obama’s choice of rick warren

obama’s choice of rick warren

As reported today by Reuters:

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen a pastor who opposes gay marriage as a speaker at his inauguration, creating a commotion over what inclusiveness will mean for his administration.

Obama chose Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor of the southern California megachurch Saddleback, to give the invocation when he takes office in January.

The president-elect on Thursday said that he held views “absolutely contrary” to Warren on gay rights and abortion and described himself as “a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans.”

“During the course of the entire inaugural festivities, there are going to be a wide range of viewpoints that are presented. And that’s how it should be, because that’s what America is about. That’s part of the magic of this country is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated,” he said.

Obama’s choice of Warren has raised an outcry among gay rights activists and progressive religious leaders. Chuck Currie, a UCC colleague, expressed his disappointment in this blog post: Rick Warren Wrong Voice For Inauguration.

I am deeply troubled that President-elect Obama has invited Rick Warren to offer the invocation at the inauguration. Warren stands opposed to the progressive agenda and to many of the core values that Barack Obama campaigned on. The symbolism of offering such as prodigious place in history to a figure such as Warren is upsetting.

I am no fan of Rick Warren. Nor am I very enamored of Barack Obama’s decision to invite him to participate in the inauguration ceremonies. However, I can defend the choice and do understand the reasoning behind it.

In my mind, what makes Obama an unusual, and almost unique, candidate, is his willingness to listen and grant respect to his political opponents. He really does believe at his core that we rise and fall together as a people — black and white, blue and read, conservative and liberal. One “side” does not have a monopoly on truth or virtue, and we are great weakened as a nation when we play up and exploit our differences.

Many certainly have hoped that his election will mean a raising of the “liberal” flag, and a renewed opportunity to promote “progressive”causes. And that may well prove to be the case. But Obama, I think, genuinely wants to do something new, something different, not to represent this constituency or that advocacy group, but to work hard at getting people talking with each other, not just at each other.

Our nation is bitterly divided over so many issues: gay rights and abortion and health care and environmental stewardship. If we simply “play the game” as we always have, holding hard and fast to the “party line,” and demonizing the opposition, we will get the results we always have, namely a lot of heat and not much light … and not much progress in making people’s lives better and safer and more just.

It strikes me that Jesus managed to upset most of the people at least some of the time. It would be hard to pin him down as a classic conservative or liberal, because he was not the advocate of a cause or a constituency or a philosophy, but an advocate of obedience to the will of God. Conservatives and liberals both have found sufficient ammunition in his sayings to support their causes, but if either would listen to him carefully enough, it would surely give them pause …

I applaud Obama, not for the choice of Warren, but for sticking to his vision of a united America, of a new kind of dialogue.

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