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Tilting at Windmills

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January 12, 2009

MORE PROGRESSIVE PASTORS.... Well, maybe three out of four ain't bad.

As is well known by now, the Obama inauguration will feature two pastors in high-profile roles -- the Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery will deliver the benediction and Rick Warren will deliver the invocation. The prior is a champion of civil rights and a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, while the latter is, well, Rick Warren.

But Obama and his team have other relatively high-profile gigs for religious leaders, and in the wake of the controversy surrounding Warren, the selections have been far more encouraging.

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who became the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop in 2003 and last year entered into a civil union with his gay partner, will deliver the invocation for Sunday's kickoff inaugural event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with President-elect Obama in attendance.

Robinson isn't the only one.

President-elect Barack Obama has selected the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins to deliver the sermon at the national prayer service that is held the day after the inauguration.

Ms. Watkins, the first woman ever selected to lead the service, is the president and general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a small, liberal-leaning Protestant denomination with 3,754 congregations and about 690,000 members in the United States and Canada. Ms. Watkins was elected to the post in 2005, the first woman ever chosen to lead a mainline Protestant denomination.

For those unfamiliar with the Disciples of Christ, it's a pretty liberal denomination, closely associated with the United Church of Christ (Obama's denomination), and Watkins' record on hot-button social issues is strong.

In announcing roles for both Robinson and Watkins, the transition team insists the choosing of these progressive pastors has nothing at all to do with the criticism of Warren, and they were selected for these roles in advance of the controversy.

Maybe, maybe not. But Obama's team had four slots to fill, and three are going to religious leaders who preach a positive message of hope, tolerance, and inclusiveness.

Steve Benen 9:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (62)

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Comments

Off topic but Crooks and Liars is reporting that Voinovich (R-OH) is retiring...

Posted by: LACJ on January 12, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry I should have read more carefully before posting. Announcement today, all is speculation until then.

As for this Rick Warren thing, I think it is good to at least try and work with the evangelicals. Warren could be looked at as a 'gateway' pastor for those born agains who have become confused or unsure of where they should look for guidance.

my understanding is that he is much less doctrinaire than most of the others.

Not saying I like the guy, but choosing him for such a prominent role could go a long way towards showing openness and inclusion to this group.

I know when I challenged some of my relatives on how the mainstream mega-church movement could possibly rationalize support for torture Rick Warren's name was raised as an example of a less repulsive leader...

Posted by: LACJ on January 12, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

I guess only having to throw-up only once is better than four times...

Posted by: Stevio on January 12, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Warren is a homophobic bigot and a young-earth creationist (which is about as doctrinaire as you can get); that pretty much nails my repulsiveness meter.

And you can't somehow balance out the offense of giving public importance to such an asshole just by also having more presentable people around.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

I have heard Dr. Watkins speak on many occasions. She's sharp. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a separate denomination from the United Church of Christ, but they have a relationship that goes back a long way, and in fact, all the overseas missions work of both denominations is done jointly. Watkins is a fervent progressive, a captivating speaker, and a fine human being. In a number of ways, she is like Obama... progressive, but pragmatic. Congratulations to her on this honor.

Posted by: Spanky on January 12, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

No Catholic priests? It is, after all, America's largest single denomination.

Posted by: Peter on January 12, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Is there anyway I can just fast forward through ALL of the religious mumbo-jumbo?

Posted by: Saint Zak on January 12, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

and the Right will start screaming that Warren should not participate in any series of events that also includes Gene Robinson in 3. . .2. . .1. . . (and I'll enjoy every scream of it - although Presiding Bishop Jeffers Sciori would in many ways have been a better choice).

Posted by: zeitgeist on January 12, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Warren is a homobigot, a young-earth creationist, an advocate of state womb control, and he's a racist whose idea of fighting AIDS in Africa is supporting churches that burn condoms and religious leaders who seek out and target gays for violence and persecution. The coup de grace is Warren's public sermons stating that routine domestic abuse is not a good reason for a woman to leave her husband. Maybe he's one of those people who think the "uppity bitch had it coming if he had to tell her twice."

Looking at the other pastors in the line-up for the inaugurals, he's beginning to show himself for the money-grubbing Luddite assclown he is.

Posted by: Keori on January 12, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Great news. Good to hear that we're getting more balance.

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on January 12, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Keori- thanks, I didn't even know the full extent of his industrial-strength misogyny (though it kind of goes with the territory for all of these Christian Fascists.) "Less repulsive" my ass. In a sane country he would be considered beyond the pale of civilized society.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

and I'll enjoy every scream of it - although Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori would in many ways have been a better choice

I'd have enjoyed a tag-team presentation with both of them plus Barbara Harris. Keith Ackerman would need a fainting couch. Oh, wait, no one cares what he thinks any more.

Posted by: shortstop on January 12, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

And you can't somehow balance out the offense of giving public importance to such an asshole just by also having more presentable people around.

Yes we can. You folks who are so uptight about this Warren thing don't understand the difference between making a symbolic gesture of inclusion and caving in to an agenda. This is supposed to be a national celebration for all the people. Let's leave it at that and see what kind of policy and legislation comes from Obama.

Posted by: tomeck on January 12, 2009 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

No, people like you are incapable of recognizing that there are some people who simply SHOULDN'T be "included". And that it's not very politically smart to offend your own supporters in order to throw a bone to people who are never going to vote for you regardless. This is a longstanding conservative-Dem fantasy and there's never been the slightest shred of evidence that it will ever accomplish anything (other than further diluting the party's already weak-tea message, which is of course a feature and not a bug to the right wing of the party.)

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK
And that it's not very politically smart to offend your own supporters in order to throw a bone to people who are never going to vote for you regardless.

I suspect the people you are talking about and the people who Warren appeals to may not overlap as much as you think they do.

Posted by: gwangung on January 12, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. There is a lot of hostility towards the choice of Rick Warren on this comment board.

I'm posting just to say I like the choice of Rick Warren, even though I don't agree with him on every subject. I don't think one has to agree with him to acknowledge that as a pastor, he played a pivotal role in the election by hosting the "debate" between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain and by inviting him to speak at the conference at Saddleback Church prior to the campaign. I've read Mr. Warren's book -- it didn't transform my life but it has saved at least one person's life and that's more than most authors can claim.

He helped bring Mr. Obama to the attention of a group of people who needed to hear his positions in a context familiar to them and it's quite possible that these (tepid) shows of support helped to garner a few votes for Obama among a constituency statistically unlikely to support him.

I grew up in an family of evangelicals and I was active in evangelical groups during my college days at MIT and Cornell.

Yes, we go to college. We even become scientists and engineers, astrophysicists and biologists. Like everyone we struggle with where science goes silent and faith begins and how to separate the two.

To paraphrase Mr. Obama: We have gay friends in the red states. And, we worship an awesome god in the blue states.

The positions this board ascribes to the group as a whole do not accurately reflect the thoughts of all evangelicals. Please be a little more generous before you label all of us as knee-jerk homophobes and young-earth apologists who deserve to be excluded from the civil life of the nation.

Those are cruel stereotypes.

Posted by: westside buppie on January 12, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect you really don't understand who Warren is. He has somehow been sold to some gullible people as the "acceptable" face of conservative evangelism, but that doesn't go even skin-deep. You won't find a lot of Democrats among his church members, let's put it that way.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

That was directed to gwangung. To westside- yeah, they often become the kind of engineers who spout mindless creationist drivel. No thanks, my tent isn't that big. And Warren himself IS a young-earth creationist, who has been quite forthright about it.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

No, people like you are incapable of recognizing that there are some people who simply SHOULDN'T be "included". And that it's not very politically smart to offend your own supporters

I caucused for him, I served as precinct captain and delegate to our county convention, I knocked on doors for him, sent him more money than I could afford to send, supported him as much as anyone.

Rick Warren? Couldn't care less.

Two.
Minute.
Invocation.

And five minutes afterward, no one in American will remember a word he said. Except for a bunch of angry, bitter "progressives" who actually believed the centrist Obama was going to be their liberal savior.

I don't care how liberal or conservative a Christian is — I'd rather they just kept Jeebus out of it, period. I've got no time for the perpetuation of Bronze-Age mythology in a postmodern world. But it's gonna be there whether I like it or not, so I'll just tune it out.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on January 12, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

And one more thing to westside- any evangelical who is as genuinely enlightened as those you depict shouldn't be giving the time of day to the likes of Warren.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK
I don't care how liberal or conservative a Christian is — I'd rather they just kept Jeebus out of it, period. I've got no time for the perpetuation of Bronze-Age mythology in a postmodern world. But it's gonna be there whether I like it or not, so I'll just tune it out.
I generally feel exactly the same. But promoting outright bigotry goes well beyond the usual infuriating genuflection to Bronze Age mythology. No, of course I'm not going to hate Obama forevermore, but I don't see why it's so hard for people to acknowledge that this was a mistake. Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Steve LaBonne -- I disagree. The amount of time I spent on his book (about an two hours a week over six weeks during a discussion group with friends who looked at other authors as well) was well spent. The book was selected not because of its theology or its philosophy but simply because it had become a phenomenom in Christian circles with many people talking about it but few having actually read it.

That's how I *know* I don't agree with Rick Warren on every subject. I don't know how the rest of the board has formed their opinion -- I've suspect that many of them may have formed their opinions by using second hand based info from media clips in the MSM.

Someone seriously committed to the free exchange of ideas needs to know about the junk in the marketplace as well as the good stuff. A much better book than "The Purpose-Driven Life" (in my estimation) is "The Good Life" by Peter Grimes, the openly gay chaplain of Harvard University.

Read both, and you'll see why Mr. Grimes book is much better written, philosophically coherent and theologically orthodox.

Giving Mr. Warren the time of day is far different from attending his church (not far from my home), giving him money, voting for candidates he endorses or allowing him to formulate national policy.

Posted by: Westside Buppie on January 12, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I think while recounting the many ways that Rick Warren is distasteful, it is prudent to remember that quite recently on air with Sean Hannity, Warren used the Christian bible to justify the assassination of a Ahmadinejad, the President of a Muslim country.

Given our precarious future with Iran and the Middle East as a whole, the potential backlash from featuring Warren in the inauguration is too risky in my opinion.

His opinion of gays, women, and other social issues are despicable, but are not likely to result in an international incident. Embracing the assassination of foreign leaders as legitimate discourse, however, could easily make the world a more dangerous place.

Please don't misunderstand, I think Obama was wrong to invite Warren for many important reasons, including his bigotry, but I think the national security angle is oft overlooked.

I'm not sure any amount of socially progressive counterparts can balance out this dangerous situation.

Posted by: doubtful on January 12, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

And that it's not very politically smart to offend your own supporters in order to throw a bone to people who are never going to vote for you regardless. This is a longstanding conservative-Dem fantasy and there's never been the slightest shred of evidence that it will ever accomplish anything

If the Democrats are guilty of trying to attract Christian voters in what's doomed to be a futile effort, the Republicans are doing something along the same lines, namely courting the Hispanic vote in the (mistaken) belief that they're "natural Republicans."

When all is said and done most Christians will vote Republican and most Hispanics will vote Democratic. Nothing's going to change that.

Posted by: Peter on January 12, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

As a member of First Christian Church in St. Joseph, Missouri, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I am very pleased to see such a high-profile role for Dr. Watkins.

That said, count me among the folks that wish these prayer services and invocations would not be a part of a CIVIL inauguration. As a dedicated member of the Bronze-Age faith, it just does not make sense.

Posted by: Andrew on January 12, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

That's Peter GOMES, Westside. Peter Grimes is a character in a opera.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK
I think while recounting the many ways that Rick Warren is distasteful, it is prudent to remember that quite recently on air with Sean Hannity, Warren used the Christian bible to justify the assassination of a Ahmadinejad, the President of a Muslim country.
Ah, it gets even better. One advantage of this controversy is that I'm learning even more about the toxicity of this asshat. Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Steve LaBonne,

Thanks for the correction -- I wrote in haste without checking my bookshelf.

Not the worst thing in the world to incorrectly mixup an random character from the world of opera with the last name of an author.

My point remains the same. Please stay on topic. Have you read either book?

Posted by: Westside Buppie on January 12, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I probably know more about Gomes than you do, being a Harvard grad (he was already there way back in my time). I agree that he's a good guy, if that's what you want to hear.

And I don't need to read pablum directed at gradually pulling fairy-tale-believers toward some semblance of rationality, since I'm not a believer and am already there.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

And I don't need to read pablum directed at gradually pulling fairy-tale-believers toward some semblance of rationality, since I'm not a believer and am already there.

I don't care what you or anyone else reads, but must you be a mirror image of an enraged fundie who declares that he doesn't need to hear scientific theory A or critical analysis B, because it's all designed to rob him of his faith and he just "knows" God exists?

Man, control freaks are tiresome.

Posted by: shortstop on January 12, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK
Man, control freaks are tiresome.
You seem extremely confused. Who am I "controlling"? I have no desire to interfere with anybody's practice of their religion of choice. It's idiots like you who are the controlling ones- you want to try to bully me into pretending that I approve of such people's choices rather than simply tolerating them, which is all that they are owed by me or anybody. Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly there are people posting here who are quite religious in their loathing of Rick Warren. Fair enough; message received. Nevertheless, Rick Warren will say a prayer at the inauguration. It surprises me that otherwise intelligent people aren't able to see the complexities of religion and politics in this case; Obama is not assuming (or even hoping, as far as I can tell) that having Warren say a prayer at the inauguration is going to win him any votes from hard-line evangelicals. He does, however, effectively neutralize criticism from the religious right and the secular right that all Democrats are atheists (or Godless, or anti-religious, or biased against Christianity, or planning to destroy Christmas, or what have you).

For good or for ill, religion is an enormous part of the history and the current fabric of this nation, and it's political suicide to forget it. Please don't forget that Christianity, like every other faith tradition, is not monolithic, and that it wouldn't pay to adopt the Bush administration policy that "whoever is not for us is against us."

Posted by: Spanky on January 12, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks to Spanky for so nicely articulating the usual bizarre delusion that Democrats can somehow neutralize criticism from the Religious Right by throwing them a bone now and then. It is a perennial delusion that really is curiously resistant to all contact with reality.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

It's idiots like you who are the controlling ones- you want to try to bully me into pretending that I approve of such people's choices rather than simply tolerating them, which is all that they are owed by me or anybody.

You have an interesting concept of "bullying," and, for someone who claims to be rational, a rather hyperemotional habit of jumping to conclusions that aren't supported by the words in front of you. I don't give a good goddamn whether you approve, disapprove or pretend to do either; that goes for Westside Buppie, too. It's your mode of argument I'm mocking because it's a perfect counterpart to that of so many irrational members of the religious right I've had to listen to.

You're entitled to say whatever you wish, but not to be free from criticism when you do it. Gotta warn, you, though: I'm a committed atheist, and I'd rather sit next to Westside than you on a cross-country flight--hands down. If the people who are already on your side can't stand to listen to you, it might be time to rethink your strategy.

Posted by: shortstop on January 12, 2009 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK
You're entitled to say whatever you wish, but not to be free from criticism when you do it.
When you manage to reach the intellectual level of providing any, I'll let you know. Your claim that the positions of outspoken atheists and fundie Christians are somehow equally intolerant is no such thing- it's simply moronic on every level. One does get tired of hearing the same stupid tropes retailed all over the place by people who are incapable of thinking them through. When it comes from those whom one of my favorite blogger, Larry Moran of Sandwalk, refers to as "Benedict Arnold atheists", it's just that much stupider. Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Three out of four is not only 'not bad' it's amazing! I'll bet more Fundies are going to be upset that Warren has agreed to go...

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I'm so tired of all the complaints, looking for things to get so upset about--all the negative drama about Obama-- after we've just been through eight years of extreme and hostile barrage of arrogance/intolerance/bigoted/corrupt hell.

All you naysayers: GET the heck over it!
Be happy for a change, cause there are going to be huge changes ahead for the better. Something you may have to get used to.

Posted by: Cruisin for a Bruisin on January 12, 2009 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

So that means we can never say THE ONE has made a mistake? Please, step away from the koolaid.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Wow Obama does like controversy!

I'm thrilled that he's picked Gene Robinson to speak. No it doesn't "balance" Warren, but its still a beautiful thing.

I'm glad to have the chance to learn about Rev. Watkins as well.

Posted by: Vicki Linton on January 12, 2009 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Your claim that the positions of outspoken atheists and fundie Christians are somehow equally intolerant

I claimed no such thing, of course. I pointed out that your last paragraph at 11:27 is the mirror image of similar arguments from the religious right. And so it is.

Posted by: shortstop on January 12, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Invocations, benedictions, prayer breakfasts.... Are we swearing in a president, or installing a new pope?

Posted by: jonas on January 12, 2009 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK
And so it is.
Sadly, no, but then I don't expect reading comprehension from you. By the way, in case you're accusing me of willful ignorance about religious thinking, I happen to know (thanks to such things as a Catholic upbringing, and interest in late antique and medieval history, and a fondness for Dante) a good deal about Christian theology and church history, more than the vast majority of so-called Christians (who generally turn out to know nothing except the pablum their preacher serves up on Sunday.) Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Shortstop:

A disinclination to read and seriously consider loathesome arguments based on primal fears and primitive superstitions = An unreasoning rejection of the scientific method and the accumulated body of knowledge resulting therefrom.

Posted by: zeke on January 12, 2009 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

No, Labonne--You missed the point. Of course it's okay to complain.

But with this? Get real!

It's you who is the one under hypnosis and drinking the KoolAid called: "I just gots to complain, gots to be negative and cynical-- no matter how trivial it is."

Ever heard the expression: 'Pick your battles?'

Sheez--get a life.

Posted by: Cruisin for a Bruisin on January 12, 2009 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK
Of course it's okay to complain.

But with this? Get real!


So it's OK to complain except wait a minute, no, it really isn't. Well that's clear as mud. Thanks for the enlightenment. I think. Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

A disinclination to read and seriously consider loathesome arguments based on primal fears and primitive superstitions = An unreasoning rejection of the scientific method and the accumulated body of knowledge resulting therefrom.

Nonsense, "zeke." What I actually said was that Steve--just Steve, not anyone else--was employing the same kind of emotion-based argument he loathes in the religious right. It's really dishonest to take a direct and very specific criticism of something he said and from that falsely extrapolate that I generally assign equivalence to the scientific method and religious arguments. And I expect you actually understand that, whether or not you'll acknowledge it.

Posted by: shortstop on January 12, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, in case you're accusing me of willful ignorance about religious thinking

I'm not. (Why not take a deep breath and try responding to what I actually say instead of boxing shadows?) Once again, and this really isn't complicated, I was accusing you of employing crap arguments that don't stand up any better than their precise religious opposites.

You might be better able to articulate yourself if you determine what it is you're trying to accomplish here. Right now your communication objective appears to be "flail wildly all over the map."

Posted by: shortstop on January 12, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop,

I'm not the one trading in false equivalencies here. You specifically referenced a statement by Steve La Bonne expressing a disinclination to read superstitious "pablum," and claimed that he was a "mirror image" of "an enraged fundie" who rejects scientific theories that run counter to his "faith."

I stand by my equation, extrapolations and all.

Posted by: zeke on January 12, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

You know what would have been great? Having a NON-Christian deliver one of these sermons. You know what would have been even greater? Not having any sermons at all.

Posted by: shawn on January 12, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

You specifically referenced a statement by Steve La Bonne expressing a disinclination to read superstitious "pablum," and claimed that he was a "mirror image" of "an enraged fundie" who rejects scientific theories that run counter to his "faith."

In the quality of the particular argument he was making, which quite simply boils down to a howlingly sophomoric "I don't need to read that shit to know I'm right," indeed he was. I hope you're not having trouble distinguishing between the soundness of one's position and one's competence in defending it?

Posted by: shortstop on January 12, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop,

Let's restate your position then: you contend that one must eat and digest every bit of every variety of pablum (and, not to be pedantic, but I believe it is spelled "pabulum") before one can with any justification find it insipid. And even then, it is "howlingly sophomoric" to actually describe said pabulum as insipid. I think I've got it now...

Posted by: zeke on January 12, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

You know, nothing would be easier than for shortstop to actually surf over to Amazon and find out the gist of Gomes's book in order to understand why I feel no obligation to take it seriously and don't consider myself part of its target audience (though as I said, he's a good guy and his heart is in the right place). But as always, short-on-brains would rather shoot the shit and dig his hole even deeper. Whatever.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Steve La Bonne

I find your willingness to tell me on whom I should waste *my* time based on a personal anecdote ("I went to Harvard, Pete's a good guy, I know him better than you") and a quick dismissal of a 376 page text based on perusing Amazon's comment page to be entirely inconsistent with the liberal education that you claim you received. Worse yet, it diminishes the entire tenor of this comment board.

You are entitled to your opinion, however you formulate it. But, you should be aware that when you reveal yourself to use such weak debating skills you undermine your own points.

Millions of Americans find value in their religious beliefs. Millions of Americans do not. Each position is valid, although I personally have a preference for one over the other. It is clear from your comments that you not only have a preference for one position, you entirely reject the other position as invalid. Since that is your position, there's not much left for us to discuss.

Regardless, my intellectual curiosity demands that I try to understand variedpositions about the questions of the day based on their own merits and claims about themselves, as well as external criticism and historical facts, and not just from my personal set of biases and prejudices or second hand media reports. I agree that this places a heavy burden on me to read books I may disagree with or find unpalatable. Fortunately, I enjoy reading and thinking and to some small extent debating issues. My mind is open and I am always willing to learn.

Dismissing books as pabulum without reading them is not fair to the other posters on this board. Just admit you haven't read it. Accusing evangelicals of being monolithic in their beliefs is neither fair nor accurate (my original point). Just admit you haven't met any evangelicals of the sort I describe. Claiming superior knowledge about the state of Christianity in America today based on your interest and readings regarding the state of Christianity in Europe six hundred years ago is silly. There’s just been too much divergence of thought, time and space between the two groups. And, for the record I say this as a Catechist for the Catholic Church. Just admit that you have a pre-existing bias against evangelicals that you are using to justify the reasonableness of excluding them from the civic life of the country and move on.

Fortunately for all of us, the frequency of your posts and the volume of your discourse are not representative of this comment board as a whole.

Posted by: Westside Buppie on January 12, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK
I find your willingness to tell me on whom I should waste *my* time
Good Lord, another one who can't read. Where did I tell you what YOU should read? I said I had no interest in reading it. Is there some part of the letter "I" you find difficult to understand?

And it only gets more confused from there; I can't be bothered.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

To quote you exactly:

"And one more thing to westside- any evangelical who is as genuinely enlightened as those you depict shouldn't be giving the time of day to the likes of Warren."

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Westside Buppie on January 12, 2009 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK
"And one more thing to westside- any evangelical who is as genuinely enlightened as those you depict shouldn't be giving the time of day to the likes of Warren."

Apparently you actually don't understand the common colloquial expression "to give the time of day to" = "to countenance". Truly you are an amazing eprson.

Now, if you want to be a hypocrite and support an ignorant bigoted fool like Warren who contradicts almost everything about the enlightened Christian principles you claim to profess, that is of course your business and nobody will interfere with you. Only, don't expect pats on the back for it.

Now run along and play.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Steve La Bonne

I never said I supported Warren. In fact, I specifically said that I don't support Warren in tangible anyway: I don't attend his church, I don't share several of his religious views, I don't give him money and I don't want him formulating national policy. Nonetheless, I wouldn't classify him as an "ignorant biogted fool". Nor would I exclude him or others that share his viewpoints from taking part in the civic life of this country.

I said that I supported Obama's decision to include Warren and that I thought that the board had been overly hostile to that decision.

When you twist the words of others, you misrepresent them unfairly. This board deserves better.

Posted by: Westside Buppie on January 12, 2009 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK
Nonetheless, I wouldn't classify him as an "ignorant biogted fool".

That simply tells us how low your standards are. As a homophobe and misogynist, he's clearly a bigot. And only an utter fool can possibly be a young-earth creationist.

If you sincerely want to win friends for your religion, your best bet would be to distance yourself from such assholes at every opportunity, rather than making excuses for them. Of course (to avoid another stupid rant from you about how I'm telling you what to do) you're perfectly free to ignore that advice.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 12, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry LaBonne, you're just not convincing me. You're overly emotional and painting all Christians with the same brush. You're as knee-jerk as some of my fundie relatives.

Posted by: kgb on January 12, 2009 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

You know what would have been great? Having a NON-Christian deliver one of these sermons. You know what would have been even greater? Not having any sermons at all.

I am with you on that, shawn. Even as I was cheerleading the idea that it is a person I respect. This is a civil function. Why do we need a religious gloss on it?

While I am hardly of the opinion that God and faith in God is a matter of "primal fears and superstition," I do think that adding prayer or worship to such a civic function does a disservice to both faith and the civil institution we are working with.

Posted by: Andrew on January 12, 2009 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks to Spanky for so nicely articulating the usual bizarre delusion that Democrats can somehow neutralize criticism from the Religious Right by throwing them a bone now and then.

If it's usual, it really can't be bizarre, can it? Clearly his selection of Warren is part of a larger strategy, and in my view the strategy is having some positive effect. I do think you're being a bit short-sighted, perhaps not so much about religious thinking, but about the realities of the curious blend of religion and politics in the US. I'm sure we all wish it were different, and perhaps someday it will be, but I don't hold out much hope for that if the rhetoric that's supposed to move us forward is as undiplomatic as yours has been today. I know, I know...you're brilliant, and I'm delusional, but if the object is to move the ball on the field, I think Obama's plan going to be more effective than yours.

Posted by: Spanky on January 12, 2009 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Wow! I have not spent a lot of time in the comments of this wonderful blog, is this kind of argument normal around here?

I don't really know if it is wise or at all useful to throw in my two cents, now that the discussion has devolved so, but, well, I guess I will:

For myself, I have zero interest in religion, and to be frank I tend to look down on evangelicals as either being suckers or bigoted hypocrites (in a general sense; please no flames).

I do know that somehow Rick Warren has positioned himself as, if you will, 'Evangelical Lite'. I do not know how he has done so, but, considering that (1) 'doubtful' is right, Warren DID condone the assassination of foreign leaders as consistent with the bible, and (2) Warren apparently considers abortion and gay marriage to be more pressing moral concerns than war and torture, I don't really wish to understand him any better. In fact, I feel he is really no better than these other scumbags like Falwell or Rod Parsley.

Now, having said all that, and hopefully giving a sense about where I stand on the religious aspect of this discussion, here is why I am not at all bothered by this in a political sense:

My view of evangelicals is that they are a young movement that has completely lost its way, and the movement is fracturing as we speak. They ended up supporting war and torture, all because they were told they were right and god was on their side. Now the cold light of day has shown them to be horribly mistaken, and I feel certain (this is completely without any factual support I should say) that many are truly confused and unsure about what they should believe or who they should support.

Picking Warren thus helps to accelerate the fracturing of the movement, by showing respect for this group despite the general hostility they have for the Dems and Obama personally.

It is NOT 'throwing a bone' to the fundies in any true meaning of the term, as it is purely cosmetic and insubstantial. It IS acknowledging a group of Americans of significant size, and I suggest it will help to peel off portions of the former evangelical movement.

Which can't happen quickly enough for me.

Posted by: LACJ on January 13, 2009 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

For myself, I have zero interest in religion, and to be frank I tend to look down on evangelicals as either being suckers or bigoted hypocrites (in a general sense; please no flames).

I doubt you'll see many flames, since this thread has largely run its course, but I don't understand how the parenthetical phrase "in a general sense" in any way lessens the potential for criticism of "looking down on" any group of people. Disagree with them, certainly, but why the condescension?

Anyway, I think you've got your finger on a valuable point here; I would suggest that there is a core hard-line evangelical group who are highly suspicious of politics to begin with, who, if they vote, will always vote for the candidate with the strongest anti-abortion plank. As a political movement, historically speaking, they are indeed quite young, having formed in the backlash against Jimmy Carter, who was the first candidate to make his association with the evangelical movement a campaign strategy. He disappointed hard-line evangelicals, who frequently won't even acknowledge him as having been part of that movement in the first place.

Since, politically speaking, the hard-line group formed several generations ago, the next couple of generations of evangelicals after them don't have the same level of animosity towards Democrats as their predecessors. It is this group that sees Warren as a virtuous, open-minded spiritual leader. They are much more inclined than their forebears to associate their faith with good works, and are much more inclined to adopt left-leaning positions on the environment, on social welfare issues, and to a lesser degree on social justice issues (though they're still farther to the left than the hard-liners) where civil rights are an issue.

When you speak of the group fragmenting, the division between these two group is the fault-line. The younger group is growing, and the older group is shrinking. Warren has made inroads with the younger group, even though ideologically he's part of the older group (he's right in there with Robertson and the the late Falwell).

The pattern for political discourse in the USA has become deeply mangled by our media-heavy culture; it is normal to lift up the worst individual in a group, and attribute his or her views to the entire group. It's normal to identify the worst position of an individual and use it to dismiss every position an individual holds. It has also become normal to portray opponents as wildly irrational, and to pretend that sound bytes are an effective substitute for reasoned and reflective commentary. The leadership of the "religious right" are quite adept at these strategies, but no more so than the leadership of the various groups on the left. Comments threads are populated with partisans, and partisans are invested in an ideological outcome; they want their side to "win," and the other side to "lose." My favorite quotation from Kurt Vonnegut applies as well to the conversation about politics and religion as it does to other topics of discourse, and the quotation is this: "Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative."

Posted by: Spanky on January 13, 2009 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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