The Rick Warren Bru-ha-ha

I am of two minds on the Rick Warren matter.

My first reaction is to say, “Look, I don’t like the guy either. I don’t agree with his theology. I don’t agree with his politics. But it isn’t like he was chosen to be the minister-in-chief or something. He is giving an invocation. I know it has a lot of symbolic meaning, but it doesn’t have any practical consequences in and of itself. It is a gesture of the president elect to say, ‘I am not a president only to progressives or to liberals, but a president to the whole country.’ And, there are big parts of the country that can identify with Rev. Rick Warren. And, as conservative evangelical pastors go, he is one of the less offensive ones who has at least made some overtures toward changing the tone of the rhetoric. My hope is that it is a gesture that will soften the hearts of those who would tend to be more opposed to Obama and his policies. It will not solve many problems, but it is a gesture of unity, which people are always talking about. You know, one country, working out our differences and that sort of thing. By saying all of this, I don’t mean to say that I don’t understand why people don’t like it. Heck, I don’t like it either. But I see it as a strategic move that may help in the long run with things that matter more than who gives the invocation at the inauguration.” (It is of course another matter whether there should be invocations and benedictions at inaugurations anyway.)

That said, it occurred to me how often discrimination against women or the GLBTQ community can often be chalked up to theology, while few people will stand for discrimination against ethnic minorities chalked up to theology. I try to imagine if someone gave the invocation that said that they still supported slavery based on theology. Or that women should obey thier husbands based on theology (heck, Warren may agree with the second of those statements). What would it mean to have someone give the invocation as a gesture of unity and goodwill who was known to support legalized discrimination against women – that they should get paid less, that rape should be less of a crime, that they should not have inheritance rights? Hmm. No matter how symbolic or strategic that would be, I would be feeling really unhappy about this. So then I started rethinking what I said above.

And now I just don’t know. The thing is, so many of these difficult issues are totally intrackable. “We” dig in our heals. “They” dig in their heels. We write on our blogs about why we are right. We affirm each other at our churches about why we are right. We are smug. We know whose side God is on. And where does this get us? What is the way forward toward better understanding each other, finding common ground to work on together, even, dare I say it, finding areas where compromise makes sense. I am not talking about any particular issue, but rather all of these very intense social and political issues that are so close to our hearts – all of our hearts – and where it seems so difficult to move forward.

I’m guessing having Rick Warren give the invocation at the inauguration isn’t the answer. But I wish we could come up with a better one that just insisting on how right and just we are and getting offended and indignant. Not that I am somehow immune to this. I do it to. But there must be a better way…

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6 Responses to The Rick Warren Bru-ha-ha

  1. Inviting Rick Warren to speak at the Presidential inauguration is tantamount to inviting O.J. Simpson to speak at a women’s shelter.

    Evan Wolfson guesstimates we will have Federal Marriage Equality in about 30 years (which would almost certainly require equality in employment and the military also).

    So we need to either EMBRACE the fact that most of us over 40 will NOT see Full Federal Equality in our lifetime and remain “patient” as our civil rights crawl to the finish line…- OR – We could begin to TREAT the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT as it treats US.

    Two American Myths:

    * Equal Protection Under the Law (except for gays)
    * Separation of Church & State (except when the law applies to gays or a woman’s womb)

    When Obama invited this “christian” to his speak at his inauguration, he invited a man who believes the Q-community are INFERIOR; “less than”. Let’s quit sugar-coating these turds! Being asked to “respect other’s opinions” doesn’t fly when those “opinions” are harmful lies about an entire segment of the population. Those “opinions” are tantamount to the extremely offensive beliefs and ideas our country once had about “negros” and “wives”, words and ideas that would NEVER FLY TODAY at an inauguration. Words and ideas that would incite riots today.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    My guess is that John is posting this to every post he sees on the topic. Which is okay, even though it is a bit spam like. I think it is a great way for me to make my point. I’m just not sure how much stuff like this accomplishes. It sort of reminds me about my thoughts on vegetarians that “tell it like it is.” I agree with what they say about how bad it is for the environment, how terrible for animals, how inhumane, and all that, but if you just “tell it like it is” and think that that somehow convinces more people or moves the movement forward, I think a lot of thought has not gone into strategy. Likewise, I agree with John about how terrible it is to deny basic rights and dignity to BGLTQ people – both politically and theologically – but I am just not sure that calling people turds is really that helpful in terms of getting things accomplished…

  3. Scott Wells says:

    Well, isn’t Warren positing himself as minister-in-chief? A latter-day Bill Graham? I think he wants the access, and that’s pretty damaging. Even if Warren give the invocation, the protest may mean his phone calls don’t get returned so fast in future.

    And I think you’re pretty off-base to suggest that people who defend themselves get a blanket description of “smug”.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t think I was implying that “people who defend themselves” are smug. I was discussing the way that many people who feel very strongly about one side or the other of the so-called culture war issues come are often smug, sure of themselves, pleased with themselves to be on the right side of the issue. I’ve seen this plenty in very conservative circles and plenty in liberal circles, including Unitarian Universalist ones, and often by people who make very little effort to at least understand where the other “side” is coming from.

    Even if Warren would like to be the minister-in-chief, a later-day Billy Graham, I don’t think that giving the innovation or not is going to impact that much. That said, as I pointed out, I don’t like it, and I’m not comfortable with it, and I don’t agree with him, but I struggle with a way forward that does not completely alienate one side or the other and send us off to our respective corners to rally our side around what we know to be right. Perhaps that is the only way to do it. But I would like to think that there might be an alternative.

  5. Chuck B. says:

    I disagree with the selection, and with the missed opportunity.

    I think it should have been a UU minister. One of the things that annoys me is that a line can be drawn from the death of the only white woman to die in the civil rights struggle (a UU thank you very much) and the passing of the voting rights act and Obama’s election.

    That’s what really burns me. A UU Boston minister could have solved the problem. Tell that history and paint anyone disagreeing with the choice as a racist bigot. Nuff Said.

  6. kylydia says:

    “(It is of course another matter whether there should be invocations and benedictions at inaugurations anyway.)”

    I wish THIS were the focus of more ire, but I can’t seem to stir any up in my section of the Bible Belt.

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