December 18, 2008

Some Perspective on Obama and Warren

There has been much hue and cry in the LGBT community since the announcement that Rev. Rick Warren (of "The Purpose-Driven Life" fame) will deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration.

Warren is very much a Southern Baptist preacher who campaigned for the passage of California's Proposition 8. It is understandable there is anger directed toward Warren by the people whose rights he advocated taking away. I get that, and was disappointed at his activism in that campaign myself.

That being said, though, let's keep it in perspective.

It's a freakin' prayer people! It's not like Obama nominated Warren to a cabinet position or some form of policy making or advisory spot. It's a prayer. Anybody selected for that role is bound to piss some group off, and it happened to be the LGBT community.

It apparently has not been a one way street, however. According to Obama, he was recently invited to Warren's Saddleback Church:

"I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americas. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency. What I have also said is that it is a time for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues. I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak despite his awareness though he was aware that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights when it came to issues like abortion. Nevertheless I had an opportunity to speak. And that dialogue, I think, is what my campaign has been all about.

"We're not going to agree on every single issue. But what we have to is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things we hold in common as Americans."

The level of outcry over this decision I believe reflects much more poorly on LGBT people than it does on Obama, taking a relatively minor issue and drawing the dividing line of us vs. them in a situation where I don't find it to be very productive. In fact, I think that gives some easy ammunition for anti-gay rights advocates to point to a lack of tolerance from LGBT people.

As a passoinate ally, I would strongly urge leaders of LGBT advocacy groups to pick their battles more wisely.


  1. I agree, I think its been blown a bit out of proportion. I've seen several sites where all kinds of posters (gay and straight) are in an uproar - I think our energy could be better spent.

  2. I disagree. Fundamentalist Christians have gone out of their way to deny basic civil rights to American citizens with whom they disagree. Let's turn it around and see how they like it.
    Let's deny them the right to vote and run for office because they place "God's Law" higher than the Constitution and the ensuing legal system of the country of which they are citizens - seems to me that is a pretty good disqualifier for office. How can you promise to uphold the Constitution under those circumstances?
    Further, it doesn't matter a damn what percentage of the population gay people are. We don't, pace Prop 8, decide civil liberties on the basis of numbers represented. I believe you will see Prop 8 thrown out because of that principle.
    So that said, as much as it gags me to have Rick Warren anywhere near what I consider to be a joyful event, the only saving grace about it is that there is no damn way the other side would have even considered such a gesture. That thought will have to get me through.

  3. Some good points made, I'm a bit split on the issue.

    The far right does not like Rick Warren, any reading of WND will show that. On the other hand, Warren has compared Gay Relationships to pedophilia.

    We should be tolerant of those on the other side, but I'm not sure Warren was the best pick for this, but than again as you say, it's just a prayer.

  4. This is MaMa Carol from Myspace, I see both sides of this story, but agree with Obama, all are invited to the table and to have a part. Until everyone is at that table changes cannot be made. I am a firm believer that we change peoples attitudes one person at a time by the way we live our lives and how we treat people we come in contact with. I am a firm believer in keeping my enemies close to me, and never burning bridges because you never know when you may need that person. I also know that God changes people, he shows them what the truth is. We are merely instruments to that change. I have seen many straight Christians change their attitudes about gays and Lesbians not by someone screaming at them that they are wrong or by never being inviting to discuss the issues, but rather they are changed through daily exchanges with people whom are gay and Lesbians and by coming to the table for converstion and sometimes its to discuss other subjects we both hold important like World aids
    issues! So lets pleases keep the avenue of communications open for change!

  5. This is Jeremy Herring (Freedom For Some) from myspace and I have to say that when reading the article and looking at what Barak Obama has said that it helps the situation. I know that you will always have someone who will disagree with something in your life, but I do think Warren was one of the really bad people to pick. However if he would have chosen a different preacher who was against gay rights I would not be as mad, but he chose one that had a role in Prop 8 and one who has said bad things and untrue thing about the GLBTQ community !

  6. Wonderfully posited! Rather than seeing this as a possible "kairos" moment in time, so many are beating the same drum of exclusion that they bewail against. Thank you.

  7. While I do agree that making a fuss over Warren is a poor use of energy and resources, from the perspective of many in the LGBT community, you have to understand that such a choice feels disrespectful and is playing off fears of once again being wooed by a political figure that claims to be on our side, only to once again be thrown under a bus once the votes were cast. I'm not saying this has happened here, but such fears are reasonable, and I think they are exactly what is at the root of all of this.

    You know, it is very hard to take the high road, and when it comes to LGBT issues, every time there is a reaction that is completely understandable given the circumstances, people become very critical. Should this be a major issue? No. But should we also resort to a sort of callous attitude that demands that an entire community have more grace and dignity in the face of an offense than we often have ourselves? Very few people in this society have their equality granted to them on a conditional basis. Telling gays and lesbians that their reactions to events like these are damning their own goals for equality is a bit insensitive, and it puts a burden on us that we can't possibly carry all the time. Gays and lesbians are people, too, and we're gonna overreact occasionally, just as anyone else would- especially in cases like these where recent political and social offenses only heighten insecurities. Rick Warren is certainly not the biggest concern or the monster some of us would like him to be, but to finger wag an entire demographic for overreacting to something and then making statements about how "we're hurting our own case" seems a bit cold to me. We should never have had to make "our case" in the first place. We're equal, and no amount of bad behavior should jeopardize that.

    That said, it is, as you put it "a freakin' prayer." There are more important issues to tackle, and divisiveness is never a good solution. But still, understand such a reaction is only natural.

  8. I'm actually glad to see a more moderated response from my community. We don't win anyone over by being just as exclusionary and fear-based as the fundies are. I always want to say that to the hate mail that I receive so frequently, "So, you're hoping that this vicious mail that you send out will help people repent, become straight and want to serve the same god you serve? How's that workin' out for you?" Same for us. Can't we just have a response that says that we clearly disagree with this person, but welcome him to see how the rest of the world works? Keeping your "friends close and your enemies closer" is good advice indeed.

  9. I have to disagree for one limited reason. The Saddleback pastor said he opposed gay marriage just as he would oppose efforts to let a brother marry his sister (or vice versa) and worse, just as he would oppose efforts to let a man or woman marry a child. Invoking the pedophilia canard to make his point is especially inflammatory for reasons that should be obvious to anyone but the the pedophile.

    People who employ this language should be dismissed as bigots whose statements disqualify them from positions of honor. By inviting Rick Warren to deliver the invocation, the president-elect told us and the American people at large that the employment of this language is within the bounds of acceptable discourse.

    I'm sorry but selecting him was beyond the pale.

  10. I'm actually grateful for Warren's inclusion as it offers us a highly visible opportunity to teach the religious right what tolerance and respect for different perspectives look like. Right now, we stand on the verge of becoming a single-issue demographic akin religious conservatives who rally around the right to life. We need to think carefully about rushing to judgment about every minor decision our President makes vis-a-vis gay marriage.

    We elected him to lead the nation, which includes people we don't agree with and who don't agree with us. Decrying their right to be represented is no different than their decrying our right to be married. It's intolerance, plain and simple.

    Warren has definitely inflamed the homophobic imagination with his irresponsible statements, which are particularly alarming given his pastoral position. But his falling into disobedience to Christ's commandment to love others as ourselves isn't a justifiable reason for us to do likewise. We can't blow this rare opportunity to uphold American and Christian principles simultaneously.

    Let the man pray. And pray for the man.