Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 17, 2008

WARREN TO GIVE INVOCATION.... Barack Obama is, for the time being, a man without a pastor of his own, so we knew he'd have to turn to someone else to deliver the invocation at his presidential inauguration. Unfortunately, Obama has chosen Rick Warren.

Dr. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church will give the formal invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration. The good pro-life theologian first met Obama in 2006 at a Saddleback AIDS forum in California. Obama used the occasion to press the evangelical pastors present to embrace "realism" when they considered the issue; preach abstinence, yes, but preaching against contraception can kill. (Here's some of what Obama said that day: "I know that there are those who, out of sincere religious conviction, oppose such measures. And with these folks, I must respectfully but unequivocally disagree. I do not accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence.")

When I interviewed Obama last year, he told me that the moment was integral to his decision to run for president; when was the last time, he had asked himself, when a Democrat had had such dialog with pastors about AIDS?

This is not too big a surprise, but it is disappointing. Obama and Warren have been friends for some time, and Obama accepted an invitation to appear at Saddleback's presidential forum over the summer.

Not too long ago, CNN labeled Warren "America's Pastor," so this, coupled with his friendship with Obama, made it fairly likely that he'd be considered for a Billy-Graham-like role at the inauguration.

So why is it disappointing? Because, while Warren is certainly more tolerant of discussion than activist leaders like Dobson and Robertson, his beliefs run counter to Obama's on most of the major social issues of the day. Warren is opposed, on religious grounds, to abortion rights, gay rights, stem-cell research, and euthanasia. In 2004, he described these issues as "nonnegotiable" and "not even debatable."

What's more, just this month, Warren supported* Prop. 8 in California for absurd reasons, and offered an incoherent theological rationale to Sean Hannity's assertion that the United States needs to "take out" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He is, in other words, hardly the ideal choice for the invocation.

I wouldn't read too much into it -- this is hardly evidence that Obama is going to be more conservative on social issues, for example -- but it's a genuine shame Obama didn't call on a more progressive religious voice for the event.

Update: A reader reminds me that Warren was a featured guest at the Clinton Global Initiative, which I'd forgotten about. It reinforces, I suppose, the notion that Warren is positioned as some kind of go-to pastor for major political events. Still, there are a lot of progressive pastors out there, and Obama could have picked one of them.

* corrected

Steve Benen 2:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (87)

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Jim Wallis would have been great. Oh well.

Posted by: Hoosier Paul on December 17, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe he is trying to put the wright non-sense to rest by finding someone who isn't controversial in right wing circles. Either way, Obama doesn't seem care much about gay rights and it's very disappointing.

Posted by: ScottW on December 17, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

It is a shame. I wish he had found a Buddhist of note to provide the invocation. It is the least imperialistic of all the major religions, and the most pro-peace.

If it had to be something under the "Christian" umbrella, I would have preferred Unitarian. The most tolerant and open and universalist of the denominations.

I truly don't understand this need to keep throwing bones to conservatives. They lost. Why can't we be progressive in all things now?

(When conservatives win, do they ever -- as in ever --feel the need to throw bones to progressives? Not a chance.)

If I had my druthers, though, I'd have Richard Dawkins give the invocation . . .


Posted by: Cuchulain on December 17, 2008 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

God. Fuck this shit.

Posted by: Gore/Feingold '16 on December 17, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Small slip: Rick Warren *supported* Prop 8, which would take away peoples' rights.

Posted by: nat on December 17, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Surely you mean he supported Prop 8. This appears to be the second time you've gotten this wrong in two days.

Posted by: John on December 17, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

bring back oogety boogety!

Posted by: glichte on December 17, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very disappointing choice on Obama's part.

This is another in a series of things that don't make it easy to defend him against those who say he doesn't care about gays & lesbians.

Posted by: Vicki Linton on December 17, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

This is an abomination, as the Christianists would say! I cannot believe he chose Warren. He is a hypocrite of the first order. I hope people will go to the change.com or whatever the site is, and bury it in calls for another Invocator: I agree that Jim Wallis might be a good choice, or The Dalai Lama, or Thich Nhat Hanh. But, not a Conservative anti-compassionate hypocrite, please.

I am livid!!!!

st john

Posted by: st john on December 17, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Stop speaking right now, Pastor Rick.

Posted by: Sgt. Troy Barlow on December 17, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is a jerk. It is an insult to have this bigot ranting his religion at us. There are plenty of moderate, inoffensive christians who would not be a slap in the face to gays. I am disgusted!

Posted by: candideinnc on December 17, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I'm less appalled by Obama's choice for the invocation than by the fact that we have to have one at all.

Posted by: JRD on December 17, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Who cares?

FWIW -- I'm a Christian, liberal Democrat.

Posted by: pol on December 17, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

The last thing this BAG OF SHIT IS IS AMERICAS PASTOR !!! the multi-millionaire pastor who is becoming obese and helped McCain cheat for the 'debate' as his stupid fucking church with Obama .. and then lied about it. Right: Americas pastor according to CNN. perfect isn't it ?

Posted by: stormskies on December 17, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

My personal reaction to this as an atheist and a support of gay rights is disappointment, to put it mildly. But politically, Obama's choice of Warren is very smart and astute politics, as he's making public acknowledgment that he's willing to listen to Warren and others like him in the evangelical community. If that helps moderate opposition to Obama's overall agenda, I can live with Warren giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration.

Posted by: David W. on December 17, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Mark the date: this is Obama's first decision that can be classified as boneheaded. Let's hope that future boneheaded decisions would be no more consequential than this one.

Posted by: scott_m on December 17, 2008 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Always hated the assumption that Billy Graham (and now, even worse, his son Franklin) was some kind of sage and that he got access to President's etc. Not going to like the new elevation of Rick Warren. From what I can tell, it's all a load of hooey.

Surely Joe Biden had a pastor he could have recommended. And at least, unlike evangelicals, Catholics or Jews or Muslims or almost every other religious group except evangelicals voted for Obama ---- and winning Catholics was a huge deal in some very, very key states.

Still, I don't know why there has to be any invocation from anyone. Just like I hope there isn't a poet, etc. Say the oath, start the parade. Spare us all the accoutrement. Maybe it will convince people not to the come to DC and swamp the poor residents.

Posted by: clarence on December 17, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Why is a religious invocation even necessary at a presidential inauguration? The remarks clerics deliver at these events are usually exclusionary for many people. (The Grahams extolled Jesus, thus isolating all non-Christians.) And Rick Warren? He is the next Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson in disguise. Bad move, Barack. This is a major screw-up in an otherwise well-managed and smooth transition.

Posted by: HaroldinBuffalo on December 17, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Another 'big tent' selection. Please drop your battle gear, everyone.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on December 17, 2008 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

I actually think this is pretty smart politics. Warren represents a (relatively) moderate wing of the evangelical movement, and if Obama can peel them off and away from the GOP, there will never be another Republican president.

Or did you think that when he promised to reach out to people he didn't agree with, he was only talking about Ahmadinejad? It works both ways. Far better to engage with evangelicals and help them see the light on social issues than to shun them and feed their persecution complex.

Posted by: EarBucket on December 17, 2008 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

(Although, yeah, Jim Wallis would have made me far happier personally.)

Posted by: EarBucket on December 17, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

This will seem like a good idea until Rick Warren stabs us in the back. Again.

Posted by: chris on December 17, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Psst, Obama...they're still going to think you're a secret Muslim.

Posted by: doubtful on December 17, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Do we really need a religious invocation at all?

Posted by: Bjorn on December 17, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I don't mind Obama reaching out to people who don't agree with him --- in fact, I applaud it. But, I'd occasionally like to see him reach out to people who do agree with him (and not take them for granted) or to at least thank the folks who supported him by throwing some things their way.

Posted by: clarence on December 17, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed. Jim Wallis if a Christian minister was needed.

Posted by: clem on December 17, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

This invocation is unconstitutional, but saying that is tilting at windmills.

The bigger point is that Obama has never been a progressive on these, or much of any, issues. Progressives have assumed he is on their side based not on his record, but on his lack of Clinton connections and his personal charisma.

Obama ran his campaign and has so far run his government as a pragmatic, empirically driven centrist. After Bush, that may look progressive, but it really isn't. Obama has never pretended to be anything else.

As such, he will occasionally reach out to the right in ways that make us uncomfortable, and we'll just need to get used to it.

Posted by: dal20402 on December 17, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Because, while Warren is certainly more tolerant of discussion than activist leaders like Dobson and Robertson, his beliefs run counter to Obama's on most of the major social issues of the day. Warren is opposed, on religious grounds, to abortion rights, gay rights, stem-cell research, and euthanasia. In 2004, he described these issues as "nonnegotiable" and "not even debatable."

However, the thing that Warren is negotiable on is environmental and energy issues. He's probably the leader of the right-wing evangelicals who think we desperately need to address global warming.

I'm guessing that his environmental stances are the reason Obama chose him, not his anti-gay ones. But it is particularly disappointing that Obama chose Warren after his anti-gay outburst last week.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on December 17, 2008 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I guess this will quiet all the "gay high school" hysteria on the right. No, it probably won't.

Agree with everyone who said Jim Wallis would have been a vastly better pick. Aside from being a genuinely kind human being, he walks what most so-called Christians only talk.

Posted by: Gaia on December 17, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

i hate the idea of "america's pastor" even more than i hate the idea of "america's team." (but about as much as i hated both the idea and the personage of "america's mayor.")

Posted by: mellowjohn on December 17, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Give me a break, or should I say give Mr. President elect a break. It he, not us, who has had no life for the last almost 2 years while fulfilling a dream we have all held but did not have to sacrifice what he has to attain it. Now we think we have the right to dictate every little decision he makes. Give him his due and let him chose his team as he sees fit. He has been right on so far in most of this.

Posted by: BobC on December 17, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

This may seem like a smart example of Obama reaching out to those he has disagreements with, but its not.

He's now got a big problem on his hands as he has angered many, many people. It will be much harder to deal with this than it would have been to pick a non-controversial pastor for the invocation.

And no, gays won't sit down and be quiet on this because there we should be seeing the bigger picture. NO WAY.

Posted by: Vicki Linton on December 17, 2008 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

This is all about branding for Warren. He wants to be the next Billy Graham, seeing as Graham's own son isn't up to the task. How quickly do you think HarperCollins will be coming out with a souvenir edition of his speech and thoughts on Obama?

Posted by: angry young man on December 17, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

I like the ring of "America's Pastor". I hope he will have the same success as America's Sheriff, also from the OC, Mike Carona, currently on trial for corruption.

And of course let's not forget the success of America's Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, a Presidential candidate who did worse the more he campaigned.

Posted by: Aeolus on December 17, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with others above who believe we don't need a religious invocation at all. This Christian believes that it's long past time we actually separate church and state.

Posted by: CJ on December 17, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has never been a progressive

That's right, he's a socialist.

Posted by: Sean Hannity on December 17, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Cuchulain said:
If it had to be something under the "Christian" umbrella, I would have preferred Unitarian.

Unitarians or (UUs) are not Christian though it is possible to be a Christian UU. It is just as likely to be an Atheist UU, perhaps more or less likely in some churches than others, but you will find a wide variety of beliefs or non-belief in UUism.

From the UUA website:
"Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion that encompasses many faith traditions. Unitarian Universalists include people who identify as Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and others. As there is no official Unitarian Universalist creed, Unitarian Universalists are free to search for truth on many paths."

Back to the topic at hand, I would have thought a Unitarian giving the invocation to be great, but I guess I don't understand why Obama couldn't pick a UCC minister, that is the tradition with which he is most associated. I'm sure there are UCC ministers which are not as controversial as Wright. Have most presidents in the past chosen ministers who are a different sect than which they practiced prior to becoming president?

Posted by: JM on December 17, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.

Posted by: Bob M on December 17, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

This invocation is unconstitutional, but saying that is tilting at windmills.

That is because it is false. What clause does it violate? The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" The only Constitutional statement regarding the inauguration lays out the oath of office, which he could take in a car on the way to the airport if he wanted to (see LBJ and Air Force 1). The rest of the inauguration events are a party thrown by the new President - and are on his dime(or at least the Presidential Inauguration Committee's dime; it collects donations from private citizens to finance the event). It may trouble you that the new President feels the need to have a Christian pastor invoke that President's god at that party, but it isn't unconstitutional - this isn't a constitutionally relevant event. Tilt at "God Save this Honorable Court" if you want a windmill to tilt at.

Obama would like nothing more than for the words "gay rights" and "gay marriage" not be uttered in context of action by his presidency for the next 4 years. He has a million higher priority things to spend his political capital on. (Health care reform, Iraq wind-down, and economic recovery at the top of the list.) Eliminating DADT will probably be forced on him, but don't look for leadership on other gay rights issues (other than the most general statements about personal choices not being the province of the Federal government) from him.

Posted by: rvman on December 17, 2008 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

I am both annoyed with Obama as a liberal and in awe of Obama as a politician. I am an atheist and feel as though these fundamentalists are destroying the country. But like it or not they have a lot of power.

Obama knows that he made some inroads with these people and that for a largely symbolic gesture he can maybe get few percent more to support him. He probably won't lose any liberals because of it, but he will likely gain some evangelical support.

Posted by: raindog on December 17, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Olive branch people, olive branch..

I was not exactly thrilled that Joe (the AIPAC 'Ho') Lieberman was allowed to remain a formidable chair-"person" by Barrack's hand and sway, so this should not surprise me either..

Otherwise I'm so over the Jesus/God/christian faith mantra bullshit. It is so in need of an abortion already.

Oh well... Feed the sheeple and the sheeple will follow.

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on December 17, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Bigger fish to fry. And if this helps the Big-O to quiet the yapping dogs of the Right, fine by me. (They've been bought off with less -- like a POTUS phoning it in, every January Right-To-Life march.)

Posted by: sophie in va on December 17, 2008 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

i take the selection of rick warren by obama to give his invocation as the canary in the coal mine.

it seems clear from this that obama in fact does not understand the deleterious effect on society of mixing politics and religion.

this is revolting.

Posted by: karen marie on December 17, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

He should have asked Reverend Wright. Warren's positions on multiple issues are just as offensive to me as "God Damn Amerikkka!" is to the pin heads like Chris Matthews and Joe Scarbrough.

Posted by: Winkandanod on December 17, 2008 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

There is a progressive on the bill, though -- Joseph Lowery is giving the benediction. So the event is bookended by conservative Warren and a progressive civil rights icon.

Posted by: Dan on December 17, 2008 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Earbucket -- I agree with you -- we have to reach out to our opposition.

I think Obama is wise to just get on into it right away without ado.

Think this is controversial and contentious? Just wait till when we actually have to make the real "sausage" once he is in office to help bring about "change"...

We of course thought that change just meant the other side

Posted by: Elie on December 17, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Have they picked a pastor for George W. Bush's swearing out ceremony?

Posted by: AJB on December 17, 2008 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Sadly, this feeds Warren's already over sized ego.

Posted by: Cycledoc on December 17, 2008 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Mike Madden at Salon is reporting that this was not Obama's decision but rather the "Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, run by the House and Senate"

Posted by: Medocrates on December 17, 2008 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

There's the PEACE award that Rick Warren gave GWB two weeks ago. Plus his desire to kill Ahmadinejad.


If this is a 'good' evangelical, he seems to have a lot of the same blind spots as the 'bad' ones.

I'm looking forward to hearing about an evangelical leader who's also a follower of the Jesus I've read about in the Gospels. Hasn't happened yet.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 17, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Keep your friends close. Your enemies closer.

Listen to what your opponents say. Then ignore them.

Posted by: namvetted on December 17, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Cue Amy Sullivan to concern-troll us about our lack of respect for evangelicals in 3...2...

Posted by: Gregory on December 17, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Of course this suggests I voted for the wrong man.

Posted by: Diogenes on December 17, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

I was hoping for Rev. Peter J. Gomes. He's a life-long Republican who participated in Reagan and Bush I inaugurations, but left the party in 2006 and backed Obama supporter Deval Patrick in his race for Massachusetts Governor. He's gay, but celibate. I don't recall him endorsing Obama, but he did eloquently praise his speech on race and religion, as well as offer a unique defense of Jeremiah Wright as a fellow black urban preacher, while framing in a way I think uncomfortable white folk might have found meaningful if they sought out guest blog posts written by gay black Harvard preachers. Which they don't.

Posted by: BStu on December 17, 2008 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Look, Warren is not just some "pastor". He is now a huge player on the American political and cultural stage, and one of the most powerful men in America. This is already a large bridge Obama has tried to build and maintain, and it was inevitable that Obama would continue to cultivate good relations with Warren's religious machine, and offer Warren some sort of role.

Posted by: Dan Kervick on December 17, 2008 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Just another reason why I proudly voted Green for the first time this year, after a lifetime of voting straight Dem. Just not buying the hype.

Posted by: PUMA on December 17, 2008 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Every time I start to think that Obama has principles, he reminds me that he is a politician---remember his vote for FISA and his plan to "fix" social security. The choice of Warren for the invocation only indicates once again that he will sell his soul to the devil for political gain. Compromise is necessary in politics and I do not expect to agree with every decision that a president makes, but I do niot see how Obama can endorse an agent of all that is wrong with America and hope to have the support of those who seek a more perfect union.

Posted by: terry on December 17, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

I think if you have to have this invocation stuff, then you might as well have a full-blooded invocationist to do the job, since the people who like that sort of thing will be most pleased. For the rest of us, I doubt that it matters.

Posted by: Goldilocks on December 17, 2008 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. I love Obama, but I'd have to say this is quite disappointing. I had no idea he and Warren were friends. How did that happen? Did you know just how white and conservative his following is?

Wow. A bunch of them areprogressive wannabees, but they're far from it in both personal and political views. I wonder indeed how many at that "forum" in Lake Forest actually voted for Obama.

There are indeed many other progressive pastors out there--much more tolerant of gay right issues. It sounds like he just punted and went with the popular guy. I hope this isn't going to be too much a symbolic sign of his presidency. I hope he doesn't try too hard to be everybody's friend, thereby ending up nobody's friend. I love his idea of pragmatism and expertise over ideology, but you know--ideology has it's place too.

Yes, there are Many, Many other progressives out there..this feels lame. Why not say..a nice Quaker since he's sending his daughters to a Quaker school?.

Posted by: sorta lame he picked Warren on December 17, 2008 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Yet another argument for electing an atheist president.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 17, 2008 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm truely disappointed in Obama's pick as well. This would have been an excellent time to give some lesser known pastor from a liberal congregation a platform and some 'sunshine' to address what 'Purple Americans' believe in. And the fact that Warren lied about that McCain thing in a car ride during the campaign turns me off too!

Posted by: Dee on December 17, 2008 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah I'm tired of this Big Tent shit and Obama isn't even in there yet. Rick Warren is an insult to truly compassionate people who hate none.

Posted by: Mag7 on December 17, 2008 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

The big Inauguration Day surprise: Rick Warren is Obama's Secret Imam!

Posted by: Trollhattan on December 17, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Fucking shit, why didn't he just invite James Dobson or Reverend Moon?

And thus we have the proof - again - that PEOTUS is just another "christian" who knows how to give lip service to minorities while stabbing them in the back.

Posted by: Keori on December 17, 2008 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Far better to engage with evangelicals and help them see the light on social issues than to shun them and feed their persecution complex.

The issue isn't engaging vs. shunning. No one is for shunning.

The issue is giving the spotlight to a fucking bag of shit who is reprehensible to a large portion of the folks who put you in fucking office.

I voted for him. And I'm saying he is a fucking asshole for doing this.

Posted by: Econobuzz on December 17, 2008 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Of course this suggests I voted for the wrong man.

And your other option was...?

Posted by: ckelly on December 17, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has announced, with this choice, that he doesn't give a shit about gay people. And I am supposed to be pleased that he didn't pick Dobson?

Posted by: janinsanfran on December 17, 2008 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Disappointed...hell, I'm outraged. A proven liar on TV, a closed minded fanatic who will use the opportunity to rant some screed about a 'Christian Nation" or some such biased notion of superior righteousness. Kissing the asses of the evangelicals (once they move the glorified images of freckles that reflect the face of Jebus out of the way).
Why give a national voice to such goobers? Spiritual or religious blackmail? The Saddleback Church fiasco was against the bill of rights...political debates being held in churches moderated by a preacher, on national TV???? If you don't see something wrong and dangerous with that picture then you missed the point being made entirely.
Sometimes Obama's urge to cater to everyone oversteps his normally good judgment. As my friend Nick would say Screw you Warren and the Jebus you rode in on!

Posted by: bjobotts on December 17, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

His actions are speaking louder than his words to me.

Posted by: Blogging in the Wind on December 17, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't read too much into it -- this is hardly evidence that Obama is going to be more conservative on social issues, for example -- but it's a genuine shame Obama didn't call on a more progressive religious voice for the event.

Obama is a professed Christian with a professed opposition to gay marriage. These facts may make you uncomfortable, but he professed his beliefs on numerous occasions throughout the campaign, usually quite sincerely and convincingly.

I voted against him because I thought his most important policy changes would fail, but he was throughout the campaign sincere. Now that he is president-elect I am impressed by his cabinet and other selections. But I am sensing that his earliest, most generous and most ardent supporters are beginning to feel appalled at what they have brought about: the election of a Christian African-American. We now know that he isn't much to the left of Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice. A Republican Christian African-American with these appointments would be called ugly names by leftists by now.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on December 17, 2008 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

rvman ... Warren is upsetting for more than gay rights. The Iran thing, e.g. "Hey, Barack, welcome to Iran! See you had someone who wanted to destroy us at your party. What's up with that?" Is Iran an important issue?

As to the constitutional issue. An congressional committee, not a private one, sets up a ceremony in which an invocation to God is included as part of the program. Some even suggest they not Obama was responsibile for the pick.

The "Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies" picked him after all. That is, a committee set up from our representatives included an invocation to a religious figure, a controversial religious figure chosen to do the honors.

I don't see ANY mixture of church and state and/or religious favoritism worthy of any controversy there!

Posted by: Joe on December 17, 2008 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Surely Joe Biden had a pastor he could have recommended.

Biden won't play a role in government again unless Obama dies in office. He has not influenced the campaign or the appointments. He seems to be perfectly content, as well, just to stand and wait.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on December 17, 2008 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Again, as I said upstring, we must have thought that "change" met only for the other side. Or, that it wouldnt test US -- just THEM..

We have a very divided country. I am not enthusiastic about ANY religious person being part of the inauguration. I see religion (formal religion anyway), as just a lightening rod for hate and division. Warren nor anyone else would have been my selection....

That said, we have a polarized, judgemental country in a hell of a lot of trouble. You pick:
I am hosting an inauguration for my troubled, divided country and I am going to:
A. have participants that only reflect my deepest held beliefs and those of my followers - we are in charge and we own this thing now so get out of the way. We will negotiate with you at a time of our convenience so get lost.
B. Have participants that reflect the existing chaos because you are a butt kisser and have no spine and they are going to run things anyway
C. Have some balance of the two -- better get used to this kind of challenge -- we have to bring our folks together across some pretty different cultures/frames of reference and the point in between is going to seem like sell out to my crew but I KNOW they are smart enough and strong enough to stick with me and TRUST me

Well. Which is it?

If you wanted the same division and contention, you should have voted and we would have the status quo with all the shoes and bull along with it. But NAW, you SAID that you wanted something different.

Ahhh - I get it -- not THAT different. Not THAt much change. Just a little "eau de change" while keeping the same ol same ol divisive approach/I win-you-lose approach....

Ah c'mon. You have to judge Obama for his actions in office and RESULTS. How EASY do you think any of the issues we face are going to be to resolve? Do you actually think that we arent going to have to do some serious stroking and working our way up the line of compromise to get anything done? Or do you just want to line up and shout at each other?

I think that it is totally valid and necessary to express our disappointment and to articulate our concerns to Obama. But to wish back your votes -- to say you have given up is monstrously sad and makes me think that what we want, real change, real engagement with our differences, may be IMPOSSIBLE in this climate.

Posted by: Elie on December 17, 2008 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Mike Madden at Salon is reporting that this was not Obama's decision but rather the "Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, run by the House and Senate" -- Medocrates @15:57

Sorry, buddy. It's not as if Inauguration is a surprise b-day party in which Obama has had no say at all. According to the official release (below), the program is being crafted to conform with the Prex's and Vice's wishes:

It's not just a disappointing but a nauseating pick and it's not a "they made me do it" one, either.

Posted by: exlibra on December 17, 2008 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

What the hell was Obama thinking

Posted by: Polaris on December 17, 2008 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus Christ! He's saying a prayer, not taking control of a cabinet department. What on Earth do his policy views have to do with anything? What's wrong with inviting a friend?

Sorry, but this post sounded a great deal like a drive for ideological purity. Calm down, for god's sake.

Posted by: Paul Camp on December 17, 2008 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

Ah well, too bad. Quite frankly, this is a non-issue to me. I think Obama's using Warren as a political tool to pander a bit to the right. Quite honestly, not everything needs to be a battleground for left vs. right politics, and from a politician's point of view, support for gay marriage is a non-starter: This election proved that pretty definitively. If gays were thinking that Obama or any Democrat running this year were going to leap to their rescue, they really don't have their fingers on America's pulse right now.

Posted by: Quinn on December 17, 2008 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

I was one of the first to donate/support Obama; despite many of my friends being adamately for Hilliary. I took alot of flack/ And I've withheld criticism of some of the Cabinet choices. But this cannot go ahead. I've got two children and this last June was poudly present at the wedding of my gay daughter to her partner of ten years. My son has been with a lovely woman for eleven years, but is not contemplating marriage as he'll have rights taken away from his sister. If Rick Warren gives the public prayer, I'll neither watch the inauguration, nor support Obama ever again. This is a prayer for the Nation given by someone who says my daughter is a sinner, an abomination! Obama's just lost a supporter for the life of his Presidency. And I'll never vote for someone who gives a forum for such unChristian thoughts.

Posted by: Eve Leland on December 17, 2008 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

"He's saying a prayer, not taking control of a cabinet department. What on Earth do his policy views have to do with anything?"

It is an invocation for the inauguration of our new president. The fact the person providing this special prayer promoted bigoted thoughts, supports violence against Iran, etc. seems to have something to do with SOMETHING.

He has some responsibilities here. It is simply not what church he is going to. It is a public event, one set up by a congressional committee.

Obama is big on symbolism and has spoken about how religion is important to his life. Suddenly these things don't matter? Why exactly?

Posted by: Joe on December 18, 2008 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Eve, my goodness. Would you have to support everything that any elected official did or said to basically lend them your support? Are you unable to allow that we make choices in the shades of gray sometimes? How do you have outreach to another if the only one you can outreach to already believes as you do? What on earth is the purpose of that?

If the only purpose of Obama winning this election is for us to RUN the table and not to bring everyone TO the table, (as much as possible anyway), we are in for an impossible situation because everything we face is hard -- real hard.

Didnt we decry the last administration's "my way or the Highway" approach? Do you even listen to yourselves and not reflect on the reality that many of you are saying the same damned thing -- Obama either picks only those people who believe exactly as I do on everything or I am not going to support him. I am going to sit on my hands or cross my arms as he tries to bring this fractured country with all of its warts and weirdness to work out some really tough stuff. But I am not going to support that because I am taking his selection of the preacher to read a freaking prayer at the inauguration as a PERSONAl insult.

Now did I get that right?

Posted by: Elie on December 18, 2008 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

Rick Warren advocating for the killing of a democratically elected foreign leader (Ahmadinejad) is appalling. I'm sure the Muslim world is watching.

Posted by: thomas on December 18, 2008 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

After getting beat up for the past 8 years I can understand people being a bit touchy, but this seems a bit much.

Posted by: JK on December 18, 2008 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

You can't have it both ways, people. He didn't put Warren in charge of AIDS research or Planned Parenthood. He asked a member of the other side to recite a prayer at the Inauguration. Did you get this apoplectic when Clinton, a white man, asked Maya Angelou, a black woman, to recite a poem at his inauguration? Do you really think that by giving an invocation, Warren is going to somehow change Obama's agenda? If so, then, like Warren, you probably believe that prayer can cure homosexuality.

If there's one thing that liberals are supposed to be, it's accepting of others' worldviews. How many times did we scream at trolls that Obama was the only candidate capable of reaching across the aisle? Did he put a neo-con in charge of the military? Did he put an oil executive in charge of the environment? No! He put a popular, conservative pastor in charge of a freakin' prayer. He's not going to pray that homosexuals turn straight on January 20th. Instead, there's a good chance that Warren will learn something from all this. Perhaps he and a whole lot of other close-minded religious zealots, will learn to back off all the hateful conservative Christian rhetoric and think about the nation as a hole for a change.

Perhaps we've spent so long being appalled by every fart and titter from GWB that we can't allow our new CIC to make his own decisions. Stop looking for insults from a man who's just doing what you hired him to do.

It's a prayer.

Posted by: chrenson on December 18, 2008 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

To all the folks who are saying "calm down, it's just symbolic, it's only politics, etc. etc." -- a part of me agrees with you. But another part of me is sick of always being the bargaining chip in these political games. At the risk of trotting out that widely-reviled metaphor: we gays somehow always seem to be the first ones that get thrown under the bus when it's time to make concessions. And I'm sick of it. Warren is scum, and not merely because he is against gay marriage, but because he sees no difference between a loving relationship between two people of the same sex and pederasty. How do you constructively engage with that? The only way this kind of poisonous stuff ends is when decent people say "I'm not having any more of it," and *mean* it. It's all very well to say "politics is about compromise" when you don't have to live with this stuff day in and day out. Believe me, it wears you down after a while.

Posted by: James on December 18, 2008 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

To those of you who think giving a bigger podium to Rick Warren is a good idea: it isn't. As Steve has pointed out, Warren is an unmitigated & unapologetic bigot.

I urge everyone who attends the inaugural ceremonies to quietly sing "We Shall Overcome" throughout the invocation. Tens of thousands of voices of hope and tolerance can overcome one voice of bigotry, no matter how awesome the amps.

The Creative Weader at www.RealityChex.com

Posted by: Marie Burns on December 19, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Why sing "We Shall Overcome" quietly. Let's sing it as loud and strongly as we can. Let our united proud voices be heard.

Posted by: Peter on December 19, 2008 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

On second thought, don't sing "We Shall Overcome" at all. It is already stamped with historical importance. Instead, just stand and during the entire invocation, vocalize one single note, as loud as you possibly can to show your united strength and your objection to this outrage.

Posted by: Peter on December 19, 2008 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK



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