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?
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?