Shuck and Jive

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rethinking Rick Warren

I wish gay rights was America's biggest problem. I do wish this was the only or even the primary issue on our agenda not only as Americans but as citizens of Earth. If it were, I would be truly upset with Rick Warren at the inauguration.

I have been thinking about this over the past couple of days and reading various opinions. I am trying to look at the bigger picture here. The biggest issues are not gay rights nor reproductive choice as important as these issues are. The largest issues are those that for the most part go unacknowledged.

The biggest issues as I see it are those that surround sustainability. How are we going to feed and care for an increasing world population (now over 6 and half billion humans) in a post-petroleum age?

I have been posting on population, energy, economy, ecology, and growth and will continue to do so because I think the interaction of these issues makes all others in comparison insignificant. Rather than offer my opinion or prediction which means nothing, I invite you to check out Chris Martenson's page and take his Crash Course. I invite you to talk about it, blog about it, share it with others, show it at your church or with neighbors.

I have to know that Obama knows what is happening as do all world leaders. We will be experiencing resource crises. Ultimately, I trust him as much as I can. He is a smart guy and I think he cares and wants to do the right thing. He cares about the future our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will inherit. He may not be able to change our destiny but at the very least, I hope he won't be the one when things get crazy who sends the first nuclear missile. I am hoping he may help us have conversations with the world leaders we don't get along with very much so they won't send those missiles either.

This brings me back to Obama and Rick Warren. Warren has a huge following. It is probably in our country's interest not to alienate him and his followers before Obama even gets started. Warren does have good qualities. He has raised awareness regarding AIDS and he has a personal commitment to giving away 90% of the money he makes.

Having him offer the invocation is a symbolic gesture. It is gesture that will hopefully make some positive relationships with evangelicals. By offering an olive branch to Warren, Warren, in turn, might be motivated to encourage those whom he influences to work for peace and for cooperation with world leaders rather than beating drums for war. I think Obama is giving Warren and his followers the benefit of the doubt. I wish I was as gracious.

Obama did balance out the "prayer ticket" by having Rev. Joseph Lowery offer the benediction. (I have been told by parishioners that the benediction is the most important thing I say in church anyway!)

I have been having a change of heart regarding this and willing to let this go, to hope for the best, and to trust that in the big picture, Obama knows what he is doing.

That does not mean I am insensitive to my lesbian and gay sisters and brothers. At least I hope not. I am with you with my whole body and soul.

In the end, we need Obama to worry about the big picture rather than social issues. We, you and I, need to be involved in the social issues. Those changes are up to us.

After all, when we are faced with loss of jobs, power outages, and whatever else, it isn't going to matter if we are straight or gay. We are all in this together.


  1. Well, I don't think the Benediction is the most important thing you say in church. Perhaps the most anticipated on occasion, but hardly the most important. Love you!

  2. John, you know I love you and that I feel so united with you in our shared faith and fervor on so many topics.

    Having said that I read this post three times. I agree with you 100% about population, food and such things.

    And I know how dedicated you are to LGBT issues- you are tireless in your support.

    There is not - for me anyway - any way to support this selection of Rick Warren.

    I don't want to totally blog whore, so I won't post a link, but I just put up a letter written by Bishop Chane, TEC Bishop of DC. His words expressed what my own could not.

    I have worked hard to try to temper all of the anti-Obama feelings that many Obama voters have had in these tumultuous days between election and inauguration.

    However, I cannot do this any longer.

    I am watching Dateline NBC as we speak - this is the same man that gave Bush a Peace Award for AIDS work.

    Bush has done a lot for AIDS in Africa - all tied to contraception and more. So that sucks as I see it. And I am not a hard nosed ideologue.

    But this is too much for me.

    You know that I also believe that we can agree to disagree and keep talking.

  3. So John, It is all right to trample on the rights of a minority because of the "big picture" It may seem like a small thing to you but it is highly insulting to those who put their faith in Obama to do right by them.

    I have admired your stance on so many things since I discovered you but I cannot agree with you or Obama on this. I have a "private blog" where I store things and put up things which are to personal that i don't put them on my regular blog. I put up two pictures today of the young men who were hanged in Iran for being homosexual - something which you know they had no choice in.

    I won't be celebrating the Inauguration - In fact I won't even watch it. I shall be in mourning that day for the people who are being left out once again. For those who the Rick Warren's God (which is not my God) would condemn to an eternity in a place called Hell. A place they already know because many of them have lived all their lives there. I feel betrayed by the promise. One that has been broken and feel that Obama is like all politicians. A person who lies to get what he wants and then does what he wants. At least McCain was honest about his feelings.

  4. This is a hard thing no matter how ya slice it. However, I do tend to see this as you do John.

    I remember in Ghandi when the Muslims and Hindus were at a point when they could not talk to each other. There had been so much violence and so much pain. There was no trust. It infuriated the Hindu population that Ghandi was going to meet with the Muslims. I think Obama will get completely slammed for this, but what is the alternative? Alienate the evangelicals so that they draw even FURTHER back? Shun them to a corner where they can be completely inbred in their thoughts where no reasonableness is heard? I know there is pain here, but at some point we have to endure each other so we can find some common ground. It is when people spend time together that they realize that the other side is not nearly the demon they had built up.

  5. I believe Obama will be among the greatest presidents in our history. But he will not be perfect. My concern with his inviting a far right evangelical pasture to pray at his inauguration is that he will not only signal his inclusiveness but also his accepting intolerance.

    President Obama needs to be particularly careful in this area coming off of attacks against him for his own pasture. Conspiracy theories and denialism are more frequent and pose a greater threat than most people think (see for new details on AIDS denialism).

    Personally, I understand why President Obama is being so inclusive. After all, he told us that he us would be inclusive – part of the change he promised. We have to be careful not to punish him for following through with his promises.
    Seth Kalichman

  6. Jay,

    So John, It is all right to trample on the rights of a minority because of the "big picture" It may seem like a small thing to you but it is highly insulting to those who put their faith in Obama to do right by them

    No, it isn't all right and it isn't a small thing. I am just trying to understand it what he is doing.

    Do I think having Warren offer the invocation will slow the cause of gay rights? No. If anything, I think it will accelerate them.

    Ticked off? Good. Get organized. I'll bet there is a PFLAG or other gay rights chapter where all y'all live. I do this shit.

    It isn't up to Obama to grant you rights. It is up to you to demand them.

    Here is an idea. A fundraiser. For every word in Warren's invocation on Inauguration Day, give ten cents to your favorite gay rights action group.

    I am confident he will be wordy.

  7. To commenter Andrew and with due respect:

    You say "Alienate the evangelicals so that they draw even FURTHER back? Shun them to a corner where they can be completely inbred in their thoughts where no reasonableness is heard?"

    How would Obama not asking Warren alienate the evangelicals further? Obama has been extensive in his outreach.

    Picture it this way if you can... This is about the symbolic value of the gesture of extending a hand to Warren.... A man, who when on Dateline last night laughed long and hard when Ann Curry asked him if he was homophobic.

    He laughed? A big belly laugh? I am sorry, I am someone with a big and irreverent sense of humor, but that was insensitive to me. A commenter on my blog said something to the effect of "phobic means fear, what is Warren afraid of?" and that his laughter was like a teenagers nervous laughter when caught in doing something.

    For the record, on Dateline, when Curry asked him about homosexuality being genetic, he replied in a most callous manner IMO.

    He went on to compare it to anger being something in us and that we just can't go around being angry all the time and taking it out on people.

    He said you have to curb your urges.

    Once more, someone on the religious right distills all same sexuality issues to physical sex. That is BS.

    Sorry to rant on and on, I am so upset by this.

    The whole implication is that we have to "get good" for God, the God who I believe loves us unconditionally.

    St. Francis said it best about 800 years ago - "incarnation is already redemption."

    I am sure that Warren would disagree and likely many others.

    Harumph, I better shut up.

  8. Fran,

    Don't you dare shut up! You keep writing, talking and going!

    Fact is, I don't insist. I am willing to have my mind changed on this. It has gone back and forth a lot already.

    If the vast majority of the LGBT population leads a march on Washington because of this prayer, I'll march with 'em. Because I am not gay, in these issues, I follow not lead.

  9. Fran, I don't disagree with your points, but I think it is a long term wise (even if found distasteful by many) thing that Obama is doing. If you are going to bring people to the table and include them in the conversation... then they have to be a part of things like this. The alternative is that Obama is inclusive in speech, but when it comes to actual events and dialogs he just invites the Left .... and the polarization goes on...

    The Right is naturally more defensive at this point. Obama has to show that he is serious about bringing us all together. That is going to be uncomfortable.

    Anyway, that is the way I interpret it.

  10. I agree, John, so not everyone is ticked at you. :)

    But then, I'm a heretic for suggesting that this choice is actually a very clever political move, so maybe my agreement isn't such a good thing. ;)

  11. There are other evangelicals he could have asked. Jim Wallis. Richard Cizik. Tony Campolo. And my choice--Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie of the AME Church, who is a hell of a preacher, has done HIV work in Africa, and was the first woman presiding bishop in any major American domination...and broke the glass ceiling in the African American church to do it.

    Rick Warren refers to gays and lesbians as "them." He compares loving, committed same-sex couples to pedophiles and those who commit incest. He refuses to repudiate torture as a "tool in the tool box" for the American military. And, just recently, he publicly called for the assassination of the Iranian President.

    If that's what counts for "inclusion" in the Obama administration, I can't say I'm a big proponent of it.

    As I've said elsewhere...invite Warren to dinner at the White House. Play poker or golf with him. Give him a certificate for his commendable work on HIV.

    But do NOT give him the honor of serving as the public face of Christianity at what is arguably the most important inauguration in American history. Not if you really want ALL Americans to feel included in the celebration.


  12. Hey Doxy,

    I hear you. Good points. Warren represents with a couple of exceptions (AIDS work that we have mentioned), the worst aspects of Christianity.

    None of those others do. Perhaps he was chosen over the others because he is objectionable.

    Maybe Obama wanted to tick people off so we would be angry enough to do something about the influence of the religious right.

  13. Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly gay and partnered Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, said what I would want to say about Obama's choice of Warren as a sign of his inclusiveness, "I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table, but we’re not talking about a discussion, we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history."

    For most of us, the inauguration will be a joyful day because it will mark the end of the Bush maladministration. The whole world will watch this inauguration. The whole world is sick of Bush and his companions in crime. Is Rick Warren the best that Obama could choose to show the people in the US and the world? I think not. I'm getting my frustration out now, because I'd like to have a measure of peace about this when the big day comes.

    Thanks for allowing me to vent here, John.

  14. I'm getting my frustration out now, because I'd like to have a measure of peace about this when the big day comes.

    Now that is a good plan!!