Obama taps Rick Warren to give prayer at inauguration

I wonder whether Barack Obama will ever make a gesture to the millions of liberal Democrats who helped him win the nomination and general election. Now he’s chosen Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration. Having Warren there will just reinforce the stereotype that top religious leaders are conservative on social issues.

Picking a respected and inclusive minister on the “religious left” would better represent “change we can believe in.”

I understand that Obama will be the president of all Americans, but it seems like he is going out of his way to associate himself only with centrists and conservatives.

Does he think that having Rick Warren there will inspire the right wing to give him a honeymoon? They will try to destroy his presidency from day one no matter what.

By choosing an outspoken supporter of California’s constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, Obama is also insulting the millions of gays and lesbians who voted for him in large numbers.

I can’t say I am surprised, given Obama’s willingness to schedule a campaign event with gospel singer Donnie McClurkin last year in order to make political gains among black voters in South Carolina. Don’t expect him to be there for any Democratic constituency if he can benefit politically from turning his back on them.

UPDATE: Todd Beeton and I are on the same wavelength:

The thing is, there’s no shortage of progressive Christian pastors, ministers and priests who opposed Proposition 8 and are no less Christian than Rick Warren. Sure Warren may be better known, may have sold a whole lot of books and brings with him the added bonus of sending a dog whistle signal to Christian conservatives that he’s their president too, but what about sending a signal to the LGBT community and broader progressive community who, ya know, actually supported him and worked our ass off for him? Reinforcing the false notion that the only real Christians are conservative Christians is NOT change I can believe in at all.

Beeton also has the video of Warren endorsing California’s Proposition 8.

Look, I understand why Obama quietly opposed Proposition 8 without doing anything to defeat it. I’m sure he worried that speaking out against banning gay marriage in California would hurt him in a lot of other states. But the election’s over now, and he won. He should not give Rick Warren the honor of delivering the invocation at the inauguration.

SECOND UPDATE: This is a hot topic on many of the blogs, with some people mocking the outrage over Warren.

I wouldn’t say this is the most important thing in the world. If Obama’s other appointments had suggested that he would have lots of progressives in his inner circle, probably many people would be more willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Anyway, this diary by Clarknt67 does a good job explaining why Warren matters to a lot of people:

And let’s also be clear, Obama is not “engaging” the far-right. This is not an “engagement;” it is a great honor. He’s giving Rick Warren a grand platform and an international audience. He is endorsing Rick Warren, and make no mistake, Warren’s particular flavor of Christianity with all the legitimacy and prestige of the office of the President of the United States.

In fairness I should note that Obama has also giving Reverend Joseph Lowery a role at the inaugural:

Lost in all the uproar over Warren’s presence is the presence of another preacher at the inaugural: Joseph Lowery, the fellow who will give the closing benediction — and who, in addition to being a civil-rights hero on the order of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, is also a friend to the GLBT community.

Click that link to read more about Lowery.

  • Two minds here

    I think Obama is not only trying to reach out to conservatives religiously (and I think he is not progressive in his religious views, compared to most UCC folks), but he is acknowledging that Warren has done some good work in Africa to help the poor.  Moreover, Obama still wrestles with the “Christian” problem since many think he is a Muslim in faith.   Thus, I will give Obama a pass (albeit as a Progressive, I don’t care for Warren’s religious/political stances) since it is only the invocation.   He’s not setting policy for marriage equality.  

    I hope Taylor Marsh is wrong in stamping Warren as the new pastor for Presidents. She correctly identifed as Billy Graham was the pastor for presidents in the 20th century, but I have a feeling her observation isn’t totally off the mark for Warren.  

    • I might add

      That I don’t agree with this decision by Obama, but Obama is a centrist.  Centrists look progressive by Bush standards these days.

      I wish Obama had picked a woman to do the invocation, which is what Taylor Marsh was suggesting.   I have been married twice, both by women pastors.   And my spouse(s), both Republican voters (gulp, but I married them for love, not politics), were always for more women to be key players in our lives.

  • Some of us progressives

    are starting to be as focused on meaningless symbolism as the wing-nuts on the right.  

    I think the Obama camp had the perfect answer to this criticism: “The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues. But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues.”

    This is exactly the kind of stuff Obama said he would do.  If this approach surprises someone who voted for Obama, they should have been paying attention to his speeches and book.  This is the kind of change I believed in.  Actually respecting the other side, a 180 degree change for these current zealots.

    To me, I couldn’t care less who has what role at his inauguration.  More or less meaningless symbolism.  If Obama can achieve some meaningful change on energy, healthcare and economy, that’s what’s really going to matter.  This crap is the kind of distraction that drives the right-wing zealots.  I’m sad to see the same stuff on my side.

    And for the record, I’m about as socially liberal as one gets, for legalizing polygamy, prostitution and drugs, etc.

    • well, for me it's not meaningless symbolism

      but for the sake of argument let’s say you are right and the inauguration is totally irrelevant.

      Tell me which of Obama’s cabinet and senior White House appointments are liberals or progressives. His cabinet is pretty much centrists, Republicans and corporate-friendly Democrats. I see little prospect for meaningful change on most fronts with this team.

      • ...

        Maybe we can let him govern before we start judging him as a centrist failure, no?  I’m gay and I don’t care who is giving the invocation.  Warren isn’t writing Obama’s policy and is just offering up a prayer.  I think we have more important things to focus on.

        • Quid Pro Quo

          My guess is that when Warren held his Saddleback Forum he made a deal with both candidates. In exchange for holding this forum, being fair, being relatively gentle in his questioning, and giving both McCain and Obama positive media exposure; both agreed to have him give the convocation at their potential inaugurations.

          Warren is just like any rockstar evangelist; he’s desperate to get his face and name in the public as much as possible. I don’t think Warren is Obama’s first choice, but he owes him.

          For what it’s worth, I think it stinks. But I agree with vox populi. Obama deserves the benefit of the doubt.

          • that is an interesting theory

            I hadn’t heard anywhere else. If Warren got both candidates to promise to pick him for the inauguration, that would be clever. Both of them would have had reason to try not to get on Warren’s bad side before that candidate forum.

            • Otherwise...

              Otherwise, I’m as confused by the pick as everyone else. It’s an uncharacteristically bone-headed move on Obama’s part unless it’s motivated by something below the surface.

              Rick Warren wants to be the “President’s pastor” really, really, really badly–I wouldn’t put it beneath him to be involved in a little deal making.

      • Late getting back to this thread

        but I obviously agree with voxpopuli and UrbandaleforObama.

        Re: Obama’s cabinet picks.  I know nothing about Hilda Solis, but she is described in news reports as one of the most liberal members of congress.  Also, on the major issues I really care about (energy & healthcare in particular), I would rather have a centrist D or R who can push through some meaningful change rather than a true liberal who may have no chance of succeeding.

  • I disagree with the outrage over the Warren pick

    I also disagree with Warren on a multitude of issues, but demonization and exclusion is the modus operandi of the right.  I don’t want to see it from the Obama administration.

    I demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq back in February of 2003.  Because of my words and actions at that time, I was considered by many (even in my own family) to be unpatriotic and anti-military.  They considered politicians and public figures who stood against the invasion in the same way.

    I support Democrats for public office and actively campaigned for Obama in the general election.  Members of my church consider me pro-abortion as a result.  Many don’t even consider politicians like John Kerry “legitimate” Catholics because of their pro-choice voting records.

    I vehemently disagree with Rick Warren and his stance on many issues, particularly those related to homosexuality, but to demonize him (and along with him those millions of Americans who agree with him) and to exclude him (and them) from the public discourse is to follow the same track that got us into the mess we’re in.  

    I want the Obama administration to raise the level of the discussion in this country, and we can’t do that by continuing to yell at each other.  If we can begin to do that, to de-fuse the anger a bit, by giving Rick Warren a public role at the inauguration, then so be it.

    I guess I’m tired of the contrariness in our public discussion.  There’s nothing wrong with healthy disagreement, but the “outrage” and “demanding” have got to stop if we’re ever going to accomplish anything worthwhile.


    • who says Warren should be demonized?

      I am just saying that of all the spiritual leaders in the country whom Obama could have chosen to give the invocation at his inauguration, why elevate Rick Warren?

      Obama doesn’t have to demonstratively “exclude” Warren. He could just select a different pastor with different views.

      The second Obama lifts the gag rule or does anything else related to abortion, the anti-choice people will scream just as loudly as they would have if Rick Warren weren’t honored at the inauguration.

  • Obama's response

    “It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans, it’s something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency,” he told reporters in Chicago. “What I’ve also said that it’s important for [American]  to come together, even though we may have disagreements.”

    He noted that he was invited to speak at Saddleback “despite [Warren’s] awareness” that Obama disagrees with him on abortion.

    “There are going to be a wide range of viewpoints that will be presented, and that’s how it should be…That dialogue I think is part of what my campaign’s been all about,” he said.


  • Working Together

    I’m all for working together and listening to all sides. That’s why I supported Obama. But I didn’t support Obama to have him champion intolerant, fundamentalist religious views. In my mind, that’s what this does. It validates Warren’s opinions. I’m removing my name from Obama’s mailing list. I’ll depend on Bleeding Heartland to keep me informed.

    • Maybe we should wait

      till the inauguration before we say Obama “champions intolereant, fundamentalist religious views.”  If Warren does engage in gay-bashing at the inauguration and Obama stands grinning there and says nothing, then it definitely is a valid point.  But for now, all these liberal reactions reek of intolerance to me.  Could we acknowledge the good things Warren champions and hope that his friendship with the most powerful person in the world he may come around one day on gay issues?  As an extreme social liberal, I am very happy Obama is taking this approach.  

      • I don't expect Warren to bash gays at the inauguration

        but what if he did? What is Obama supposed to do at that point? Cut him off and lecture him about intolerance? Then headlines around the world the next day will be about this controversy.

        Obama should pick someone we don’t have to worry about embarrassing him.

        By the way, Obama stood by when Donnie McClurkin talked about homosexuality being curable at that infamous SC event.

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