Rick Warren

There is much weeping and wailing on the Left today, because Rev. Rick Warren, God Nazi and pastor of the fundie Saddleback Church, will give the invocation at the inaugural.

“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. “[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination.”

Warren isn’t just a walking insult to LGBT Americans; he’s a walking insult to our species, especially women. What Warren represents makes my skin crawl. His presence in the inaugural program is particularly galling to religious liberals, who have been vilified and marginalized for years by the so-called “Christian” Right. And then to have religion represented by this creep at the inauguration … . well, yes, people are angry. This is certainly understandable.

On the other hand, one could see the Warren invocation as a fairly meaningless conciliatory gesture that (I assume) is meant to signal Americans that Obama intends to be the POTUS of all Americans, not just the ones who support him, as was the case with G.W. Bush. Warren’s presence on the inaugural program is hardly a signal that Warren is going to be given a cabinet position.

I do not think, as some have assumed, that Obama is trying to pick up rightie religious voters in future elections. If he is, then he’s stupid, but I don’t think Obama is that stupid. Certainly Warren and his followers will not stop being opponents of everything beneficial and humane in government policy. However, Warren’s participation in the program may send a signal to not-crazy Christians that, see, we aren’t opposing the religious Right’s agenda because we want to destroy them. We tolerate them, more than they tolerate us. We just disagree with them. It’s not personal. This is not a bad signal to send. If nothing else, it shows that Obama is bigger than they are.

Overlooked in the anger over the choice of Warren is the choice of the Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery to give the benediction.

On the third hand, if I had one, I think that if there is going to be prayer and other religious expression at what is a government function, religions other than Christianity ought to be represented. Otherwise, the program appears to be a form of religious establishment.

Update: Read Pastor Dan’s take. Pastor Dan believes the choice of Warren was strictly personal on Obama’s part, not part of some political calculation. I am inclined to agree with that. Also,

One of the reasons “Wrightgate” didn’t take off is that Americans don’t like folks coming between them and their pastors. The dynamic is going to be the same with Warren, except that it’ll have the added benefit of fueling the “liberals hate God” line of crap. I can almost guarantee you that Bill O’Reilly has his storylines already written: the nutroots can’t stand religion because they don’t like poor little Ricky Warren. As if that weren’t bad enough, because it’s a personal choice, Obama is more than likely going to get his back up about it. Standard disclaimers apply: I’m not telling anyone not to protest this, just understand what you’re getting into, blah blah blah…

On the other hand,

On a strictly professional level, this is a goddamn embarrassment.

22 thoughts on “Rick Warren

  1. Actually Warren is responsible for raising a large number of beneficial and humane initiatives: he’s a supporter of environmentalism (creation care) and a supporter of medical research to help AIDS/HIV patients, for example.

    And, by choosing Warren, Obam has given a slap in the facr to the other high profile right wing religious leaders and helped raise up the one who is reachable on environment and social service issues.

    Besides rank and file evangelicals tend to be liberal to moderate on a whole range of economic and social issues. Republicans have sepnt a lot of time and energy demonizing us to evengelicals. That does not make it accepatble or smart for us to demonize them.

  2. What Warren represents makes my skin crawl. His presence in the inaugural program is particularly galling to religious liberals, who have been vilified and marginalized for years by the so-called “Christian” Right. And then to have religion represented by this creep at the inauguration … . well, yes, people are angry. This is certainly understandable.

    I hear a lot of blatting from the Right that only liberals are upset by this. Hell, the middle is upset by it. Most people have figured out by now what the Rick Warrens of the world really are. They don’t represent any of the Christians I know.

    We’ve barely survived eight years of government by the media-evangelicals. Very bad idea to pander to them any longer. How many thousands– tens of thousands– of American clergy would be a better choice than that skeezy, goateed doofus? Rick Warren is just a fake-friendly face on the Falwell/Robertson hate machine. And I understand the concept of “reaching out”– but to a money- and power-grubbing phony, at the expense of one’s own base? What a stupid, stupid move.

    Obama should disinvite Warren immediately, and replace him with… well, how about a rabbi? A female rabbi. Somebody who opposed the war in Iraq from the get-go, as Obama did. Somebody who’d raise Joe Lieberman’s blood pressure (and not in a fun way).

  3. By choosing Warren, Obama has given a slap in the face to the other high profile right wing religious leaders.

    How??? Warren supports all the Religious Right’s chief idiocies: Life begins at conception but ends at birth; gay marriage is equivalent to incest; torture is not a moral problem; women should know their place; my religion is the only true one.

    Wonkie, you need to learn the facts about Rick Warren, rather than getting your info from his PR machine. Again, there are tens of thousands of better choices to give the inaugural Invocation, than this guy. I don’t care what his left hand appears to be doing; his right one is clearly giving us the finger.

  4. [Rick Warren is] a supporter of medical research to help AIDS/HIV patients, for example.

    Specifically, I can’t let this one stand. Warren is strongly opposed to stem-cell research, which may not immediately affect HIV/AIDS, but shows a troglodyte-ish attitude toward medical research in general.

    I know some pretty freakin’ right-wing folks, and they’re all for HIV/AIDS research, and have been for years. So that doggie won’t hunt, I’m afraid.

  5. Maha, I just love your “other hands”…so balanced, but after two you might have to start using your feet. LOL.

    The question in my mind is whether we really do need a President of all people. As for fundies, one can hardly live with ’em and we can’t kill them. We can do the right thing though, or what we believe to be the right thing and maybe, just maybe get some respect from the right for having good intent and the will to do good, despite disagreement on some, ok many, points.

    Those seeing this as a political move to score points with the right by a mere symbolic gesture don’t really comment on what it means to have a President who listens to everyone. Politics happens as soon as the second person enters the room and is the messy part of the human condition.

    We have a fundie in my family. Thank God or my lucky stars that there is only one. However at family gatherings we don’t make him eat outside with the dogs. We actually let him sit at the table with the rest of us. I have seen him progress a little in his thinking during the Bush years in ways that he never would have had I argued with him or screamed in his face.

    People are a mix of things including Warren and in my mind the inclusion of a person does not represent total agreement or endorsement. I will become very worried if Obama starts advocating Warren’s most offensive stands on issues.

    I have no problem with Obama cozying up to Americans of all persuasions and as far as I’m concerned the jury is still out until we get to the meat and potatoes of policy. For the moment I trust that Obama also knows the difference between inclusion, dialog, forming a relationship and having fundamental points of disagreement. I agree with Maha that Obama is not stupid and also think he has a good heart. This seems admirable and almost brilliant. I already expect not to agree with everything Obama does but that is better than agreeing with nothing.

    Did anyone think that we could now go back to sleep and that Obama will not need to be pushed? or that there would ever be some President we do not need to push?

    Sometimes I think we’ve grown so used to focusing on what we are against in the last 8 years that we forget what it is like to be for things. I suppose that comes with having been the seemingly perpetual underdog or whipping boy.

  6. Sparing everyone further blogificating (or would it be commentificating) here’s an excerpt from Obama’s biography being illuminated in some blogs:

    “A couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren’s church to speak despite his awareness 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,” he said. “Nevertheless I had an opportunity to speak, and that dialogue I think is part of what my campaign’s been all about, that we’re not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.”

    Disagree without being diagreeable? Has he lost his mind? OK, that’s TIC.

  7. Obama has this need to get everybody on board, as many as possible. Warren is huge in evangelical circles, and he’s not of the Falwell or Dobson generation – he’s more from Obama’s generation. Even though they disagree, Obama apparently likes the guy well enough and sees his presence as a way of drawing people to his side. I have GOP family members who love Warren and this is the crowd who will be impressed.

    Of course I’d rather see someone else speak. I long ago realized that there’s going to be a lot about Obama I’m not going to like, and this is just one more instance.

    The real question for me is “will it work?” Will Obama’s centrist/right choices earn him political capital to spend it on radical things, or will his plans be choked by the same. He’s clearly of the mind that he has to appeal to as many people as possible.

  8. There is an economic dimension to this, as pointed out by digby and Fred Clarkson. In addition to right-wing intolerance dressed up to look reasonable, Warren represents opposition to liberal Christian social gospel in terms of economic justice. This is a critical aspect that I have not seen discussed elsewhere, but free-market fundamentalism benefits from Warren’s faux liberal gospel.


  9. Did I need a priest’s blessing to be married in the US? I did not. And I don’t see why government, which actually took religion out of marriage (for heteros at least), is condoning religious blessings for the inauguration under the assumption that all Americans believe in a god, much less a Christian god, and that the president needs a blessing by a representative of god for good luck.

  10. There is an economic dimension to this, as pointed out by digby and Fred Clarkson. Warren represents opposition to liberal Christian social gospel in terms of economic justice. This is a critical aspect that I have not seen discussed much elsewhere, but free-market fundamentalism benefits from Warren’s stances. Warren is part of what appears to be a movement to prop up a fake religious left that is more suitable to the free-marketers. Warren is a classic Trojan horse.

    See, for a fascinating read:

  11. Why is it that the same folks who complained about how divisive & narrow Bush was are up in arms if Obama makes nice with an Evangelical who is not cut from a a left-oriented church. Warren has invited & allowed Obama his views – with respect. Obama made it clear to Warren in the campaign that Obama was not open to Suprime Court nominees who would overturn womens rights.

    And that’s the issue – not a bleeping invocationat at the swearing-in.

  12. shredder — the idea that Warren is a “Trojan Horse” because he was asked to give a bleeping invocation is hallucinatory.

    And yes, I read Digby’s post. I even know Fred Clarkson personally. I fully appreciate why people are appalled. But it’s just a bleeping invocation.

  13. That’s the issue – not a bleeping invocation at at the swearing-in.

    Actually, yeah, the Invocation is the issue. We wouldn’t even be having this discussion if it weren’t. Obama’s going to have four or eight years to make nice with Warren and his ilk on health and environmental matters, if he can. (I believe it will end in tears, but good on the man for trying.) But the fact remains: all the participants in this weighty, historical Inauguration, which will be watched by the entire world, must be chosen with extreme care.

    People in the Netherlands will be watching– where an intolerant religious fanatic murdered filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. People in Denmark will be watching– where Muslims were insulted by ignorant cartoons that originated in a right-leaning publication. People in Afghanistan will be watching– where the Taliban is fast returning to power. And you can be sure people in Kenya will be watching– where Sarah Palin’s “Christian” witch-finder incited the deaths of innocent people.

    In 1993, Bill Clinton invited the Rev. Billy Graham to his first Inaugural. For about 30 years, Billy Graham was the only televangelist around. His ministry existed for more than a generation before the field was invaded by the haters, hypocrites and scam artists like Falwell, Swaggart, Robertson and Dobson. Billy Graham’s message focused on the Christian traditions of redemption and hope, and he stayed out of politics. He was probably America’s most famous Christian, but as far as I know, he never got rich from his ministry. In other words, Billy Graham is an entirely different sort of evangelical from Rick Warren. When measured by the yardsticks of respect, sincerity, humility and intelligence… well, Rick Warren is sure as hell no Billy Graham.

    Pat Patillo asks a good question: Did anyone think that we could now go back to sleep and that Obama will not need to be pushed?

    My answer: Certainly not. I just didn’t think we’d have to push him so soon. And that so many people I usually agree with would see this as no big deal. Coming on the heels of Prop 8, after the evangelical abuses of the Bushies, after the insanities of Sarah Palin in the presidential campaign, and with Warren and another (albeit admirable) Protestant Christian as the Inauguration’s sole representatives of American spiritual life, this is a bad idea. I am completely serious when I say Obama needs to come to his senses, disinvite this clown, and replace him with a non-Christian of high moral courage.

  14. joan16 — I agree it was a mistake on Obama’s part and I sincerely wish he had invited someone much more moderate. However, I do not believe this represents any intention on Obama’s part to cave in to the Religious Right agenda.

  15. maha, I don’t see it as “caving to their agenda” either. I see it as an insensitive error of judgment that can be fixed, if Obama isn’t stubborn about it.

    The armchair sociologist in me sees the importance of this Inauguration. All human rituals are important; it’s how we measure out our lives. This particular ceremony, at its best, could be part bar mitzvah (we come of age as a nation); part Gettysburg dedication (healing eloquence in the midst of pain).

    Whenever I encounter someone who uses religion as a club, as Warren indeed does, I treat them with cool politeness and absolutely do not engage them on religious matters. Certainly, I would never ask them to lead a prayer in front of a mixed group. Clearly I’m not like Barack Obama, who perhaps sees religion as an intellectual puzzle, and his differences with others as a sort of algebraic equation to be solved. I suspect he learned to compartmentalize his sense of outrage, early on, in order to find his footing in a world still so troubled over race and ethnicity. In other words, it’s like he’s our own Mr. Spock, and I don’t think he senses the hurt and consternation he’s caused so many of his supporters.

  16. joanr16.. Good comment .. I have to admit that my initial thoughts were that it’s no big deal..only because I don’t believe in the supernatural, and that Rick Warren can invoke to the heavens till his tongue turns blue, and the most that will be accomplished by his supplications is the expenditure of hot air. To me, I see the invocation as a meaningless ritual, although as you point out, it does impart a legitimacy that should be safeguared by choosing somebody more in tune with spiritual matters.

    I would suggest Todd Bentley … 🙂

  17. Thom Hartmann has an interesting take on this. Small excerpt:

    “…You’d think that we’d have learned … particularly those of us who call ourselves “progressives” – that you get your desired results faster when you embrace, engage, and nurture your “enemies” than when you physically or rhetorically bomb them.

    “Barack Obama has learned that lesson, and is applying it in inviting Rick Warren to perform the invocation for his inauguration. In doing so, he is reaching out a hand to those who today are – out of fear and ignorance – pushing away gays the same way their intellectual ancestors pushed away African Americans when anti-miscegenation laws were supported by most of these same “fundamentalist” Christian churches in the 1950s and 1960s.

    “Joseph Lowry, who is providing the other bookend to the inauguration with the benediction, is the other side of the balance Obama is bringing to this inauguration. Lowry has said, for example, “The same folks who are against progress for black folks are the folks who are against progress for women and gays and farmers and young people and peace activists. We have to understand it’s one struggle. This is ONE AMERICA, and the sooner we learn that the more effective our world will be.”

  18. Good grief, it’s just a prayer. As stated above, it is not a Supreme Court nomination. I had never heard of the man before now. Let’s save our energies for more positive and constructive discourse.

  19. The cut of Obama is like nothing we’ve experienced in our presidents, maybe since and including Washington. It’s going to take getting used to.

    Every time religion leaves the (synagogue, church, cathedral, prayer meeting) and enters the political arena, trouble ensues. Invocations, benedictions, prayers or dogmas none of them belongs at political events, in school rooms, in science labs, civil marriages, public clinics. Obama should have cancelled not invited.

  20. Reading the commentary about this here and on other sites, it seems to me like people are getting it somewhat backwards. The significance isn’t as much that Obama invited Warren, but that Warren accepted.

    Just two years ago, Warren was getting slammed in evangelical circles for inviting Obama to take part in his church-sponsored AIDS conference, with Obama even back then being called “the anti-Christ” and inherently un-Biblical and anti-American, which in evangelical-speak is basically calling someone satanic. Warren stuck to the decision, weathered the claims that he was endorsing The Beast, and remains huge in the evangelical world today–while pushing evangelicals to move past cultural issues to focus more on world health and poverty.

    The point is not to convert the diehard, right-wing, functionally theocratic evangelicals to a progressive agenda, or to win their votes for Obama in 2012. The point is to drive home the message that those folks can no longer define evangelicalism. (Right now the movement is mostly on poverty and the environment, but attitudes towards same-sex marriage and civil unions are changing also).

    I’m queer. Proposition 8 (which Warren vocally supported) enraged me and has moved me to more public political activism than I ever did before. But because of my identity and my rage, I much more concerned with what will be effective than with what will soothe my hurt feelings. Giving an assist to the diversification of evangelical culture, at no cost in terms of policy, strikes me as a good thing.

    Other people obviously disagree, and that’s a good thing also. Any opportunity to hold Obama’s feet to the fire on the issues we (for whatever “we” one chooses) care about, that opportunity should be fully seized. I do think, though, that it’s wrong to view Warren’s invocation invitation as pandering in the sense of insincere political calculation, and equally wrong to view it as a sign that Obama thinks he needs to appeal to the stereotypical right.

  21. Maha – chill out. It is most certainly not just a bleeping invocation. It is the inaugural, dig? It would be a mistake to underestimate the symbolic power behind the choice.

    Actually I have to ask, why should any pastor at all be involved in the inauguration of the president of a BLEEPING secular government? Beyond that, given the assault being waged on the separation of church and state by the religious right, I dont think a cavalier attitude is warranted. Surely I dont have to remind you that that separation is an extraordinary historical anomaly that is arguably the greatest bulwark of religious freedom in western history.

    Maybe trojan horse is wrong though, you have a point there. More like a wolf partially covered in sheep’s garb. Rhetoric on global warming, or this issue or that, is one thing but sheesh, Bush does that too. The only bright side I can see from all this is that it is merely symbolic and that the Obama administration will act to restore what his predecessor worked so hard to erode. I usually agree with Thom Hartmann, but I think in this case he misstates the problem. We are not “bombing the enemy” – we are, in the long run, defending the secular state against theocracy, and you dont do that by sitting down for a tea party like the Democrats love to do without any success, over and over.

    And one positive result of all this protest will be to force Warren to speak to the whole nation and not just his usual constituency – that cant be a bad thing. Much worse would be to STFU like the religious right wants us to.

    Moving on …

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