It's all over the blogosphere - condemnations of President-Elect Obama's choice of Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation at Obama's inauguration. Not only are members of the LGBT community upset by this choice, but so are many others who support their civil rights and believe in equality for all. I am among the latter, and certainly agree Warren represents all that is evil about the religious right and their ignorant, bigoted views of the gay community, hiding behind a smarmy smile and a veneer of civilization just because he has supported helping AIDS victims in Africa.
My hopes for the Obama Administration are in a battle with my revulsion about Warren. I have been reading so many excellent posts about the controversy I thought rather than say something myself that has been said better elsewhere, I'd round up some of the comments I've been reading.
There have been many outcries of hurt and anger from some of my favorite bloggers - FranIAm has expressed her dismay in her recent posts, as has Christopher at From the Left. In one of his posts, he stated:
"The liberal and progressive community looked the other way and gave you the benefit of the doubt when you voted for the FISA bill and hired a series of retreads from the Clinton administration but dragging Rick Warren to Washington DC on January , 2009, goes too far and is unforgivable."
Godless Liberal Homo is saying that attendees at the inauguration should boo Warren when he takes the stage.
"Rick Warren should not be playing a major role in a Barack Obama's inauguration. Warren has devoted a major portion of his life promoting oppression, bigotry, and violence against women and queers. Obama is following the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush policy of pandering to heterosexist and misogynistic religious extremists. So much for "Change You Can Believe In."
Obama's invitation to Warren is a vicious, personal attack against every woman in this country.
Obama's invitation to Warren is a vicious, personal attack against every queer in this country.
One thing that people in DC for this disgraced inauguration should do is to boo that bigoted extremist the minute he starts spewing his bullshit until he shuts his hateful mouth. America needs to send a message that bigotry and militant fundamentalism have no legitimate role to play in politics or society as a whole."
DCup posted an excellent clip of Keith Olbermann talking to Rob Boston of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State on Countdown, and pointed out that the separation of church and state issue has to be straightened out, as well as linking to some other great posts on the subject.
Obama has defended his choice of Warren, saying:
"'I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak despite his awareness that I held views that are entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights and issues like abortion,' Obama said. 'Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak. And that dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign is all about: that we're not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.'"
Many feel this explanation doesn't cut it, that "tolerating the intolerant" is going too far when it comes to inclusiveness.
However, there are other perspectives out there, and I think it's important to consider them.
James Joiner over at An Average American Patriot has another point of view.
"I just love it! It is vintage Obama reaching out to both sides, i think this is great! While gay rights groups were busy objecting to the selection of Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren, who opposes same-sex marriage, to give the invocation at the inauguration, they may have failed to notice who is giving the benediction.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, 87, is best known as a civil rights icon and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He also comes from a liberal Christian mainline religious tradition, the United Methodist Church.
In 2000, Lowery, gave what was described as an electrifying speech calling for gay clergy, to the dinner during the general convention of the United Methodist Church, the nation's second largest Protestant denomination....
And in 2004, he told ABC News he supported same sex marriage..."
Dusty at It's My Right to be Left of the Center has this response to the controversy:
"Warren is saying the opening prayer people, that is all. He isn't part of the cabinet and he won't be setting policy..so if all this yahoo is doing is saying a friggin prayer..how does that affect the fight for LGBT equality? Obama picked a pro-gay rights man, Joseph Lowery to give the benediction, which is another prayer right?"
She goes on to point out:
"My point in this whole mess is that we must choose our battles carefully. Rick the fuckwit Warren isn't worth our time and energy. No one is ever going to convince him that the LGBT community deserves the same rights as everyone else....I will say that Warren is less offensive than the vast majority of Theocratic wingnuts. He doesn't call AIDS God's revenge on gays and he believes climate change is real and churches have a responsibility to deal with it.
That means we have some common ground with Warren. That means we, the universal we, should find a way to make Warren and his sheep part of the equation on climate change and AIDS. It also means we can take our talking points to him on the subject of gay equality, but do it in a respectful way. If we use the Rush Limbaugh method, we won't get far...correct?
Obama wants to unite us all around our common beliefs. I think he purposefully picked Warren to show he is reaching out to all sides....
Obama is going to piss off the right, the left and the centrist folks many more times before his term comes to an end. Lets not allow Warren's prayer to divide those of us that believe in the fight for gay rights ok? If we are going to pick our battles wisely...this ain't one of them that will do us any good in the long or short run."
Comrade Kevin talks about why he shifted from the radical left to a more moderate stance:
"When I was in my early twenties, I flirted with radical activist politics....In short, it was too much, it was draining, and I never got any resolution for all of my lofty goals and aspirations. Furthermore, the strident voices of the radical left, while they aim to win converts, end up isolating themselves...and instead of informing the masses, they instead turn off the average Jane or Joe....
It was at that point that I shifted more to the middle. Not because I was actively surrendering my ideals, but mostly because as a moderate it was highly plausible to occasionally see some reforms I favored passed into action. The life of a radical is a life of feeling supremely isolated....Even the biggest success gets parsed, analyzed, and transformed into something else to be angry about---mostly because the change enacted didn't go far enough. Being that radicals almost never get anything they want, I couldn't function for long as one of them.
Now we're in the part of the political season whereby we are called to collectively second-guess the cabinet selections and tentative decisions of the President-Elect. I have a totally different perspective, since Obama's election in and of itself is joyous to me. I think perhaps we must think we're somehow obligated to get everything we want exactly the way we want it, which subsequently reminds me of my radical days. Even if the most liberal political candidate ever was elected, I don't know if he or she would make every decision more or less in line with the whims of the left-wing base. I'm not sure if we're a nation of whiners as much as we are a nation which claims to want a diversity of ideas, that is, as long as they're the same are ours."
In her comment on Dusty's blog post, Karen Zipdrive also echoed this point of view:
"As a bonafide queer for 40 years now, I think I've earned the right to have an opinion on this.
My opinion, which I've scattered throughout blogworld, is that a two minute prayer given by a slobby evangelista is not worth fretting.
Obama said he planned to be inclusive, and as a die-hard liberal I have to accept that he's being more inclusive than I ever would.
But we saw how sickening it was to watch Bush exclude everyone with whom he differed, and we saw what hatred that behavior fomented.
If that's not enough to salve the wounds of my fellow homos and our supporters, consider these points:
1. The evangelical colleagues of Warren are outraged that he accepted the invitation.
2. The sight of Shakira shaking her considerable assets on the same night cancels out 2 minutes of Jesusian mumbo-jumbo.
3. The sound of Aretha belting out a tune double cancels Rev. Slobbo.
4. The sound of YoYo Ma's cello will soothe the eardrums of anyone who were offended by hearing the prayer.
5. The short prayer gives all of us ample opportunity to go to the bathroom, then to the kitchen for a little snack.
So keep your powder dry, my friends. All this righteous indignation makes us look like the sour prunes on the right.
Let's roll with it, I say."
The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, has put forth a list of agenda items they want Obama to pledge to support, in order to help them get past the slap in the face he has offered by choosing Warren. This is probably a good idea for Obama to consider in order to heal the rift this choice has opened.
We have to keep in mind that Obama has already said he would support a number of policies favorable to the LGBT community.
"'While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.'
-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007
The Obama-Biden Plan
Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. Barack Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
Fight Workplace Discrimination: Barack Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. Obama also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: Barack Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: Barack Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: Barack Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. Obama will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
Expand Adoption Rights: Barack Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not."
OK, so where does that leave me? You have to "stand for something or you fall for anything," as the saying goes.
Here's the way I see it.
President-Elect Obama, whatever decisions he makes in terms of picking his cabinet or his inauguration speakers, still offers a WAY better future for all of us than the McCain-Palin duo would have if they had been elected, and not just on this issue but on most issues near and dear to progressive hearts.
Besides, he has a few other items on his plate that are going to need a lot of thought, effort and focus:
1. Closing Gitmo
2. Getting out of Iraq
3. Fixing the worst economy since the Depression
4. Establishing universal healthcare
And that's only four things, just to get him started. There are plenty of others. We need to remember we elected Barack Obama to solve a lot of serious things that have been wrong with this country for eight long years.
We can't let his choice of Warren sidetrack us and once again cause us to self-destruct through divisions among our ranks, as Democrats often do.
For once, let's stay together and support this President. He is going to need all the help he can get and he is only human.
He has a belief in inclusion which is welcome after eight long years of exclusion. If he overdoes it and invites someone like Warren to the table, he needs to be told it was hurtful to many of his supporters. But we shouldn't "rip our shirts" and say he is dead to us. That is self-defeating.
Perhaps when he says he doesn't believe in gay marriage, he means it. But he does support a lot of initiatives that favor the gay community. And, he has an open mind, which means he may realize at some point, if communications remain open with the gay community, that civil unions are just another example of "separate" being inherently unequal.
If we condemn him and no longer support him during the next four years, this education may not happen and, as Comrade Kevin points out, we don't get what we want.
Am I happy that President-Elect Obama chose Warren? No, of course not. I feel it was very hurtful and what concerns me is he doesn't seem to have the sensitivity to understand why it was so hurtful. But we must remember that he does support a very progressive agenda and it will benefit all of us and the entire country if he is able to carry it out successfully.
And, because of Warren, he owes the LGBT community BIG. He will need to do something pretty dramatic early in his administration, such as repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, to prove which side he is on.
In closing, I'd like to reiterate something many have already pointed out about this whole debacle. If we had true separation of church and state, this whole controversy would be moot, because there would be no inaugural prayer. But that is a problem for another day. (When is the next Blog Against Theocracy?)