Friday, December 19, 2008

So some folks are upset with Rick Warren speaking at Obama's inauguration

I'll repeat the comment I made here in response to a response by Danny Fisher:



I think that, at the very least, it's an incredibly tacky time to be asking a vocal and obnoxious opponent of gay rights to stand front-and-center to talk to God...



My first response:

- I'm one of those non-theistic Buddhists, so asking Warren to talk to a being whose existence isn't particularly relevant to the Great Matter doesn't bother me.

My 2nd response:

-If such a Really Contingent Being did exist, what better opportunity than to provide him (Warren) with an opportunity to ask for forgiveness.

My 3rd response:

-Warren's going to avoid the dreck anyway; and his dreck goes far far beyond hating gays and equating zygotes to people. Which is kinda what you expect. But it's that utter permeation of his worldview by dreck that will paradoxically keep him in check: it's bad marketing to exhibit hate on a day like this.

Lastly, Warren represents, for better and worse, a significant number of people in America.

The Mahayana vow gives us the koan: well, how the hell are you going to help these a$&h0!13s?

How do we help Rick Warren? How do we help gays, people out on the streets, the pregnant in medical need of an abortion, and all the real-life bogeymen the religious right rails against? How do we help James Dobson?

These are not simply questions in the abstract, but real responsibilities for both ourselves and Barack Obama.




"How the hell are you going to deal with these jerks?" is a good koan; I find I often am forced to practice it very carefully.

But let's consider an article by Michelle Goldberg that Danny Fisher referenced here:

... First of all, [the selection of Warren for the invocation] reifies the image that Warren has been assiduously constructing for himself as “America’s Pastor,” a post-partisan and benevolent figure with a quasi-official role atop the nation’s civic life. When it comes to his public persona, Warren is something of a magician. He has convinced much of the media and many influential Democrats that he represents a new, more centrist breed of evangelical with a broader agenda than the old religious right. This is, in many ways, deceptive. Yes, Warren has done a lot of work on AIDS in Africa, but he supports the same types of destructive, abstinence-only policies as the Bush administration. One of his protegés, Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, has been a major force in moving that country away from its lifesaving safer-sex programs. He’s been known to burn condoms at Makerere University, the prestigious school in Uganda’s capital, and in his Pentecostal services, marked by much sobbing and speaking in tongues, he offers the promise of faith healing to his desperate congregants, a particularly cruel ruse in a country ravaged by HIV.

The truth is that the primary difference between Warren and, say, James Dobson is the former’s penchant for Hawaiian shirts. Warren compares abortion to the Holocaust, gay marriage to pedophilia and incest, and social gospel Christians as “closet Marxists.” He doesn’t believe in evolution. He has won plaudits from some journalists for his honesty in forthrightly admitting that he believes that Jews are going to hell, but even if one sees such candor is a virtue, the underlying conviction hardly qualifies him as an ecumenical peacemaker. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, Warren himself described his differences with Dobson as “mainly a matter of tone,” and was unable to come up with a theological issue on which they disagree.

If Democrats collaborate in positioning Warren as the centrist alternative to the religious right, they consign vast numbers of people, including many of the party’s most dedicated supporters, to the fringe.


America doesn't have a pastor any more than we have a "football team," or a "religion" or any of a myriad of other things that want to privilege itself and marginalize others.

Obama doesn't have the power, and neither do Democrats, to decide who bigots will use for their mouthpiece. We do have the power to decide our context.

Obama's putting a religious wingnut on his stage, but he's appointing scientists.

From Goldberg again:

Now, many are trying to get Obama to drop Warren. The comments on Change.gov, the Obama transition Web site, are full of heartbreak and disenchantment.


Well, it looks like a dialog is happening. It looks like context is being filled in.


I'm not sweating this one.

1 comment:

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