Sunday, December 21, 2008

plezWorld on the Ruckus Over the Obama Inaugural Speaker

Earlier in the week, it was announced that Rick Warren, bestselling author and pastor of the 20,000-member Saddleback Church in Southern California, would give the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration in January. Warren is against gay marriage and he was a vocal supporter of California's Proposition 8 - a ban on gay marriage - which passed in November. He has also reportedly made some very disparaging remarks about gay men, in particular, from his position as pastor of this mega-church.

As one would suspect, gay activists have come out of the woodwork to oppose this decision by Obama to include this guy in his inauguration, much less provide the invocation! Even though, Obama has been a staunch supporter of gay rights, he does agree with Warren that the definition of marriage is a union between one man and one woman (to the surprise of many, plezWorld agrees with this definition of marriage). One talking head has written that Obama is a bigot for including this homophobic preacher in his program.

Recall during the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama visited Saddleback Church and Rick Warren for what was called the Faith Forum. Each candidate was given the opportunity to provide insight on a number of issues (including gay marriage). Warren did not insert his opinion in the forum and it turned out to be one of the best "debates" that was held in 2008, even though, Obama was a bit too cerebral and thoughtful for most listeners.

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In an effort to provide some balance to the dust up about Barack Obama and Rick Warren, plezWorld will provide opposing views below:

Excerpts from CNN Commentary "Respect Obama's choice of Rick Warren":

By Ruben Navarrette Jr.

I support a woman's right to choose and civil rights for gays and lesbians. And when I have flashes of intolerance, it's often an intolerance of those who seem intent on taking away the rights of others.

And unlike Warren, who is an outspoken supporter of Proposition 8 -- the divisive ballot measure that amended the California constitution to ban gay marriage -- I opposed the initiative. For many on my side of the issue, this was bigotry on full display; for me, it was bullying.

One minute, gay couples in my state had to the right to marry; the next, they didn't. The privilege was stripped away by brute force just because a slim majority had the votes to do it. That's cruel, arrogant and wrong.

But the Warren controversy doesn't have anything to do with all that. This is about a president-elect, who just came off a bruising 21-month campaign, exercising his prerogative to choose whoever he wants to deliver the blessing at his inauguration. It's about -- as President-elect Obama noted this week -- Americans learning to agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable.

It's about those on the left knowing how to win and how to savor victory without giving into the impulse to attack each other. And, finally, it's about recognizing that -- for those who feel like protesting Warren's appearance -- there is an ocean's worth of bigger fish to fry.

It's interesting. Many of those raising a fuss are talking about respect, demanding respect, insisting they're not given respect, etc. Well, that works both ways. If they want respect, they have to give it. They can start by respecting the wishes of the president-elect to plan his inauguration as he sees fit.

The anti-Warren protesters are looking at the big picture and insisting that the selection of the mega-church pastor is a dead giveaway that Obama isn't interested in advancing gay rights or preserving abortion rights. They say that he just used those groups to get elected and has now thrown them overboard.

That's absurd. And it's an awful lot to glean from the simple act of asking someone to deliver an invocation. Why not let Obama get sworn in and have a chance to govern before we assess whether he'll remain loyal to the base?

The tale gets more curious. Even as Obama takes fire from liberal friends on the left, Warren is taking his share of criticism from conservative supporters on the right who can't believe he is even associating with Obama, let alone appearing at his inauguration.

But what did either camp expect anyway? Those familiar with the evangelical movement in America should already know that Warren falls on the moderate portion of the spectrum. And, if gay rights activists are surprised that Obama would share the spotlight with an opponent of gay marriage, they need to do more research.

Obama himself has stated that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, a view that also happens to be shared by Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

That didn't stop many on the left from helping to elect Obama and Biden. Nor should it disqualify a certain pastor from blessing their inauguration.

Now that will be something.

Excertpts from CNN Commentary "Choosing Rick Warren was a mistake":

By Kathy Kolbert

The announcement that Pastor Rick Warren has been chosen to give the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony landed with a thud in my inbox.

Many people who know Warren as the affable mega-church pastor and best-selling author may be confused about the anger and disappointment that his selection has generated among progressive activists who worked so hard to help elect Obama. Here's my explanation; you can find plenty of other voices online.

Warren enjoys a reputation as a bridge-building moderate based on his informal style and his church's engagement on issues like AIDS in Africa.

He took grief from some of his Religious Right colleagues when he invited then-Senator Obama to his church for a conference on AIDS a couple of years ago. And, in August he hosted presidential candidates Obama and McCain at his church.

Warren has worked hard to cultivate a moderate public personality but his views are very similar to those of traditional Religious Right leaders.In an email sent before the 2004 election he wrote a Falwell-esque message proclaiming that, for Christian voters, the issues of abortion, marriage for same-sex couples, stem cell research, cloning and euthanasia were "non-negotiable." In fact, he said, they are "not even debatable because God's word is clear on these issues."

And while some Religious Right leaders were nervous that Warren would give Obama a platform to talk about poverty and the environment at the August event, Warren thrilled them by eschewing those issues entirely in order to emphasize issues like abortion and marriage that worked to McCain's advantage with the evangelical audience.

Warren also campaigned for Proposition 8, the initiative that stripped same-sex couples in California of their right under the state constitution to get legally married. But it's not just his support for Prop. 8 that is so galling to equality activists.

It's that Warren, in an interview with, has since equated allowing loving same-sex couples to get married with redefining marriage to permit incest and pedophilia.

And he has repeated one of the Religious Right's big lies: that somehow allowing marriage equality to stand would have threatened the freedom of preachers like him to say what they thought about homosexuality. That's not remotely true, but it's a standard tool of Religious Right leaders trying to resist the public's increasing support for equality.

In other words, Warren has been divisive and dishonest on the issues of marriage equality and religious freedom -- and on other issues important to many Obama supporters, as well.

He adamantly opposes a woman's legal right to abortion and dismisses common-ground efforts to reduce the need for abortion by comparing them to accommodating the Holocaust. He is disrespectful of progressive people of faith, suggesting that they are tools of the Democratic Party or more Marxist than Christian.

So much for the values of unity and respect, not to mention the constitutional principle of equality, on which President-elect Obama campaigned.

Why exactly is he being given the high honor of delivering the invocation at one of the most historic ceremonies in American history?

There is no shortage of religious leaders who reflect the values on which President-elect Obama campaigned and who are working to advance the common good. Rev. Joseph Lowery, who has been selected to give the benediction, is a lifelong advocate for justice. There are others like him, and in our increasingly diverse nation, they aren't all Christian.

Rick Warren gets plenty of attention through his books and media appearances and has every right to promote his religious views. But he doesn't need or deserve a position of honor at the inauguration of a president who has given hope to so many Americans by rejecting the politics of division and emphasizing his commitment to constitutional values.

I am still excited about the tremendous changes in policy that I expect under an Obama administration. But it's the job of progressive advocates to hold public officials accountable, and to speak up even when our friends drop the ball. This decision, which will leave a bad taste in the mouths of many passionate supporters of Barack Obama, is one of those times.

Excerpts from CNN Story "Choice of Warren reflects diversity of ideas":

Mr. Obama’s forceful defense of Mr. Warren, the author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” has signaled an intent to continue his campaign’s effort to woo even theologically conservative Christians. As his advisers field scores of calls from Democrats angry because Mr. Warren is an outspoken opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, Mr. Obama has insisted that a range of viewpoints be expressed at the inauguration festivities next month in Washington.

“That’s part of the magic of this country, is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated,” Mr. Obama said, speaking to reporters here this week. He added, “That’s hopefully going to be a spirit that carries over into my administration.”

The growing alliance of Mr. Obama and Mr. Warren — each of the two publicly refers to the other as “friend” — suggests that Mr. Obama hopes to capitalize on the signs of potential generational and political divisions within the evangelical Christian flock. For his part, Mr. Warren is increasingly being spoken of as a kind of minister to the nation, a status previously occupied by the Rev. Billy Graham.

V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, whose consecration caused a painful divide in his church because he is openly gay, said that when he heard about the selection of Mr. Warren, “it was like a slap in the face.”

Bishop Robinson had been an early public endorser of Mr. Obama’s candidacy, and said he had helped serve as a liaison between the campaign and the gay community. He said he had called officials who work for Mr. Obama to share his dismay, and been told that Mr. Obama was trying to reach out to conservatives and give everybody a seat at the table.

“I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” Bishop Robinson said, “but we’re not talking about a discussion, we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.”

Excerpts from CNN Story "Choice of Warren reflects diversity of ideas":

President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday defended his pick of evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration next month as one of "a wide range of viewpoints that are presented."

"And that's how it should be, because that's what America is about," Obama said responding to a question at a news conference about his and Warren's differences on social issues. "That's part of the magic of this country is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated."

Liberal groups and gay rights proponents had criticized the president-elect on Wednesday for choosing Warren, who opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Those socially conservative stances put him at odds with many in Obama's Democratic Party, especially the party's most liberal wing.

"[It's] shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now," Andrew Sullivan wrote on the Atlantic Web site Wednesday.

Obama in the news conference also defended his record on equality for gays.

"I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans," he said. "It is something that I have been consistent on, and I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency."

People for the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert told CNN she is "deeply disappointed" with the choice of Warren and said the powerful platform at the inauguration should instead have been given to someone who has "consistent mainstream American values."

Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama, defended the choice of Warren, saying, "This is going to be the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history."

"The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] issues," Douglass said. "But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues."

Douglass also noted that Obama and Warren agree on several issues, including advocating on behalf of the poor, the disadvantaged and people who suffer from HIV/AIDS.

Obama pointed out that Warren had invited him to speak at his Saddleback Church two years ago even though Warren knew that he had views "that were entirely contrary to his."

"We're not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere when we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans."

Obama also pointed out that Southern Christian Leadership Conference co-founder the Rev. Joseph Lowery, "who has deeply contrasting views to Rick Warren on a whole host of issues," is also speaking.

Warren's support of California's Proposition 8, a measure that outlaws same-sex marriage in the state, sparked the ire of many gay rights proponents earlier this fall.

Warren, who has made it a practice not to endorse candidates or political parties, wrote in October that the issue of gay marriage is not a political issue, but instead "a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about."

"For 5,000 years, every culture and every religion -- not just Christianity -- has defined marriage as a contract between men and women," Warren wrote in a newsletter to his congregation. "There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population."

Warren also stirred controversy earlier this week when he told his grounds for opposing same-sex marriage lie primarily on his right of free speech.

"There were all kinds of threats that if [Proposition 8] did not pass, then any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn't think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships, and that would be hate speech." In the 2008 election, Warren hosted Obama and Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, at a candidate forum held in his church.

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Excerpts of the entry on Aunt Jemima's Revenge blog titled "President-Elect Obama's Pick Of Pastor Rick Warren To Give The Invocation At The Inauguration Stinks To High Heaven!":

First of all, Warren is homophobic. Second of all, he is adamantly anti-abortion. It is absolutely the wrong message for the first black President to give a major platform to a mega-church conservative evangelical who holds beliefs and ideals completely contradictory to the majority of the millions of people who elected you. The President's inaugural invocation should be a message of inclusion for all of the American people and how exactly is Warren going to accomplish that since he has a clear record of excluding others?

Third of all, his inclusion STINKS of political pandering on Obama's part and it makes me sick that Obama would use religion to score political points on his inauguration day. And since Obama threw Reverend Wright under the bus during his Presidential political campaign, how about picking a religious figure from his personal religious denomination of over twenty years to celebrate his inauguration? Could you imagine the power and symbolism of an African American woman pastor delivering the invocation?

Excerpts of the entry on BB&Gcmac's Weblog titled "Preach Preacher! Obama Chooses Right 'Man of God'":

I hear liberals are in an outrage that President elect Obama chose Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration next month. Supposedly the most vocal resistance is coming from the gay rights movement. On the heels of the gay marriage ban in California as well as a few other states, they aren’t too keen on the idea of an evangelical Christian praying the president into office.

I have a message for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters on this one. “Stand down and pick another battle!” Its is silly and short-sighted to raise hell over this one. For one, Rick Warren isn’t being appointed to any office here. He is a minister and author. He is not going to set forth any policies that affect the gay and lesbian communities. If you do some research on him, you will find that he is one of the most forthright, honest and fair ministers in the country. Warren is no James Dobson or Pat Robertson. Billy Graham, (the traditional presidential preacher) walked away after the election became official cause he didn’t want to deal with a black man. Warren was the only minister who could pull off a presidential form the way he did. He allowed each man to speak on his faith and not offer an opinion on who he thought was “morally right.”

Does Warren believe in gay marriage? No. But everyone who does not agree with you is NOT necessarily your enemy. Faith as well as the precepts that support that faith are a personal issue and he has a right to his beliefs as you do yours. Again if you read his works and listen to his messages, you won’t find a person preaching today who is less judgmental than Mr. Warren. He’s been on the forefront of using his influence for AIDS prevention and awareness, holding an AIDS Summit at his church, with none of the slandering or gay blaming of other ministers. Who was speaking against Warren as he reached out to Obama for support of that program? People like Dobson and Robertson who are notoriously anti gay. Additionally, he is a guy who will listen and dialogue with the gay community. If one is willing to listen, you never know what could come of it.

I did a post on Rick Warren earlier this year when he was on Meet The Press with Tim Russert. In the midst of evangelical leaders vying for position to bring more of the divide and hate tactics to the campaign, Warren’s words were so bright and encouraging, I could see the glow in Russert’s face to have a minister of the gospel speak with such love and perspective. As a man who grew up in the church, loving its virtues and hating its hypocritical and judgmental ways, I felt good about Warren’s message, and even more so his presentation. This guy has it together. Of course you should fight on for what you believe in. However, Warren is the wrong target!

**As an added feature, I am posting the participants of proceedings on January 20th. You will also notice that Rev. Joseph Lowery (a pro gay rights minister) is also speaking and giving the benediction. Obama said this morning that the fact that Lowery and Warren do have some differences of opinions reflect why he chose them both as a reflection of our nation. That's a good thing. What do you think would have happened with a McCain administration?

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plez sez: correct me if i'm wrong, but wasn't the entire premise of Obama's campaign that he was the best person to work with disparate and opposing views? Obama has never wavered in his support of gay rights, BUT he cannot stack his inauguration, nor his Cabinet, with folk who agree with him 100% of the time.

his selection of rick warren as the invocation speaker and joseph lowery as the benediction speaker is completely consistent with how Obama ran his campaign, how he picked his Cabinet members, and how he intends to run this country. we only move forward when we hear thoughts and opinions from all quarters. he is breaking the paradigm of right vs. left, blue vs. red, gay vs. straight, black vs. white... even though, rich warren's message isn't always one of inclusion, the message Obama sends must always be one of inclusion!

Obama is going to be the president of people who support gay marriage as well as people who think gays will burn in the fires of Hell. as he has said so many times, we must learn to disagree without being disagreeable.

gay rights advocacy groups are way off base in their protest of Obama's choice of Warren to speak at his inauguration.

~ ~ Citations ~ ~

Read the New York Times article about the furor about Obama's selection for speaker at the inauguration.

Read the article about what Obama calls a diversity of ideas.

Read the article by Kathy Kolbert about why picking Rick Warren was a bad choice.

Read the article by Ruben Navarrette about why we should respect Obama's choice of Warren.

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Hello there!

I don't think there is ANYTHING AT ALL wrong with Obama allowing those he does not agree with to be part of the ceremony.

Obama belonged to Trinity in Chicago and resigned ONLY WHEN white people demanded that he disasociate themselves with the church and the retired pastor of the church. Obama wanted to win this election so he decided to do as he was told by the powers that be.

Now, those powers that be have directed him to include Rick Warren.

I hardly think Rick Warren is HOMOPHOBIC simply because he is against gay marriage.

Being against gay marriage doesn't mean he is AFRAID of gay people.

rawdawgbuffalo said...

adding to his base for the 2nd time around

Brown Man said...

I'm glad somebody could say something about this - Rick Warren is meaningless to me.

This "sending the wrong signal" stuff gets my blood pressure up. If I have common sense, Obama can send all the wrong signals he wants want, and if he has common sense, he knows the difference between the thing people see on the outside and what is really on the inside of an action he takes, especially something like this invocation, which can't take more than ten minutes tops.

I'm sure Joesph Lowery's benediction is going to offend somebody too.

Right now, it's those future breadlines, not these gay rights headlines that we need Obama to be worrying about.

Good show, Plez, with the excerpts - I got tired of George Will this morning and read the paper instead