Obama, Rick Warren, and the Difference between Talking and Honoring

I want to say a few words about Barack Obama.

Obama is defending the choice of the anti- choice, anti- religious- plurality, pro- assassination- of- world- leaders, red- baiting, rabidly anti-LGBT, James- Dobson- in- sheep’s- clothing, lying- sack- of- crap megachurch pastor Rick Warren by saying that “it is important for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.” He is defending it by saying that “it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues.”

Here is my response.

In order to be inclusive — in order to move beyond the politics of divisiveness and bring our country together — is it important to talk with people you profoundly disagree with, people with opinions you find repugnant? Is it important to invite them to sit down and talk so you can try to work out your differences and find common ground?

Yes. It absolutely is. The President needs to talk with leaders of the Republican party who are trying to tear him down, with leaders of powerful political movements he opposes, with leaders of countries who despise us. No question.

But is it important to invite them to GIVE THE INVOCATION AT YOUR FREAKIN’ INAUGURATION?!?!?

No. It is not.


Having someone speak at your inauguration is more than just being willing to sit down and talk with them. It is a mark of approval. It is a high honor, a thumbs-up. It is a “Heck of a job, Brownie.”

And it is an honor that absolutely should not have been given to Rick Warren.

Obama supports Warren on his work with poverty and AIDS. Fine. He couldn’t find a religious leader for his inaugural invocation who’s done good work with poverty and AIDS… and who isn’t a homophobic, anti- choice, anti- science, anti- atheist, anti- any- religion- that- doesn’t- agree- with- him, pro- assassination, lying, red-baiting bigot?


I’ve said this before about Obama: My greatest fear about him is that he wants too badly for everybody to like him. My fear is that his palpable desire for everybody to get along — and for everybody to get along with him — means that he will be too tolerant of intolerance, too inclusive of divisiveness, too unwilling to take a firm principled stand that may piss some people off.

I’m beginning to think that my fears were justified.

Let there be no mistake about it. This is not just about Rick Warren’s opposition to marriage equality, as the mainstream media has been pitching it. It is about his equation of homosexuality with pedophilia and incest. It is about his support of programs to “cure” LGBT people of our LGBT-ness. It is about his own acknowledgement that he ignored AIDS until the widespread orphaning of children in Africa by the epidemic was brought to his attention. It is about his absurd, patently false claim that legalizing same-sex marriage would infringe on his right of free speech.


And it’s not just about his stands on LGBT issues. It’s about his own assertion that the only difference between him and James Dobson is one of tone. It’s about his rabid opposition to a woman’s right to choose abortion, comparing abortion to the Holocaust and calling the goal of reducing the number of abortions a charade. It’s about his rabid opposition to stem cell research. It’s about his opinion that the U.S. assassination of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be “the legitimate role of government.” It’s about his pretense that he doesn’t get involved in electoral politics, when he sent an email to thousands of other pastors in 2004 telling them to vote for Bush. It’s about his red-baiting of religious leaders who fight for social and economic justice, referring to them as “Marxists.”

And — let’s not leave out the atheists — it is about his declaration that people who don’t believe in God are not fit to be President.

Should Obama be willing to talk with him?

Probably. Sure. I don’t actually object to that.

But should Obama have invited him to a place of high honor at one of the most historic occasions in American history?

Absolutely not. It is a slap in the face. It puts a serious tarnish on what should have been one of the most shining days in our country’s history.

(Oh, and P.S.: Before anybody leaps in with an “I told you so”: I never thought Obama was going to be perfect. I knew he was going to disappoint us at some point. I knew we were going to have to hold his feet to the fire on some issues. I was just hoping I could wait until after he was actually President before that started. And I’m still not sorry I voted for him. I still hold with the harm reduction model of politics, and I still think he’s going to be about a hundred times better than McCain would have been. I’m just beginning to think that my hopes for a Democratic President who might not be just another shilly- shallying suck-up to the far right were unfounded. Damn.)

Obama, Rick Warren, and the Difference between Talking and Honoring
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12 thoughts on “Obama, Rick Warren, and the Difference between Talking and Honoring

  1. 3

    This would be the same Rick Warren who said that an atheist could never be qualified to be president, isn’t it? Why, I do believe it is!
    I’m furious, and I can’t imagine what on earth Obama is thinking with this. Does he suppose it will give him political cover as a “moderate”? Is he not concerned that this is a tremendous insult to the progressives who worked for him and put him into office? All he’s achieving is angering his most dedicated supporters for the sake of throwing a few bones to Christian evangelicals (who will probably react by thinking, “Huh, maybe he’s not the Antichrist after all,” and then vote for the Republican anyway).

  2. 4

    There is no excuse for this IMHO. I can’t imagine why they thought this is a good idea. Sure you want to open dialogue with all sorts of people but NOT, as you say, at the INAUGURATION. That’s a slap in the face and not change in any way, shape or form.
    Still it’s kinda cool in that I can go back to being glad to be Canadian, I was having a lot of trouble with jealousy of late.

  3. 6

    I’m inclined to agree. This is a really inexplicable misstep from an organization which up to now was notable for its lack of missteps, and it just makes no sense whatsoever.
    Also, the necessity of being outraged over the choice of who gives the religious invocation at the inaugural, rather than being outraged that there should even be a religious invocation at the inaugural, must be making your head explode a little bit. I sympathize.

  4. 8

    Oh, by the way, if it makes you feel any better (doubtful), apparently Warren is getting exactly as much flak from the fundies over this as Obama is from the LGBT’s. You know, for lending the considerable influence and gravitas of his exalted position to the travesty that is the inauguration of Obama the Baby Killer. How dare he support something of which God and Baby Jesus so clearly disapprove, that sort of thing. I don’t have the links handy, but there were some over on Huffington Post to some right-wing blogs that were just chock-full of anti-Warren hate postings, all in caps with scads of appalling spelling.
    So it’s possible that this really could be a move that brings the warring factions together — over the point that Warren is a piece of scum. Nice that we can all agree on something. I’m being a little bit flip about this, but it’s really somewhat comforting that Warren appears to have nearly as much to lose as Obama here.

  5. 9

    I’m disappointed, but I’m hoping it’s a shrewd political move on Obama’s part. He’s inviting Warren in, greeting him like a friend, and giving him no policy authority whatsoever.
    Obviously, he can’t outright SAY it, but unless we want to expel all the fundamentalists from the U.S., he’s their president too, and giving them some recognition doesn’t seem like a bad thing. And ultimately Warren is “a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.”
    Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I can hope. What matters is what he does AFTER inauguration. As I’ve said, there are so many aspirations piled on Obama’s head, he’s going to disappoint some bitterly.
    I’ll settle for competence and obeying the constitution. Obama appears to be aiming higher, which I’ll take as a bonus.

  6. 10

    This whole Rick Warren thing is unbelievable. I agree with you 100%, Greta. Rick Warren would not have any place at this inauguration even if we HADN’T all just lived through 8 years of right=wing Christian rule. And what’s really infuriating is how the mainstream media/community seems to think we, the LGBT and LGBT-positive community, are making way too big of a deal out of this.
    I was planning on hosting an Inauguration party on January 20; now I’m really not so sure. Maybe we’ll just have to turn the TV off while Warren is speaking. Ptooey.

  7. 11

    Greta, you’ve stated the case against his involvement in the inauguration well; I had previously not recognized the extent of how controversial this can be seen as. I’m no Warren fan, not even much when I was in the Christian camp but I remember thinking of him as one of the more progressive evangelical pastors at the time (this was several years ago), shocking as that might sound in this kind of forum. I do tend to think of it as a shrewd political move according Warren with no real power but the symbolism of it could well backfire.

  8. 12

    Why did he have to do this just when I was starting to feel good about voting for him?
    I was prepared to vote for any candidate the Democrats put forth, so my choice was never really in doubt, but as I listened to Obama, I started to feel that maybe my reservations about him were unwarranted. At I even started to feel inspired by him. Maybe he really would be a great president. Maybe he really is a person capable of leading the nation forward rather than merely governing.
    And then he goes and does this.
    I feel betrayed.
    I believe in including people whose beliefs are different from mine, even if their beliefs are ridiculous, and even if they use those ridiculous beliefs to determine how they conduct their lives. But when they start to argue that their ridiculous, irrational, religious beliefs should be respected as principles on which to base public policy in a state explicitly defined as secular by its constitution, I simply can’t tolerate that.
    Why can’t we allow them to bring these principles into the debate? Simple. When you open the door to irrational beliefs, there is no debate. How can you counter an assertion that someone believes simply because they believe it is right to believe it?
    Are religious beliefs really irrational? Categorically. Honestly, can anyone summarize the basic tenets of any major religion in a way that isn’t utterly absurd?
    Here’s how I understand the basic claims of Christianity–please feel free to correct me if I am misinformed in any of the details:
    There is an invisible god who lives in space and created everything in the universe out of nothing. We know that this god exists because complexity can only be created by deliberate, thinking entities. Never mind that this god, who is a complex, deliberate, thinking entity, did not require a more complex entity to create him. He’s a special case. Please accept this on faith despite the glaring inconsistency.
    One day this space god decided to come down to earth and make a human woman–a virgin, no less–pregnant with his son, who was really him, so we could kill him, although he didn’t really die, so he could forgive us for all our bad behavior, but only on the condition that we believe this whole story without any doubt or reservation.
    It doesn’t even really matter how bad your behavior is. If you’re a lying, cheating, stealing, murdering fornicator, you’re okay if you believe the story, but if you’re a kind, honest, loving, generous skeptic, you’re damned to an eternity of excruciating torture. Why? Because the space god loves us!
    Forgive me if I can’t take seriously any claims that it is impossible to be an ethical person without accepting this or any of the other equally absurd and mutually exclusive fairy tales touted as ultimate truth by their respective adherents. They have every right to believe in this nonsense, just as I have every right to believe that they are, at least in this particular instance, completely out of their fucking minds, but they have no right to allow this peculiar lapse in their rational judgment to affect the life or liberty of anybody else, and there is no point in even discussing it.

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