Sunday, December 21, 2008

Another Perspective on the Rick Warren Controversy

I've been pretty ambivalent over the whole Rick Warren debacle down south. While I understand the objections being raised, I can't help but wonder - outside of the Unitarians, the Quakers, the left wing of the Methodist Church and Bishop John Spong, are there actually any mainstream Christian ministers in the United States of America who DON'T think that homosexuality is an abomination before the Lord?

Still, I haven't been real keen to wade in on the whole controversy because a) I'm not gay, b) I know almost nothing about Rick Warren, and c) frankly, I think placing that much importance on a prayer during a political event is stupid.

Happily, someone from the gay community in England has articulated a well thought-out response to all of this that saves me the trouble. He makes several excellent points:

...Warren is no James Dobson or Jerry Falwell.

He does not preach hate, even if some of his statements about gay marriage may be offensive, false, and frankly absurd.

He may not support same-sex marriage, but his position on equality for gay and lesbian people does not differ hugely from that of Obama - or indeed his opponents for the Democratic nomination, Senators Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

He believes in providing equal protections for the LGBT community. He is also in favour of same-sex unions, just as we have in the United Kingdom.

...Let’s also remember that it was Billy Graham, who once said that all homosexuals should be castrated, who gave the invocation at President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.

...It should also be noted that at the inauguration Rev Joseph Lowery will join Pastor Warren in offering prayers.

He is the 'dean of the Civil Rights movement', the man who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr and a Christian who supports same-sex marriage.

Ah! So there IS one!

I'm not saying the American gay community shouldn't continue to hold Obama's feet to the fire on this. But I do agree with the author of this essay that perhaps they should focus less on a single prayer on a single day, and more on the benefits the Obama presidency is likely to have for GLBT rights and other progressive goals if they decide to work with him instead of attacking him for every slight.

(gawd, I really do sound like a Liberal, don't I?)


  1. You can bet that the right will be on Obama's case over every slight real or perceived. I think the left is simply applying the lesson they finally learned: if they remain silent then even the politicians they support will slide to the right. The squeaky wheel and all that.

  2. Jennifer, as a) a gay male, b) someone who knows a moderate amount about Rick Warren, but lots about others like him, and c) one who, as an atheist, thinks no religious rituals should be included in a governmental function, I've got some differences of opinion on this.

    If Obama feels there should be a continuance of the tradition of having preaching involved in the inauguration ceremonies, I would like to suggest he have one or both of his charming daughters deliver a message of inspiration. This would not offend anyone of any religious persuasion, in my estimation.

    For him to elevate to a position of honour on a national day of celebration someone of Rick Warren's ilk is deeply offensive to me as a gay male. Having lived in the US South during most of my adult life, the effect these evangelical preachers have had on keeping homosexuals closeted or abused is something no human being should have to relive by seeing one of them on an inaugural stage. The fact that he was deeply involved in California's Prop 8 campaign to deny gay citizens in that state a right that straight people enjoy, plus his comparing us to pedophiles, bestiality, etc., are just some of the many facts about Warren's history that should shame any supposed "christian."

    Obama's move is not surprising based on his statements during the campaign, and many gay people chose to accept the "lesser of two evils" choice that is usually presented to the US public. However, to extend this invitation to a person certain to upset one of your major voting blocks is not too bright politically, and unforgivable to many in that that same block. Once again, the dems think they can automatically count on the gays, the women and the African Americans, so "don't worry 'bout them, they'll fall in line." I say bullshit.

    To put this into a context that perhaps Mr. Obama could understand, perhaps one of the comments on the British essay you quote is in order:

    If Obama wishes to appear inclusive to his gay and lesbian supporters, then he should also invite the Lord Grand High Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to show his black supporters how "inclusive" he intends to be. The Rick Warren-ites are the KKK for those of us who have fought long and hard for inclusion.
    Bad advice, bad decision.

    Comment by Unhappyjohn

  3. Hi Jennifer...I'm with West End Bob with this one. But here's the thing. Obama knows we're not going to suddenly become Republicans. We are always taken for granted. We are too few and marginalized to change ANYTHING. All we can do is keep speaking out rather than being silenced as well. All we can do is embarrass him.Which considering how offensive Rick Warren is to us seems hardly unreasonable. Especially since it might speed up the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and give Obama a chance to SHOW how much he loves us. Hey when you're forced to fight for your rights all your life you get pretty good at it.
    And yes you are sounding like a Liberal but I forgive you... :)

  4. If there's one thing I've personally noticed amongst my USA-based friends and acquaintances, it's that Obama's supporters will take nothing for granted anymore. No matter what part of his "big tent" they're hailing from, they're taking no chances anymore.

  5. Rep. Barney Frank surprised me on Wolfie Blitzer yesterday. When asked about the Warren invitation by the Obama camp, I really thought Barney would give some platitudes about being inclusive/reaching out/big tent, blah, blah, blah. To his credit he gave Obama no slack at all and called it offensive to him and the GLBT community.

    Go Barney . . . .

  6. I'm thinking my first instinct to stay out of this may have been correct :)

    Anger and criticism are one thing - I would just hate to see the gay community abandon Obama altogether.

  7. Anyone who would compare pedophiles and incest to gays in ANY sense is as vile as they are. People who torture innocent newborns and children are as evil as they come. To equate gays this way shows an ignorance and frankly unintelligence. What is with these evangelical pastors dumbing down congregations and all the while showing bigotry at its best. He needs to apologize to the gay community and if you love gays so much, you egotistical wind bag then share the stage with an openly gay clergy...... I am not gay but I truely believe that we should stand behind them. Mr.Intolerance also does not list abuse as a reason for divorce and thinks in a marriage that the wife is not "quite" as equal .I hope no drama Obama has something up his sleeve for doing this because I have been a big supporter.

  8. I'm not gay but I'm with Westend Bob on this.
    I have suggested they follow the protocol used in BC: invite the Chief of the First Nations, whose territory we are on to give the Blessing, Invocation, prayer.
    If that person is not available then try Buffy St. Marie.