On January 20 the world will watch Rick Warren, a man who has compared gay marriage to incest and abortion to the Holocaust, give the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration. Oddly enough, in the public eye Warren comes off as an almost moderate pastor, something that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Warren backed the recent California ban on gay marriage, doesn’t believe in evolution and once publicly told a Jewish woman she would go to hell because she isn’t Christian.
“Choosing a man like Rick Warren to deliver the invocation isn’t just a slap in the face to gay supporters, but a slap in the face to several of Obama’s supporters,” said a gay Obama supporter who requested to remain anonymous. “The choice only satisfies the right-wing. It’s like Obama is saying ‘sorry for beating McCain guys, here’s your consolation prize.”
Gays have been the most public of the outraged American population; several organizations have organized protests and sent letters urging Obama to reconsider his decision.
“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” reads a letter to the President-elect from the Human Rights Campaign. “You have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans have a place at your table.”
Obama’s decision to invite Warren, a man who is already such a powerful pastor and has been deemed by many as America’s “unofficial pastor,” may come at the expense of several important groups in the U.S., including many politically knowledgeable religious minorities and gays.
Knowing that many liberals see the choice as utterly insulting, Warren defended himself in a recent speech at his Saddleback Church in Southern California.
“You don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand,” Warren told the crowd, according to Fox News.
In defense over allegations that he is homophobic, he cited his relationship with gay rights activist Melissa Etheridge, saying he is a fan of her music and that the two enjoyed a great conversation one evening.
However, in an interview with BeliefNet, a spiritual site owned by Fox, he likened redefining marriage to include gays to incest, child abuse and polygamy. In the same interview he told BeliefNet that he has “many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes.”
“Every step Warren takes forward, he falls back twice,” said Jason Howell, a conservative who voted for McCain. “He says something to better his public image, then starts talking about gay homes.‚ He does work in Africa fighting HIV/AIDS, but teaches abstinence and prayer instead of sex education to a society where rape is a common cause of the disease. He always says things to satisfy those he’s speaking to, and we can expect the same pabulum in his invocation speech.”
Whether Warren spews pabulum or not, he will deliver the speech as millions around the world watch one of the most historic presidential campaigns come to an official end. Unfortunately, for many, the pastor’s preaching will mar this historic day.
However while countless Americans are insulted, some‚ believe‚ Obama’s willingness to have a man with whom he disagrees on many issues at his inauguration shows his commitment to unifying the country and sets an example all Americans should follow.
“You can look at it that way too. Just because he chose Warren doesn’t mean he supports Warren’s ideology,” said the anonymous Obama supporter. “He’s getting people from all ends of the political spectrum to join in his celebration.”
“He is reaching across the aisle. Warren and Obama disagree on a lot of things, but so do a lot of Americans,” said Howell. “But that doesn’t mean they all aren’t happy about change.”
As is the case with many political decisions that involve religion, this is wrought with controversy. However while analyzing this selection is of grave importance to several liberals, Howell believes January 20 should be about something else.
“The day is about Obama and his historical inauguration not about Warren’s political views. People shouldn’t let that overshadow an accomplishment by a man so deserving of all the success he has received in life.”