Jesurgislac’s Journal

January 13, 2009

Two days separation makes it safe

I don’t know whether it disturbed me worse: whether Rick Warren’s invitation was a classic mistake on the lines of “we’re BFF, I don’t need to vet him” or if Obama had Warren vetted and either didn’t care or approved of Warren’s beliefs about effective AIDS work, torture, and same-sex marriage.

For example: this interview in which Warren compares same-sex marriage to child molestation, incest, and polygamy; or Warren’s championing of Martin Ssempa, whose notion of fighting AIDS in Uganda is to burn condoms and preach abstinence – either of which should have been enough to eliminate Warren as a choice for this honour.

As Michelle Goldberg notes, same-sex marriage isn’t the only thing that one hopes Warren and Obama don’t agree on:

Meanwhile, while Warren says he opposes torture, he doesn’t treat the subject with anything like the zeal he accords gay marriage and abortion. As he recently told Beliefnet.com, he never even brought up the subject with the Bush administration, where he had considerable access. Just before the 2004 election, he sent out an e-mail to his congregation outlining the five issues that he considered “non-negotiable”. “In order to live a purpose-driven life – to affirm what God has clearly stated about his purpose for every person he creates – we must take a stand by finding out what the candidates believe about these five issues, and then vote accordingly,” he wrote. The issues were abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, cloning and euthanasia. Torture, apparently, is something that decent Christians can disagree on.

Was Obama genuinely ignorant of this? Was Warren’s selection just the first failure of the Obama administration to vet candidates?

Or did Obama know that Warren opposes effective AIDS campaigning in Africa, thinks torture is an issue that Christians can agree-to-disagree on, and that Warren is the kind of Christian homophobe decent people should want sidelined as a radical, not given this kind of central honour – and just not care?

John Cole dissed us as “shrieking idiots”:

Or Rick Warren speaks for 3 minutes at the inauguration and Democrats everywhere shriek that Obama hates gays and some idiots go so far as to cancel their inauguration parties.

In this thread on Obsidian Wings, a remarkable number of people crawled out of the woodwork and agreed with John Cole – anyone protesting Rick Warren’s selection to give the invocation had lost the plot. Obviously Obama was just “reaching out”, “being inclusive”. He’d made a definite commitment to repeal DADT. He’d said he would repeal DOMA.

As I said:

At the time of young Barack’s birth, the same kind of Christians who today object to same-sex marriage were then objecting to interracial marriage, or miscegenation, as against God’s will. The Supreme Court decision that anti-democratically overturned the right of individual states to legislate against the marriage of Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr didn’t happen till young Barack was six. Indeed, the last state to repeal the law against Barack Obama’s parents being married was Alabama, in 2000.

Would Barack Obama have invited a Christian to give a prayer at his inaugeration who had, weeks earlier, described his parents’ marriage – or that of any interracial couple – as being like paedophilia or bestiality?

Were I ever to have 3 minutes uninterrupted conversation with Barack Obama, with the guarantee that he would answer a question honestly, I don’t doubt I would have more important questions to ask than this, but still, I would like to know: would Obama want to receive a prayer from someone who thinks Obama’s parents are like child or animal molestors? And if he would not, why does he feel it’s OK to have Rick Warren give a prayer?

And why do so many straight Americans feel that it’s just not OK for LGBT people to feel insulted by Obama’s decision to “reach out” to conservative Christians who think that the only way to “reach out” to LGBT people is to spit on us?

Uncle Kvetch wrote in the same thread:

The selection of Warren for the invocation was enough to make him change his mind. He did not “shriek” or get hysterical about it. He did not conclude that Obama must “hate gays” because of it. But it was enough to make him feel that we were no longer on the same footing as straight people where this particular event was concerned. To reiterate what’s been said a million times in the last month, this was not a case of anti-gay evangelicals being granted “a place at the table”; this was about them being given a place of honor. No openly gay person was offered anything remotely similar for this event.

Now, where LGBTs will stand in terms of Obama’s administration, of course, is another story, and only time will tell. My partner says he’s gone from full-blown enthusiasm to cautious optimism–he’s certainly not giving up hope. And considering what was involved in going to Philly–burning a precious vacation day, spending the money and time for the trip, not knowing if he was going to get anywhere near the actual event because of the crowds–he decided it wasn’t worth it.

It all seems pretty reasonable and not the least bit idiotic, if you ask me.

But then I turn around and see reactions of this kind being portrayed by my ostensible political allies as nothing more than a bunch of self-absorbed drama queens throwing hissy fits. Not “I disagree with you” or “I think you’re overreacting,” mind you, but rather words like “idiot” and “douchebag.”

Another ObWing regular, Cleek, argued that Rick Warren’s views on homosexuality were perfectly normal for Christians (and yet another, Now_what, said that Obama had to “govern from the centre” which means honouring mad religious dingbats, apparently.)

What I wrote in response:

I was brought up a Christian: my parents and my sister still identify as Christians: for personal reasons, I still occasionally attend mass at a local church; I have read the entire Bible from beginning to end, many books in it more than once, I have read more Christian theology than most Christians I have met, I have friends who go to church regularly from Presbyterian to Episcopalian and a lot of the sects in between, and when a man of God gets up and says that for two men to get married is like paedophilia, ordinary, normal Christians find that bloody offensive.

Because ordinary, normal Christians think what Jesus says matters more than what Paul wrote to early Christian churches a couple of thousand years ago, or what the law of Leviticus says Jews have to do to keep their race pure. Read C.S.Lewis on homosexuality at public schools in Surprised by Joy: he points out that the main reason for Christians in thinking (wrongly, he avers) that homosexuality is somehow a worse sin than any other routinely committed by schoolboys, is because (as was true at the time he was writing) homosexuality is against the law.

Christians like Rick Warren – wingnuts – want you to think their twisted, screwed-up version of Christianity which teaches that homosexuality is “immoral, sinful, abominable, dangerous, corrupting” is “normal Christianity”. It isn’t. I don’t believe it’s even normal Christianity in the US: it’s just powerful. Politically powerful, powerful in the media, and distorted through media representation. For God’s sake, it was the New Hampshire Episcopalians who elected Gene Robinson as bishop! It was Christians who chose Robinson to become their bishop, and Christians who support him. They are the normal, ordinary Christians, not the screaming maniacs who threaten to murder Robinson for being ordained bishop and for being married to a man!

[In response to Cleek's comment that "the real radical in this inauguration is the other preacher Obama has invited. you know, the one nobody on the left is mad about, the one who's OK with homosexuality. apparently Obama gets no credit here for that. he only gets negative points for inviting the typical Christian."]
Inviting a normal, ordinary Christian who takes a normal Christian attitude to homosexuality is not radical. What would have been radical would have been inviting Gene Robinson.

Well: Obama isn’t inviting Bishop Robinson to the Inauguration. That would be too radical – too much honour for one of those queers Rick Warren loves to spit on. But Obama is inviting him “to deliver the invocation at an event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial two days before the swearing-in ceremony” cite.

Gene Robinson, bless him, said: “I am totally excited and a little overwhelmed. It ranks up there with some of the most important moments of my life. We have put an enormous burden on this man and I want to remind the country that we have a part to play in this too.”

Yeah. Maybe next time, if there is a next time, Obama will disinvite Warren and invite Robinson, instead of carefully putting him two days off in case Warren throws a tizzy-fit. Or maybe not, because the question’s still open: was Warren’s invitation the result of a failure to vet him, or does Obama agree with Warren’s views about AIDS and torture, and see Warren’s bigotry against LGBT people as unimportant?

4 Comments »

  1. I disagree still. I was much less happy with Obama after the last time we spoke, considering that he never even gave comments attempting to explain himself or apologize for his choice.

    If I was to argue against the points that you raise above, I would first point out that gay rights are not the only point that Warren was vetted on, and that while Warren is a homophobic moron he probably didn’t score quite so badly on other points, and he represents many thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans, possibly as large a segment of America as the four million or so gay Americans constitute.

    Second, I would point out that an invitation to the official events has probably be offered to people like Rove or Ashcroft or possibly Gonzales. But an invitation to participate in an official event to “outreach” to some Americans doesn’t mean as much to me as the leader of a non-required, non-official event that Obama is choosing to attend. On his own. Led by a “radical” Gene Robinson that the evangelicals don’t like at all.

    Comment by Spherical Time — January 14, 2009 @ 1:21 am | Reply

  2. he probably didn’t score quite so badly on other points

    I’ve seen several people cite Warren’s work with AIDS in Africa, who were apparently unaware that what this amounts to is Warren’s close links with Uganda’s disastrous reversal of the safe-sex/encourage condom-use program. If Obama thinks that discouraging condom use and discouraging safe sex is the direction that AIDs work should go, this is actually much more serious a problem in global terms than Obama’s support for Warren’s army of disgusting homophobic bigots who want to take away the civil and human rights of at least 12 million Americans.

    I also think that Warren’s live-and-let-live attitude towards torture may be indicative of Obama’s plans to let the crimes of the previous administration go – if Rick Warren doesn’t think it’s a sticking point, will Obama?

    On both counts, of course, we have to wait and see what Obama does. I don’t know if Obama has actually praised Warren for his work on AIDs in Africa, or if it’s just another of the things he doesn’t consider all that important.

    But an invitation to participate in an official event to “outreach” to some Americans doesn’t mean as much to me as the leader of a non-required, non-official event that Obama is choosing to attend. On his own. Led by a “radical” Gene Robinson that the evangelicals don’t like at all.

    Which is scheduled a careful two days from the official event, so that none of the homophobic bigots whom Obama wants to like him will need to worry about it. Even Rick Warren thinks it’s okay to be condescendingly nice to queers, so long as you don’t pretend they’re in any way equal to straight people.

    Comment by jesurgislac — January 14, 2009 @ 1:37 am | Reply

  3. First of all, Warren’s work in Africa amounts to exposing more Africans to AIDS- hey, they’re straight, but they’re still black, so who cares? *headdesk*

    And why do so many straight Americans feel that it’s just not OK for LGBT people to feel insulted by Obama’s decision to “reach out” to conservative Christians who think that the only way to “reach out” to LGBT people is to spit on us

    I am regularly taken to task for being “too hard” on fundys who say that all atheists are immoral, lying mass murderers. If I showed up at their houses with some gasoline and a big book of matches, I still wouldn’t be being “too hard” on them. Hello? “Mass murderer”?

    While I did not find the LGBT community’s reaction to be “shrieking”, so what if it was? If somebody called me a child rapist or pigf**ker, I’d shriek. You’d hear me on Mars. Is there anything more offensive you could call someone? If so, what is it? Raper of adults would still be better than raper of children. I have friends that were molested as children, so even murderer might be nicer.

    So, Jesurgislac (and someday you must explain the name to me), yell long and loud, rock the boat and make a huge stink. Don’t quietly slink away and sit in the back of the bus and drink from the gay fountain. And don’t accept the idea that you must continually put out a hand in conciliation to people who will only spit on you. (Yes, the whole “molester” thing really gets me going.)

    Comment by Personal Failure — January 14, 2009 @ 2:02 pm | Reply

  4. Jesurgislac: I’ve seen several people cite Warren’s work with AIDS in Africa, who were apparently unaware that what this amounts to is Warren’s close links with Uganda’s disastrous reversal of the safe-sex/encourage condom-use program.

    I was one of them. You taught me different on that score.

    Jesurgislac: I also think that Warren’s live-and-let-live attitude towards torture may be indicative of Obama’s plans to let the crimes of the previous administration go – if Rick Warren doesn’t think it’s a sticking point, will Obama?

    See, now, I don’t think that Warren has anything to do with that decision, although I do think that you’re right. I don’t think he’s going to prosecute Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales. That totally bothers me too.

    Jesurgislac: On both counts, of course, we have to wait and see what Obama does. I don’t know if Obama has actually praised Warren for his work on AIDs in Africa, or if it’s just another of the things he doesn’t consider all that important.

    I suspect that one is a failure of vetting. If the general consensus of people is that he “works against AIDS in Africa” then I doubt his people realized that he’s actually assisting in the spread of the disease.

    Jesurgislac: Even Rick Warren thinks it’s okay to be condescendingly nice to queers, so long as you don’t pretend they’re in any way equal to straight people.

    Let’s see how he treats queers. Repealing DOMA and DADT will be good first steps.

    Comment by Spherical Time — January 14, 2009 @ 5:37 pm | Reply


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