Personally I think it's pandering. And I don't like it one little bit.
If nothing else, Rick Warren is a miracle worker in the realm of public relations. He is a man who compares legal abortion to the Holocaust and gay marriage to incest and pedophilia. He believes that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christians are going to spend eternity burning in hell. He doesn't believe in evolution. He recently dismissed the social gospel - the late 19th- and early 20th-century Protestant movement that led a religious crusade against poverty and inequality - as "Marxism in Christian clothing". Yet thanks to his amiable attitude and jocular tone, he has managed to create a popular image for himself as a moderate, even progressive force in American life, a reasonable, compassionate alternative to the punitive, sex-obsessed inquisitors of the religious right. And Barack Obama, who should know better, has helped him do it.
Yesterday brought the news that Warren would be giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration. For Warren, this is a bit of a coup, since he seems to aspire to be the country's unofficial national pastor, a role once occupied by Billy Graham. He already played an unprecedented role in the 2008 presidential election when he conducted
back-to-back interviews with John McCain and Obama, which essentially made him the moderator, and his church the stage, for the first joint event of the campaign season. By participating in that exercise, Obama lent Warren undeserved legitimacy as a kind of national moral arbiter.
One doesn't expect Obama to surround himself only with spiritual advisers that meet some liberal litmus test. It is savvy to try and co-opt Warren, who seems to love proximity to power and who might otherwise be a strong critic. Nevertheless, further elevating this terribly powerful man necessarily comes at the expense of gay people, secularists, religious minorities and feminists. Rick Warren is a deeply polarizing figure, and has said things far more offensive than anything that ever passed the lips of Jeremiah Wright. He has every right to preach as he pleases and to build his fortune, but he does not belong at the center of American civic life, and Obama shouldn't put him there.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Rick Warren and Obama
Like many people, I was dismayed to learn that Obama has asked Rick Warren to give the invocation at the Inauguration next month. Here's something published in The Guardian about that: