On January 20, Rick Warren will give the invocation at Obama's inauguration. This has caused much uproar, outcry, and gnashing of teeth in the progressive and gay communities, for obvious reasons.
Four years ago, I wrote about my dislike for Rick Warren. My distress over the passage of California's Proposition 8 is just as public. I have been solidly in Obama's camp since the Dead's endorsement back in February.
So...what's the deal here with Rick Warren?
In a recent, well-written column by Jon Carroll in the Chronicle, called The Purpose-Driven Bigot, Carroll totally, and logically describes why inviting Rick Warren was such a mistake. I couldn't disagree with any of it, and especially resonated with this statement:
It was an easy trap to avoid, is what I'm saying. It was an easy statement to refrain from making. But Obama has chosen to start his administration with a bigot addressing God on behalf of the American people. Not the change I was hoping for.
So..what's the deal here with Rick Warren?
Why would I dare touch this? Perhaps the same stupidity that prevents me from being silent when I should just stifle; who knows? But I think there's something extra going on here. Perhaps I just want my heroic image of Obama to be vindicated, and not dragged down into some sort of crass political expediency. I don't think Obama is throwing gays under the bus by any means. I see revisionists laying the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy towards gays in the military at Bill Clinton's feet, but I feel that's unfair. Clinton tried to do away with discrimination against gays in the military, but ran into such a buzzsaw, DADT was forged in the process of compromise.
I think that what's going on here is that Obama is trying to bring two disparate worlds together, to see and experience each other.
To progressives like myself, the issue of marriage equality is a no-brainer, and just another in a long line of examples of why church and state need to be kept separate. There's nothing vague about this. But to many people, who may have voted for Proposition 8, they may have a different reality. Some of them are outright homophobes, but I supect many of them are just out of touch, and have not been able to see our gay brothers and sisters as, well, simply our brothers and sisters. I heard one commentator on the radio say that if everyone had been to one of the same-sex marriages that went on recently in California, the vote would have been different. I truly believe that. When one can put a face to 'the other' it is no longer 'the other.'
In short, what I think Obama is doing is bringing two worlds together to try and work it out. I think this falls under the You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar philosophy. It's sort of like a time warp. If we were to look at ourselves a century ago, there are many aspects of our lives we would all (hopefully!) agree have no place in the modern world. I think in most respects, many evangelicals are good people, but are still in a mindset that blinds them to the consequences of their actions. If Obama can bring us together, could we indeed 'work it out?'
Hey, it's not even January 20th yet! I prefer to give Obama the benefit of the doubt at this point.
All good things in all good time.