-transmissions. And I just watched a YouTube recording of his justifying his Prop 8 position in the context of “well, if we allow this, what’s to keep brother and sister from marrying, or multiple wives, or …” it just gets worse.

    But far be it from me to have bad feelings about those millions of people he has made “feel better,” or to finally see the ultimate Truth in Christianism.

  • Oh boy the crazy on this thread right now. DLS, sometimes I see where you’re coming from — not today! Anti-religious hatred? Uh, no. Anti-crazy right-wing over-the-top evangelic hatred? Well, yes, there might be some of that. I mean, this guy gives everyone something to hate. He’s not just anti-gay-marriage, he equates homosexuality with beastiality and pedophilia; he didn’t just give the church’s view about homosexuality, he actively and knowingly lied to take away the rights of gay people to marry.. He’s all about the literal version of wives’ submission unto their husbands. He thinks the Earth is 6000 years old. He believes there’s no difference between the Holocaust and legal abortion (sorry — that makes HIM the abortion extremist). Whatever Joe G says about his views on poverty, he’s said he thinks religious movements that seek to eliminate poverty are Marxist. Whatever is said about his work on AIDS, his protege in Uganda has just destroyed previous gains on this front by rejecting previous safe-sex strategies. Even those who think maybe the whole Iraq thing was not so great an idea afterall will likely be upset that Warren, while speaking about Iraq, said God put governments on the Earth to “vanquish evildoers”. I’m sorry, but that’s neither a political nor a spiritual train of thought that seems healthy right now. So, no, the lefties will not “calm down”.

    It would not have been difficult to find a religious leader who is less of a jerk. Someone integral to the civil rights movement would be especially appropriate — I was thinking Rev. Amos Brown, who just fills the room with love when he speaks. But no, he couldn’t go with a black preacher after the whole Wright scandal, which is a shame. Instead he goes with someone who actively hates and speaks hate to those who elected Obama in the first place. In all honesty, I’d love to hear an answer from this man to this question: “Do you believe Barack Obama will go to heaven or to hell?”

  • AR,
    Inviting Rev. Wright would be hilarious political drama. I’d glue myself to FOX News for a week if that happened.

    • AustinRoth

      Indeed, it would be big drama, but maybe not much more than this.

      Now, having an atheist give the invocation – that would be audacious! Unfortunately, they never called and asked me.


  • StockBoySF

    Joe G: “THE QUESTION IN MORAL TERMS will be debated since both sides on the gay marriage issue insist they are correct and the other side is morally blind. To many on both sides, there is no compromise on this issue or enabling the enemy on the other side in any way.”

    I actually think both sides are correct… the religious right (the anti-gay marriage people) have a right to practice their beliefs. The California Constitution does not (or rather did not) force a religion to perform any marriage outside that religion’s beliefs.

    Those whose beliefs include the recognition of same-sex couples being married are also right. In this country there is a separation of church and state and so we should be able to honor God in accordance with our beliefs. Marriage is one way in honoring God.

    What gets me the most is that the religious right is forcing their own religious views onto others. I don’t agree with the religious (anti-gay right) but all I ask is that I’m given the same priviledge and rights they have- which is the right to worship as I see fit. I am not out there advocating that hetero couples be banned from marrying the person they want. I only want the same respect and consideration to be able to choose who I want to marry.

    Obama’s choice of Warren caters to the religious right (the anti-gay marriage folks) and only affirms that their beliefs are correct. It gives them permission that they can force their religious views on others, and that Obama will support them….

    I would like to think that Obama believes in the respect of others’ religious views, but Prop 8 is a contentious issue and Warren inserted himself right into the middle of it to take away rights which all citizens (in California) enjoyed. Obama may think he is being conciliatory, but Obama’s sending the wrong message by saying he would rather have a Warren and his hate mongers at his invocation, rather than someone who is more inclusive (or at least respectful of other’s religious beliefs).

    Bottom line is that even though Warren opposes anti-gay marriage (which I could live with), Warren does not respect others’ beliefs (which I can’t tolerate since he wants me to practice my religion as he practices his).

    On the bright side, at least Obama didn’t choose Hagee.

    • AustinRoth

      “The California Constitution does not (or rather did not) force a religion to perform any marriage outside that religion’s beliefs.”

      Absolutely not true. It did not allow Polygamist to marry, did it, even if their religious views supported it?

      And it took away a ‘right’ that had only been created via Judicial fiat a few months before, not by the Legislators, the Constitution, or the voters.

      I will keep saying it until I am blue in the face – get the voters, get the Legislators, to pass laws and Amendments supporting gay marriage, or expressly denying the banning of them, then all the legitimacy the gay community is looking for will be theirs.

  • StockBoySF

    Austin, I said that the CA constitution did not force a religion to perform any marriage outside that religion’s beliefs. My point is that if a particular religion does not want to marry same sex couples, that religion does not have to perform that ritual.

    In this way Mormons and gays and lesbians are in the same situation. Neither can practice their religious beliefs. I will point out that the Mormons supported Prop 8, which took away the right which gays and lesbians already had to marry. One would think that if the Mormons wanted the right to practice their beliefs, that they would support the right of others to practice their beliefs.

    The “right” that Prop 8 took away was in the CA Constitution. Prop. 8

    Here is the full text of Proposition 8:

    “This initiative measure is submitted to the people in accordance with the provisions of Article II, Section 8, of the California Constitution.
    This initiative measure expressly amends the California Constitution by adding a section thereto; therefore, new provisions proposed to be added are printed in italic type to indicate that they are new.

    SECTION 1. Title This measure shall be known and may be cited as the “California Marriage Protection Act.”

    SECTION 2. Section 7.5 is added to Article I of the California Constitution, to read:

    SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

    Here’s the link.

    So, Austin your comment, “And it took away a ‘right’ that had only been created via Judicial fiat a few months before, not by the Legislators, the Constitution, or the voters” is absolutely not true. If the constitution had not allowed same sex marriage, then why the amendment? Marriage under the CA Constitution was open to everyone. As you can see Proposition 8 clearly amended the constitution to only allow marriage between a man and a woman.

    I don’t know where you get your “created by judicial fiat” crap. You can repeat what you like until you are blue in the face, but the fact is that the CA Constitution did not limit marriage to hetero couples until Prop. 8 placed it in the CA Constitution. The right of gays to marry was not created by judges.

    The gay community had the legitimacy and was allowed to married until Prop 8 changed the CA Constitution.

    • AustinRoth

      So, why weren’t there gay marriages before the California Supreme Court created that right? If had been there all along, where is the long history of gay marriage in California?

      • StockBoySF


        In addition to the California Constitution, there are various statutes which did define marriage as between a man and a woman. Those same statutes also forbade interracial marriage. In act in 1948 CA became the first state to strike down the law forbidding interracial marriages. Proposition 8 was not the first proposition to attempt to amend the constitution. In the past few years there have been attempts which have failed, including initiatives which did not gather enough votes to make it to the ballot.

        Just like the first statutes in California forbade interracial marriage, an idea that is foreign to our society today because society changes over time, more and more people understand that gays and lesbians want to live their lives and honor their commitment to each other and honor God just like heterosexual couples.

        When our nation was first founded people burned “witches”, even though many were not witches. Yet today in America we would not dream of a mob breaking into a house to burn someone they suspected of being a witch. As society becomes enlightened its laws change.

        There is not a long history of gay marriages because society always claimed marriage for a man and a woman. Gays who did want to get married did- but to women (many of those marriages ended in divorce). Many gays over the centuries have committed suicide. Gays have been taught that being gay is wrong and should be hidden.

        I don’t know what color of hair you have… for my example, I’ll pretend you have black hair. What if you were told that because you had black hair that you were a lower class citizen, that you could not marry someone with red hair, only someone with black hair? That black hair was unnatural and sinful and you were under threat of arrest for no reason (other than your hair color) and people would kill you just because you had black hair? It doesn’t matter where you went, you would face the same stigma. Let’s say you dyed your hair red so you would fit in. But sometimes you didn’t fully dye your eyebrows and there was some black hair. People might beat you up and kill you, just because they thought you had black hair but were hiding. That’s what it’s like to be gay and have to dye your hair red, to fit in.

        And even when you do try to fit in, you’re always worried that someone will find out your secret and kill you, or beat you to a pulp. You may even marry a redhead (who may know you really have black hair) but you still live under threat of being found out. Worse yet… let’s say that you really have red hair, but people suspect that you have black hair (maybe because it’s a darker red) and they kill you anyway. But then more and more people with black hair stop dying their hair red, and become visible. They want only to live like everyone else. So they have to fit the existing laws which outlaw people with black hair. These laws also were written to favor people with red hair. But even more of a challenge than changing the laws is changing the attitudes of all those red heads who don’t like to look at black haired people. But as the black hair people become more visible and redheads see there the only difference is the color of their hair, then people with black hair become more accepted, and more accepting of themselves.

        That pretty much sums up the struggles of gays and lesbians. And you wonder why there isn’t a long history of gay marriage. It’s because gays have not been accepted and have not even accepted themselves because of the prejudices instilled in them from an early age.

        • AustinRoth

          SB – very nice.

          However, you do not have to convince me that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. Look through every post I have ever made. You cannot find one comment where I even imply there is. Frankly, given my experiences as a youth and young man, it would be incredibly hypocritical on my part.

          And yes, I have an opposition to gay marriage, but also said is not especially strong. I have said, repeatedly, that I have no issue with Legislative or voter actions that do permit gay marriage; my big issue is doing it through the courts as a ‘basic rights’ issue, for reasons I have articulated many times.

  • Dear Lefties and Gays:
    Obama has not abandoned you. Yes, Rick Warren is a giant douchebag, but so is the ca. 30% of the population that still thinks Bush is doing a good job. These people have to be brought along into the 21st century if we’re ever going to get there, and keeping them involved in what’s going on is essential. Besides, this is a SYMBOLIC gesture with NO policy implications. He’s not appointing Warren to a cabinet position. And he’s not endorsing Warren’s views. Obama remains committed to ending DOMA and DADT and bringing in civil unions. So far, he’s kept his word, even when his word isn’t what we want (FISA, ethanol, etc.). So don’t get too excited yet – watch where this is going, because Obama is attempting a pretty masterful move to end the culture war and get people talking again. If it had been a left-leaning minister, it wouldn’t be THEIR minister. Obama has to do something cheap to keep the right from feeling shut out. This is totally consistent with his campaign; if you’re surprised you haven’t been paying attention.
    Cooler heads, please.

    • StockBoySF

      davigoli, I would agree with you, but the people Obama is catering to are the very same people who think that Obama used cheap political tricks to persuade his supporters that he was the real deal. These people are convinced that Obama is a Muslim and will turn the country over to blacks.

      By your very own statement you said, “Obama has to do something cheap to keep the right from feeling shut out.” These people don’t believe Obama anyway and now that he actually is doing a cheap trick they’re going to smell it from California to Georgia.

      I wouldn’t have even minded if Obama HAD chosen someone who is against marriage, but that person also has to respect the right of others to believe and worship how their religion teaches them. It’s not the fact that Warren is anti-gay marriage. It’s the fact that Warren forces his effing beliefs on others and ruins lives (and takes away civil rights of others). He should not be used as an example (period). Warren has worked to take away my rights and you want me to be calm?

      I don’t know anything about you, so I’ll assume that you’re heterosexual. What if Warren worked to take away your right to marry (and have children)? Something similar… What if you had been discriminated against at work, won the right to keep your job but then Warren supported a constitutional amendment which would have your right to work taken away from you (and others like you) but the people Warren liked and agreed with were protected under the constitution and could keep their jobs?

      Please do not insult me by minimizing the importance of Warren and his words and deeds.

      I have been paying attention to Obama’s campaign, and there are other people Obama could have chosen. As I said, it’s not so much Warren’s religious views (he has a right to those) that makes me against Warren. It’s because Warren does not respect others’ beliefs and has worked to take away my rights. I don’t see why Obama could not have chosen someone who respects others.

      • Insult you? You don’t have to take this personally.

        As it happens, as I said, I think Rick Warren is a giant douchebag; I oppose him and everything he stands for. You have a right to be outraged at who he is and what he says and what he works for. But that doesn’t make him go away. Yes, I’m a heterosexual, but I live in Capitol Hill (the gay neighborhood) in Seattle. But I also come from a very conservative Christian family in Kentucky that thinks along much the same lines as Warren, and there are millions of American fundamentalists out there who think that everyone who doesn’t believe what they do is going to hell, if not controlled by Satan himself. These are crazy people, and they’ve only gotten crazier the more we try to pretend they’re not there. The tack taken by many of my peers – gay and straight alike – has been to move away from our conservative heartland families and leave them to follow the likes of Warren. This makes sense for us, because we need to get out of a community that doesn’t support us, but every time one of us leaves, it makes that community even less supportive in our absence. So we have a culture war, because we lefties have left these red states to their own devices, instead of talking and reaching out to them. They resent us, unfairly, but they would stop resenting us as much if they recognized us as their children and their friends.

        Warren isn’t supposed to be a role model, he’s supposed to be a representative of the 46% of the country that did NOT vote for Obama. I believe, what Obama is doing here, is saying “We’re not going to let you get away this time. We’re not going to let you burrow into your red-state cave and pretend like we’re your enemy. We’re going to yank you along all the way, giving you a front-row seat to watch us do what we do. Maybe then you will understand us better and appreciate that we’re not out to destroy you, and we’re all in this together.” THIS is the Obama I saw in the campaign.

        Andrew Sullivan has also wrestled with this point, and you can see him coming around to this conclusion here:

        Now, once Obama is president, if he backpedals on his promises to the gay community, or allows these bigoted views to influence his politics, we should absolutely take him to task and protest him. But until then, let’s wait and see where he’s going with this.

  • Manchester2

    Has anyone on this thread read The Purpose Driven Life? I have, and it’s excellent. As for President-elect Obama, I’m very sad he will soon reverse the Mexico City policy that arguably has helped reduce the number of abortions world-wide. But, he was elected, and a new President will do what is in-line with their own worldview. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is. As a Christian, I will follow both Warren’s and Obama’s lead, keeping engaged in the public square. We’re all Americans. We’ll sink or swim together.

  • Silhouette

    There isn’t a long history of gay marriage in CA..

    roro writes,

    “He’s not just anti-gay-marriage, he equates homosexuality with beastiality and pedophilia”
    That’s because they all fall under the category of deviant sexual behavior. Gay sex, bestiality and pedophilia are deviant sexual behaviors in that it is not for creating young in a species. That is why sex evolved BTW.

    Bringing religion into the gay debate is a mistake. The real debate is setting an example to impressionable youth in our society. If we OK one form of deviant sexual behavior, we cannot forbid others simply because they make us squeamish, or are unfamiliar to us. Remember, sodomy was illegal until quite recently in most States. Even though it makes many people squeamish, it is now legal.

    Think about it.

    Telling our youth that using the body outside it’s normal functions to acheive deviant pleasures makes our anti-drug argument pretty thin to adolescents who sniff out hypocrisy like bloodhounds. They’ll use adult deviant behaviors to justify their own every single time.

    • StockBoySF

      Sil, on an earlier post roro80 had a brilliant list of reasons why heterosexuals should not marry. I fear that you missed it so I went back found it and am posting the link to the post (and comments) below. The reasons are near the bottom.

      Why do you believe that homosexuality is deviant behavior?

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