Political Animal


January 10, 2013 12:14 PM Benediction and Outreach

By Ed Kilgore

You may have heard by now about the very negative reaction that greeted the news that the president had chosen Louie Giglio, a conservative evangelical megachurch minister from Atlanta, to give the benediction at his Inauguration. ThinkProgress quickly came up with a bunch of really nasty things Giglio had said about LGBT folk in the 1990s.

As Religion Dispatches’ Sarah Posner noted, the anger about the Giglio invitation fed on residual unhappiness with Obama’s decision to give Rick Warren the same role in the 2009 Inauguration, and among progressive Christians, frustration at the White House’s stubborn insistence on showering attention on Christian Right types in the name of a patently ineffective outreach.

Today we learn that Giglio has withdrawn from the Inaugural gig, with what sounds like a shot at the “agenda” (a favorite Christian Right term for the nefarious plans of those favoring equality) of those criticizing him.

So Obama needs someone to give the benediction, which he clearly considers a vehicle for “outreach.”

I have an idea for him: my own pastor, Dan Paul of the Christian Church of Pacific Grove, California.

Dan is a good, solid progressive Christian who gives wonderful benedictions. He also happens to be a cousin of Ron and Rand Paul, though he shares none of their politics.

So in one fell swoop, the president could give the watching millions a fine, un-divisive benediction, and perform some useful outreach to the Family Paul and its many fans.

You’re welcome, Mr. President.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on January 10, 2013 12:22 PM:

    Sounds good to me, Ed!

    Having said that, I won't be surprised if the President picks Pat Robertson, to, you know, help further establish Obama's Christian bona fides - to the people who wouldn't believe he was a Christian, if Christ himself came back and told them.
    They don't listen to DFH's either.

  • max on January 10, 2013 12:52 PM:

    This is like the third week of the ominous Obama and his gun ban ad. Bleh. Move on advertisers!

    the White House’s stubborn insistence on showering attention on Christian Right types in the name of a patently ineffective outreach.

    Is that what it is? I have no idea really. On the one hand, it could be a gambit to avoid right winger criticism by picking someone they won't want to go after (except that doesn't work) or on the other hand, maybe he just likes rightwingers fire and brimstone types. Who knows?

    So in one fell swoop, the president could give the watching millions a fine, un-divisive benediction, and perform some useful outreach to the Family Paul and its many fans.

    Careful, Jonathan Alter will tsk tsk you for refusing to accept a good-hearted Christian Bircher.

    ['Ergo, I heartily endorse your suggestion.']

  • Jack Lindahl on January 10, 2013 1:02 PM:

    I don't get the Obama administration's insistence on trying to show favor to right wing religious types. What's the point? He's never going to get their support even if they DID ask Pat Robertson to give the benediction. All they manage to do is piss off Obama's supporters. It's a mystery.

  • Stetson Kennedy on January 10, 2013 1:14 PM:

    I've got a better idea - how about no benediction at all? It is an official government function, and religious ceremony has no place here. Besides, there is nothing so pervasive among our political system than the phony need to appear pious.

  • rrk1 on January 10, 2013 1:21 PM:

    Obama seems to take glee in poking progressives in the eye. He pissed off the left wing of his party early and often in his first term, and obviously very deliberately. So now he wants to start his second term on the same footing. His thinking must be that there is no alternative for the left, and therefore he can spit on them with impunity. But why he thinks any sort of outreach to the religious right will earn him points is a total mystery. It's the same kind of magical thinking, or is it just arrogance, that makes him seek to be post-partisan and look for a grand bargain.

    His behavior is becoming infuriating.

  • BillFromPA on January 10, 2013 1:22 PM:

  • Bobby Goren on January 10, 2013 2:16 PM:

    OR...he could pick Howard Katz, President of the Humanist Society. It's about time we stopped injecting religion into public ceremonies.

  • midwestdoc on January 10, 2013 2:22 PM:

    How about Welton Gaddy?

  • Bobby Goren on January 10, 2013 2:59 PM:

    One more thing...the invocation and benediction are 20th Century additions to the Presidential Inauguration. FDR was the first to include them at his second (not even first) inauguration in 1937.

    It seems that no matter who is tapped, someone is offended. I'm sure some in the right wing are up in arms that Myrlie Evers-Williams is giving the invocation. Then there are those of us who don't believe that don't particularly care for the implication that a god needs to bless our country at all. With such ample historical precedent, omitting these prayers should't offend anyone - but, perhaps, that's too naive.

  • AlphaLiberal on January 10, 2013 3:08 PM:

    Obama takes liberals and progressives for granted, especially now that we helped him in his last campaign. We are of no further value, beyond as people he can triangulate against.

    He will continue to pander to the right, to offer up sacrifices of liberal and progressive policy positions, to earn himself accolades from The Village. He seems to enjoy that.

  • Anonymous on January 10, 2013 3:18 PM:

    It's the inaugural committee that makes the selections, but I'm sure Obama has some say.

    That said, it's frustrating that there are so many right-leaning clergy in the public eye, most of whom debase the Christian faith with false doctrine. There are many, many unheralded clergy all around the country that preach the love of God and one another, care for the poor and downtrodden, for peace, for human rights for all no matter race, creed, gender, sexual preference, etc.

    Too bad we don't all have a say - I'm with Ed, but would nominate either my current or former pastor.

  • Kathleen Larkin on January 10, 2013 3:28 PM:

    While it would be great fun to tweak the Right's nose with a Paul cousin I would like to nominate the Dean of the National Cathedral and see who criticizes that?

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on January 10, 2013 4:06 PM:

    Why doesn't Obama do the deed himself? [crickets]

  • Rev. Eric Atcheson on January 10, 2013 4:43 PM:

    I am a personal friend and colleague of Dan Paul (at least, that's what it says on Facebook! =)), and I would heartily endorse him for delivering the benediction at President Obama's inauguration.

    Rev. Eric Atcheson
    Pastor, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
    Longview, Washington

  • BrookLyn1825 on January 10, 2013 4:55 PM:

    Where was all this outrage when Rick Warren gave the benediction last go around? I'm as sick of Progressives as I am of Republicans at this point.

    Contrary to what's being reported I think its the Democrat party that will implode soon. The hair on fire outrage at every single thing, false equivalence and the arrogant belief that you can do it better than the guy we elected is turning a lot of people off. There are 14 cabinet positions and Obama has made a total 3 nominations yet he's biased against women. Unbelievable.

  • Nanuq on January 10, 2013 5:58 PM:

    My wife and I were seated in the "orange section" (an invitation and seats I got as a member of the Electoral College) at the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama. We were among six attendees from our state wearing rainbow-colored scarves on a 19-degree day. She and I stood for Rick Warren's "invocation," turned our backs, and held up our rainbow scarves for the entire duration of the lengthy pronouncement as a protest against his anti-gay bigotry, and against Obama's choosing him to be part of the festivities.

    Glad to hear that Obama at last takes seriously his commitment to a constituency that overwhelmingly supported his re-election.

  • Anonymous on January 10, 2013 7:02 PM:

    BrookLyn: where was the outrage about Warren? There was plenty, you must have a bad memory.

    Nanuq: Thanks for that.

  • BrookLyn1825 on January 10, 2013 7:37 PM:

    Well now that he's withdrawn his name it's non-issue. Anon I felt all alone in my outrage re: Rick Warren in 09 so I'll Google.

    To those that think POTUS takes the left for granted I think in actuality he just ignores the Left. POTUS listens to the voters. The Left said he was going to lose the election. The left has said and is still saying he's going to cut Social Security and Medicaid although he's repeatedly said he's not. His cabinet isn't diverse enough yet he's only made 3 nominations.

    The Left spends as much if not more time bashing POTUS as Fox. You want Gitmo closed make your governors and Congressman allow for the trials and detention of detainees in your state. You want legalized pot ask Patrick Kennedy why he's against it. You want Drones stopped suggest a workable alternative. You want banksters prosecuted name the law they broke. Did they break the law or did they work the system? Contrary to what the crazies on the right say he's not a dictator or a king who can change the law by decree; he must work with Congress. Instead of listening to Dkos and Ed Schultz and staying home as in 2010 how about the Left work for and vote in a new Dem majority in 2014.

    I was not a fan of Barack Obama until the exact moment the Left started ganging up on him.

  • Procopius on January 11, 2013 10:26 PM:

    Brooklyn, I wish you had included just one link to where President Obama has said he will not cut Social Security. Vice President Biden said it last August, but I have never seen one statement from the President that he will not. On the contrary, I have seen many quotes from him about how much he is committed to "reforming" (code word for cutting) of "changing" (code word for cutting) "entitlements" (code word for benefits we worked for, paid for, and deserve to get). Maybe I'm paranoid, but I think it's something he really wants to do, although in the end he may not be able to. He does seem to want cover from the Republicans so he can say he was forced to do it, and we are constantly saved by the crazies (and apparently, this time, maybe, by Biden as the closer on the negotiations)