Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shrewd sidelining, or shocking sell-out?

Barack Obama is a skilled politician.

That's at least what I'm counting on, because the alternative is worrying. It seems that Barack Obama has invited Rick Warren, the Palmer Joss of the 21st century, to give the invocation at Obama's inauguration.

Here is what Rick Warren (founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, a megachurch located in Southern California, and author of the bestseller The Purpose Driven Life) says about gay marriage (emphasis added by me):

One controversial moment for you in the last election was your support for proposition 8 in California. …

The issue to me, I’m not opposed to [California's 1999 domestic partnership law] as much as I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?

Oh , I do.

It seems in his haste, Warren forgot about bestiality and sex with plants. Or can plants and animals marry each other? What does it say when, regardless of his feelings about gays, a person who is invited to speak at a Presidential Inauguration cannot distinguish the large number of gays seeking cohabitation from the infinitesimal number of "other" unions (like dog/fire hydrant). Last I checked, there were not 18,000 brother/sister pairs lining up in California to legalize their sibling pair bond. This distortion is defamation, and if Warren does not see a qualitative difference, at least Obama should extract from him an admission that gay marriage is quantitatively different from these "slippery slope" false comparisons before giving him the microphone.

Or perhaps I'm being too thin-skinned? This is just a speech, after all. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Any good discussion has a least two sides. Let's hear from one of Warren's defender's. Steven Waldman, the founder of the mainstream and centrist website, offers this defense of Warren's views. I will merely summarize the main points here:

  1. Warren has used his fame and fortune primarily to help the most destitute people in the world. He reverse tithes, giving away 90% and keeping 10%.
  2. He's worked hard to get other conservative evangelicals to care more about poverty
  3. He has voiced his own spiritual doubts.
  4. He's mostly about God.
  5. For Obama, picking Warren for the inauguration...helps to depoliticize prayer — which, of course, is very politically shrewd.

Reason 1 sounds great, and Warren is a good counterforce to the grotesque and very unChristian belief in the Prosperity Gospel, and though reasons 2-4 are no more than one should expect of any Christian pastor, you rarely get it in most megapastors. But the last reason is self-contradictory. The very purpose of having a prayer at a political event is to mingle religion and politics, to remind the sovereign that he rules dei gratia and not merely populo volente. Still, majority sensibilities must be assuaged (and Obama of course professes to be Christian), so if politics is what Obama is playing, I fully support the move.

But, as I wrote in an earlier post, Obama is not in favor of gay marriage either. Since the President has no power over state matters like marriage, I will be content if he ends discrimination of gays in the military, as he and his people have been hinting will happen in the next six months or so. Maybe having Rick Warren speak will lower the volume on Evangelical blowback?

For now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and going with Shrewd Sidelining, not Shocking Sell-Out. It's not as though I have much choice. I sure hope I'm not wrong. It's a terrible thing to discover that you've been worshiping a false god.

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