Monday, December 22, 2008

Rick Warren and Barack Obama's Inauguration

Like many in the blogosphere, I've been mulling over President-elect Obama's choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration in January. I've read lots of posts about it, with a wide range of views, with the main point of contention being Warren's views on gay and lesbian relationships. Some don't disagree with Warren's views and have no problem with him speaking. Some don't agree with his positions, but don't mind him praying at the inauguration. Some don't like him, and don't want him participating. And so on and so forth.

My first reaction was to think that Obama's choice wasn't really a big deal. Where was all this controversy when Obama and McCain were hosted by Warren during the campaign season? Yes, I know that's not the inauguration, but I don't remember everyone being up in arms. Obama and McCain both clearly established some sort of relationship with Warren then, so it doesn't seem surprising for him to choose Warren now.

But more than that, I have a hard time saying that we can't allow someone to pray and lead in worship with whom we disagree theologically, even deeply. I have colleagues with whom I disagree sharply and frequently on most everything about faith matters. But we have core common ground that binds us together and would never allow me to reject them having a role in worship. They're the same principles that undergird my ability to participate in interfaith worship services. Obviously, in an interfaith service, we have folks with different, even conflicting beliefs. But we can worship together because of some common understandings, shared goals, etc. If Rick Warren will pray at Obama's inauguration, I can assume that at least to some extent, he shares a vision with President-elect Obama, even though they disagree on some issues. I think Obama has been fairly clear (in a politician-y sort of way) about his own views on rights for gays and lesbians. So I can be comfortable that it's his leadership that I'm concerned with, not Rick Warren's. Warren praying at inauguration doesn't make him my pastor.

And then on the other hand, as I've been reflecting, I wonder: I consider not allowing gay and lesbian persons to marry, or restrictions on adoption, or restrictions in the church on ordination, etc., to be oppressive human rights violations. Injustices. Inequalities that are wrong. What if Obama had chosen someone to pray at his inauguration who supported other violations of human rights? I find it harder to answer these questions. If John McCain had been elected, and chosen a pastor to pray who had racist views, would that be ok? Many people shy away from a comparison between racism and heterosexism, but I don't think the analogy is inaccurate. And so I'm just not sure, not sure what 'slot' to put my disagreement with Rick Warren in.

We have relationships all the time with people who hold views that we believe are really, truly, and deeply wrong, right? For example, I've been a vegetarian for 11 years now, and I really believe that (given my cultural context,) eating meat is wrong. Not just a bad choice, but wrong. I feel strongly about it. But what if I didn't interact with, or listen to, or learn from anyone who was a meat-eater? My social circle would suddenly grow much smaller (and I'd have to disown my one black-sheep meat-eating brother.)

So, I'm to the end of my post, with no real answers for myself. I don't know what to think about Rick Warren and the inauguration. But at this point, I believe it is going to happen, and so I guess that my hope will be that the backlash against his speaking will cause Warren to do some serious reflection and some careful listening.

What do you think?
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