Friday, December 19, 2008

On the Rick Warren Inauguration Hububub

Perhaps you've heard that Obama has invited evangelical mega-church preacher Rick Warren to give the opening prayer at his inaugural ceremony. This selection has caused quite a stir in some circles, due to Warren's beliefs about homosexuality, non-Christians, and abortion.

Prior to the 2008 election, I took issue with Warren's assumed status as our nation's collective "Values Inquisitor in Chief" after he hosted his Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. As a non-Christian, I think it is utterly frightening how this man is continually placed into positions that suggest he is our great arbiter of what it means to be moral and spiritual. This man doesn't speak to me or for me, and when he bothers to speak about people like me it's mostly in the negative. That he will soon lead Obama's inauguration prayer will, I fear, lend even greater legitimacy to some of his extreme positions and to his divisive beliefs.

Why it troubles many that Obama has chosen this particular man to lead our nation in prayer is that it's pretty clear that many of us don't have a place in Rick Warren's ideal world. He believes non-Christians to be "spiritually empty," a notion that is extremely offensive. Of homosexuality, Rick Warren has said that it is "not to be tolerated." Most recently, he publicly supported Proposition 8 and compared same-sex marriage to incest, child-rape, and polygamy. I know that Rick Warren's thing is to be a "model of civility" but in light of these intolerant statement, he would do better to remember that civility involves more than refraining from swearing. Even though our numbers are relatively small, it is not "agreeable" to verbally bash gay people and non-believers.

Obama has justified his selection citing the importance of working with those with whom we disagree. I definitely agree with Obama that we should work with our ideological opponents, rather than against them. Yet, the time to have civil dialogue is during a legitimate debate rather than during a historic ceremony that will lend credibility to extreme views. To elevate Rick Warren in this way is a slap in the face from a president who perhaps takes support from the LGBT community too much for granted.

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