A Little Perspective on the Warren Choice, Perhaps?

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Cross-posted on the Equality Fairfax blog

Well, this is definitely not the post I thought I would be writing just now. This story was not supposed to be my very first screed for this new Blue Commonwealth community, nor my first post in a long time on Equality Fairfax’s blog. There are some other very pressing and important matters in hand for Virginia’s GLBT community, including the real possibility of passing a statewide non-discrimination law for all public employees in the approaching General Assembly session.

Alas, this story about Obama’s choice of invocation pastor is too important to the debate of who we are as a community, where we hope to go, and who will be going along with us for the ride. I had to do this story. It’s a bit long, so please stick with me. But I think this discussion is crucial to our success in the upcoming Obama political era.

The GLBT community needs to grow up. In strategy, tactics, and in message, we need to realize that a new dawn of politics is emerging in which ideological purity will not work, and demanding it won’t build us the coalitions that produce the votes for the real, meaningful progressive change we seek.

Obama has chosen, as others have already pointed out, the evangelical pastor and author of “The Purpose Driven Life”, Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. This is an important announcement for a pivotal role in a moment of the American political story that has always been one with a shared sense of hope, purpose, and optimism for all Americans for their incoming leader. This should be a moment when we all bow our heads in prayer to offer positive thoughts and energy toward the person we have elected to lead our nation. It’s in all of our interests that he (or she) succeeds and leads our country to a better place from where it begins.

And for us today, has there ever been such a time as this for the importance of that collective hope? The economy is in shambles. The country is lacking confidence for the first time in generations that our future will be brighter than our past. Yes, we have faced such difficulties before, but many alive today have not lived them. This sense of renewal and optimism and hope is extremely important for all of us right now.

However, this was not an altogether comforting choice to millions of Americans. Let me tell you, gay and lesbian folks (and many of our stronger allies) are not “feelin’ it”. In fact, I think a fair characterization is that we’re pretty pissed off about this—and not without good reasons.

This has been a difficult few months for our community. We are angry. We feel very much “thrown under the bus” and a bit disenfranchised from much of the overwhelmingly positive vibe that much of the progressive community is feeling. I really don’t think most of my progressive compatriots, let alone Democratic elected officials (or for that matter the “average Joe’s”) understand just how upset the GLBT community is at the moment.

Life is still an uncertain endeavor for many of us. Job interviews have risks. Being honest about yourself has risks. Buying a house with your partner has risks. Watching your partner die and trusting the solvency of his Last Will & Testament has risks. Asking your employer for health insurance for your partner has risks. Even signing up for a membership at Costco has risks. These are all pretty basics things taken for granted by most people, but not us. And much of the time our relationships that mean so, so much to us, mean almost nothing to the world—especially in the legal world. At every turn, life presents GLBT people with challenges that are not only unjust, but stressful and upsetting. And yes, dehumanizing.

And then there’s the violence. Well, I prefer to keep this post uplifting for now.

The (hopefully temporary) defeat of equal civil marriage rights for all people in California at the hands of Proposition 8 was a demoralizing and somewhat unexpected blow to millions of good contributing American citizens who want nothing more than to honor tradition and raise their families in their committed loving relationships with the exact same rights, protections, benefits, and responsibilities as any dutiful American family does.

However, the case I’m going to make on behalf of my GLBT community and our allies goes something like this—don’t panic! Remember the t-shirts from the early 1990s? We must understand the political environment into which we are moving in order to capitalize on our newfound allies in power and in order to effectively advocate and demand what we know to be rightfully ours. The outrage over the selection of Rev. Warren, although justified, is a symptom of the problem our community faces.

Folks, look, there are some very good reasons for us to be angry, alarmed, concerned, and altogether pissed off about the selection of a pastor who contributed to stripping millions of Californians of their natural and civil rights. However, there are equally promising reasons for us not to overreact—reasons I will spend a little time listing later in this article—and not to get to caught up in a very old idea whose time is quickly fading—identity politics.

That’s a buzz word that doesn’t mean the same thing to all people—identity politics. But let me make clear what I mean by the term. I mean reactionary, demanding, litmus-testing, and vengeful power-brokering politics that, at their root, have more to do with division and status-quo than with possibility and real meaningful change in the harmful policies that make life difficult for our families and to individuals.

Make no mistake, there is real harm going on in America to GLBT families and individuals. Often times, pundits and political types, and even some in the civil rights movement’s African-American community will insinuate that GLBT struggles are not worthy of comparison to the struggles of African Americans for full equality and a seat at the table of American life.

However, I would argue that those folks are wrong. While despite the lack of marches with tear gas and water hoses knocking us to the ground, despite the lack of an atrocious, oppressive and murderous legacy like slavery (although remember there are plenty of black GLBT people), despite the lack of visibility to our suffering, and our loss, we are being knocked to the ground (or worse), we are being oppressed, and we are being murdered, simply because of who we are. We are suffering—sometimes unimaginably—so much so that partners in love can be divided by their own families, or religions, or by international borders. We are losing what is most dear to any human being—love, respect, and a sense of belonging. Not always, but often.

We are constantly dehumanized. And the press rarely intervenes on our behalf. We are subjected to statements about us in the public sphere rooted in simple hatred if not in plain intellectual dishonesty and/or false witness. Yet somehow, this speech is often treated as acceptable by our society. We are frequently belittled, disrespected, and we are laughed at.

Yet in the face of it all, being true to our own humanity and dignity, we have fought back for over 45 years. Since the days of the Mattachine Society and the picketing in respectable garb in front of Philadelphia’s Indepence Hall, to Stonewall riots in 1969, to the empowerment and liberation in the 70s, to the AIDS crisis and lives lost in the 80s, the March on Washington in 1993 when we also expected so much, and all the way up to last month’s Join the Impact rallies for marriage equality across North America—we have fought. We have fought and died. Harvey Milk. Matthew Shepard. Billy Jack Gaither. Brandon Teena. Lawrence King. And there are countless others—really—too many very sad and unnecessary violent stories could fill this page. We have our martyrs, too. We may not have the numbers of people, but we have struggled, fought, and we are battling for our lives—for our civil rights as Americans.

And just as the African-American community has risen above its struggles and demanded equality and dignity and respect, and risen beautifully and gracefully to the once unimaginable place it sits today—with its own son in President-Elect Barack Obama—so the GLBT community must rise and conquer our struggles. And they are deserving, civil rights struggles. We will have our place at the table, and soon if we play our cards right.

Identity politics are not going to get us our civil rights. Working directly with those with whom we vehemently disagree, but with whom we have an opening and listening for real dialogue and exchange—that is where the opportunity and possibility for real change exists in our current political environment.

It’s hard to have expectations and then have them dashed in disappointment. But (who is it that used to say this?) with every loss comes an opportunity. An opportunity to reevaluate who we are, what we stand for, and the strategies and tactics we will employ to realize our goals.

Crucifying Obama for his choice may seem like a logical course, but it’s not. It’s rooted in the old “identity politics” paradigm that demands rigid ideological purity and seeks to hold political allies hostage. It doesn’t work and it doesn’t help us achieve our goals. I strongly believe the GLBT community should reserve judgment over this pick, and keep faith in Barack Obama’s promises to our community. Why? Here’s why:

1) People like the Rev. Rick Warren, who are open to redefining the boundaries of Christian compassion to new more leftist or progressive causes should be welcomed and engaged, not shunned, hissed and booed. There is possibility and openness in the engagement of someone like Rev. Warren—someone younger, who has more insight into the emerging young Christian left than do our older nemeses like Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, and the late Jerry Falwell. Even then, Tammy Faye brought us hope! Most “Biblical” opposition to GLBT rights is flat out wrong, just as even the most ardent evangelical Christian would now recognize that those old Testament gems about slavery and stoning your daughter and other truly heinous texts (taken literally of course) we know today to be outside the bounds of morality and the true meaning of Christ’s unselfish love for all of us. Just change your sinful ways, they say. Christ did not condemn true and deep, spiritual love, and at some point, organized religion (that hasn’t already) is going to “get” this about our relationships—they are a gift from God Himself, Jesus and the Heavens. They are the same thing that religion celebrates in marriages between men and women. It’s the love, stupid. Wouldn’t we like a hand, a role, in helping them get there?

2) President-Elect Barack Obama means what he says, and says what he means. The episode with Joe Lieberman, a real exercise in restraint of the primal urge for revenge by many Democrats, demonstrates that Obama is serious about living up to his word on a different kind of politics. Obama has largely been a man of his word in the early stages of his forming administration and maintains a high level of integrity and transparency. I am inclined, for now, to take President-Elect Obama at his word on his promise for repeal of DOMA, to enact a fully inclusive ENDA law, to enact the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, and to repeal the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law. They may not all happen right away, or at the same time, but make no mistake—these ARE the priorities of the LGBT community, and the expectations. If Obama disappoints us at all in not standing and fighting vigorously for at least one of these each year, and if we do not accomplish all of them in his first term, count me among the hell-raisers then.

3) We are going to win our full equality. But we must work constructively by changing hearts and minds. This is hard, difficult work. We cannot afford to wait another 10-15 years until enough of our likely opponents die off. We need to convince good conscientious Americans who currently oppose us why our civil rights are very important, have been denied too long, and need to be in place before many of our elders are gone. Over the Labor Day holiday, I was visiting my Mom and Step-Dad in Colorado, and we had some of my GLBT friends over for a barbeque. One of the couples, Michael and Robert, are in their late 50s and early 60s. They made the point that they feared that if Obama was not elected, that they more than likely would die without ever knowing what it felt like to have their civil rights ever fully realized. Sadly, unless we make our case to our fellow Americans with an ounce of openness to winning the hearts and minds of people who don’t share every value we do, we risk the same fate. This does not mean we give up one iota of what we know we deserve, it means directly engaging people who don’t agree with us on why they should. It’s not as hard as it sounds, it just takes a little more “grown-up” engagement and a little less temper tantrum tactics.

I am now old enough to recognize naiveté and unrealistic idealism. But I’m also old enough to understand how to constructively engage in dialogue and finally complete the process of winning long-fought and deserved civil rights for a minority that remains without the true effects of complete citizenship, and an inclusive feeling that instills confidence in the very spirit of American democracy.

It’s not that the GLBT movement hasn’t been engaged in respectful and mature ways—we certainly have. It’s just that we are indeed on the cusp of historic change and progress. And we need to be engaged in the right way at this critical juncture in order to capitalize on the progress we’ve made and the opportunity we now have. With the ascendency of Barack Obama, the GLBT community is uniquely poised to make headway into groundbreaking and exhilarating times for our community’s people and the promise of our lives and our relationships in America. But unless we are careful in strategy and tactics on how to win over our opponents, we risk alienating even our supporters who are now embracing a new political paradigm that has less resemblance to raging and screaming and more to do with dialogue, common ground, and sometimes even conciliation.

So, it’s OK to be upset about Rev. Rick Warren. I am too. But let’s have a little perspective and patience and understand that this man delivering the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration does not mean that all is lost, nor that we are not on the verge of massive and historic advances in our movement for justice and civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Americans. And just perhaps—perhaps, by embracing the choice of Rev. Warren instead of denigrating him, we will open the door to dialogue—meaningful dialogue—with people who know they are on the wrong side of history and might like to become more a part of the inspiring story of change and victory, than relics of a bygone era that are determined to keep the downtrodden down.

Have faith, don’t give up yet folks. Yes we can—fabulously! It may be corny, but it’s true.


I think the Jewish community needs to grow up too.
To that end, let's have the American Nazi Party say a prayer for us at the inauguration too.
And, while we're at it, the black folks need to grow a skin.
Let's burn a cross at the inaugural.
I don't want to HEAR it.


However, kestrel, Rick Warren is not our mortal enemy. He is wrong in his advocacy of what marriage is in our society and what role religion should have in the defining of that civil insitution. Somehow, I don't think his giving the invocation will anywhere near approach the level of burning a cross or the presence of Nazis.

OMG, I think you just Godwin's Law'd yourself!

You are seeing this the same way I'm seeing it

The validity of Rick Warren being a more "open" and "inclusive" Christian is a fallacy. He is another mean and evil James Dobson wrapped up in a commercialized purpose-driven warm and fuzzy package. Strychnine with sugar will still kill you.

I meant I'm seeing this the same was as Kestral

Not you, Doug in Mt. Vernon. Godwin's Law be damned. It is the same as inviting David Duke to an NAACP Conference.

The Booker T Washington Approach

At least that is how I read your recommendation. That's certainly one viewing about how to go about getting civil rights. I don't know how much success you can expect with it though.

I don't see how embracing Rick Warren gets you anything. If this is a cynical gesture to drum up support among conservative evangelicals, that would be very telling about what we can expect from an Obama Administration. And I don't see how this opens up some sort of negotiation or progress any of these people towards accepting equal rights for gay people. I'll repeat this Rick Warren quote because it bears repeating here. How can you argue with this:

Clarification/addition from Pastor Warren 12:15:
BOTTOM LINE:1. God, who always acts out of love and does what is best for us, thought up sex. Sex was God's idea, not ours. Like fire, and many other things God gave us, sex can be used for good, or abused in ways that harm. The Designer of sex has clearly and repeatedly said that he created sex exclusively for husbands and wives in marriage. Whenever God's parameters are violated, it causes broken hearts, broken families, emotional hurt and shame, painful memories, and many other destructive consequences. There would be so STDs in our world if we all played by the rules.

Therefore, you having sex outside of the confines of a heterosexual marriage violates God's will and has destructive consequences. How does embracing him help you argue against that? This is a theological argument. His church and many others have this scriptural interpretation. What does giving him such prominence help you do? I can't see it.

Last I don't see this as identity politics at all. It isn't about coalescing gay people into our own little political movement to ban oppressors from our existence. It is about Obama choosing to highlight someone with a decidedly narrow viewing on what constitutes acceptable human relations. It's not that there aren't plenty of religious folks out there that advocate for the poor, seek to address global poverty and disease. He chose one that was controversial. Obama's not stupid, I assume as intelligent as he is, he was trying to send a message. And hey, message received. I'd also say don't take the spotlight off Obama and put the blame on the LBGT movement. This was his bad decision, and he should own it.

I don't agree

Rick Warren has his beliefs. Tell him and Obama and everyone why he's wrong. Don't get bent out of shape and reactionary, do something about it. That's my point.

Look, I'm upset too. I'm not interested in just protecting Obama's hide.

But let's be reasonable in how we respond to this. The GLBT community and its organizations needs to protray our plight and why our civil rights matter DIRECTLY to our opponents.

You don't know that it won't work, and history is full of examples of how this type of direct action and engagement has worked. Unions. The Normans. Suffrage. It goes on and on.

I don't see it as "embracing" Rick Warren

I see it as telling him and his followers and others like them why they are wrong--respectfully, and directly.

We need to adapt to what is going to work in the new political environment that Obama is creating---and I really believe direct engagement will work for some. Not all, but some, and if we're good at it, just maybe many, including African American and Hispanic religious people......

How so?

By giving him such a place of prominence at perhaps the most historic inaugural of our lives? That is really putting them in their place. So, you are saying that if you work hard for someone and they turn around and spit in your face, you should just grin and bear it?

Their response so far has been: "but we have a gay marching band." Wow! They are just a bunch of Pander-bears. So much for a new kind of politics. This is the same cynical BS foisted on us by Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

I'm not being reactionary. That is Christian Conservatives who want women barefoot and pregnant and gays "reformed" and in loveless marriages. I'm just disappointed and the more I think about it the more upset I get. I don't see any point in talking to these people. I grew up in Texas which chock full of testosterone and homophobes. I am intimately familiar with conservative evangelical churches the largest of which is the Southern Baptist Convention. I don't see any point in talking to these pigheaded bigots or think that will change their minds about anything. These are the same people that only recently (well '95) apologized for their church's avid support for slavery and segregation. They are so f*cking thick in the heads that it took them 130 years to apologize to black folks. And boy there is nothing like an empty apology well after blacks had fought years and years for equal rights. But let me tell you how I really feel. =)

These people are always going to be in the way. That is the essence of their being. They need to be marginalized not put on platforms.

Missing the point

Look, we all have a choice in how we see this.

Why does Rev. Rick Warren need to be "put in his place" (your words)? I agree that this inauguration will be on of the most historic in our lives (by "our" I mean all Americans). Why get upset because Obama makes a gesture of inclusion for this event? What does that buy US? I really think that despite our ire for the misrepresentation of our lives by someone like Rev. Warren that we do ourselves a real disservice by demanding that Obama change his choice, or by overly criticizing it and comparing it to Nazis, David Duke, and a burning cross.

Part of our problem is that we "don't want to talk to these people." It's hard to see this when we're angry, but it CAN make a difference. I agree that there are those for whom there is no such opening, but we make our task that much harder when we blanket every evangelical Christian in the same "unreachable" cloth. If they are debating this issue amongst themselves, they are not uniting in opposing us.

They are NOT all unreachable. Members of my family who I care about greatly fit this mold. And I'm telling you, they are reachable. Especially because they know me personally.

Not everyone, but some. Shifting the debate over our civil rights into their fold will stop them from preventing us from attaining them. That's the idea.

You may disagree with me, and I respect that. It's OK, we can disagree. We want the same thing. I do think that we should be careful about the battles we choose and how we choose to fight them, however.


Anyone who has known me for a long time might find this article a little surprising. I have in my past often advocated more radical and in-your-face tactics for achieving GLBT rights. I have been very angry and at times probably played on identity politics. Not in my general political involvements, but in regard to GLBT rights and issues.

I've been angry, upset, and felt like a second class citizen for 20 years now. It's not fun, we all who experience this know this. But where has it gotten us? I am NOT capitulating--not one iota, just calling for a change in how we advocate.

I have changed my mind about the effectiveness of getting upset. Constructive dialogue and engagement of our opponents---not on their terms---but using their own terms to make our point, can work to change minds.


There's no doubt that the majority of Americans have a distaste for the more militant in-your-face push for GLBT rights. As with so much that the community does (and actually does quite well when in the right environment), the movement can be a little over the top. We all know that's true. There are even those within the GLBT community who roll their eyes at how they and the movement important to them is portrayed.

Now, I'm a recent addition to this struggle, but I do agree that we need to shift gears a bit, but I don't think bringing Warren into the spotlight is to the movement's advantage. We can influence people, person by person, by our examples. It might be nice to think that extending the invitation to Warren would help in this cause, but I think it just gives GLBT rights opponents someone to point to as their example for opposing those rights.

You've well worded your position. I agree that we shouldn't wash our hands of Obama. Inviting Warren is a slight, and I don't think Obama's team were trying to disenfranchise the GLBT community. It's a risk they took in attempting to build a broader coalition. I know this is important for a myriad of reasons, but I don't think it will be of much help to GLBT citizens.


I think the same way. However, one thought--I think it CAN be of help to GLBT citizens and our federal legislative priorities IF we understand how to capitalize on the opportunity.

In my opinion, judging by many of the responses to what I'm writing (and believe me, I agree with those people I just think choosing cynical tactics now well hurt us, not help us) the GLBT community is still more interested in demanding something, than sitting down and having an actual real dialogue, and LISTENING to each other.

Definitely not embracing Warren

I agree with Doug, but for somewhat different reasons. It's not so much pragmatism in the sense of making ourselves more appealing or trying to find common ground with fundamentalist or confused Christians. It's recognizing that, in extending the invitation to Warren, Obama is deflating the overwrought "Christians are under attack!" nonsense that is just now building up a full head of paranoid steam in the wake of Join the Impact. If one of them was magnanimously invited to invoke the sacred at the inauguration, they cannot say that they don't have a place at the table - so now what are they gonna do?

Understand: Obama is not "embracing" Warren, or endorsing his views, by this invitation. The message here is that we the people are so big that even someone like Rick Warren has a place at the table. There's nothing threatening about everyone being included, even those who would exclude others. Give them a chance to learn the right way to live in human community. We are that strong and that generous. We can afford to be, because we are on the right side of history. We have no need to be spiteful and exclusionary. As someone at Equality Loudoun pointed out, Warren is invited to participate in the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama, to be followed by a gay marching band in the parade. Who's embracing who?

The position of being threatened and outraged by the inclusion of those who offend us belongs to people on the wrong side of history, and that ain't us. My two bits, flame freely.


So you believe we can just wow the Christian Right with this cheap parlor trick and then exclude them from all of the policy discussions that are near and dear to their hearts and they will just buy that they are included? That doesn't seem very plausible.


I just don't think they can whine and screech about being an oppressed minority that's "under attack" and maintain any credibility. What they want are special rights; what they are being offered is a place at the table with everyone else. They don't need to be excluded from policy decisions, they only need to be schooled in the distinction between equal rights and special rights. I have no problem with them having the same freedom of religion that I enjoy. Wait...

Thanks David, you make an excellent point

Your point about why Obama may be doing this and what it could buy us is excellent.

But I really do believe that there could be more to it than that. Please remember that we frequently & too quickly write-off those whom we know offend us and are wrong without realizing that in their heart of hearts (again, many of them, not all) they know that they are on the wrong side on this issue as well. I know that you happen to have A LOT of experience with this type of activity. I think you guys have been trailblazers in attempt to engage in dialogue people who bear false witness toward us.

But there is another category of these folks--often not so visible on our issues, who IS reachable.

We simply need to alter the discussion enough to make it possible for them to not espouse what they know to be ridiculous lies about GLBT people, about our relationships, and about our motivations for society. Most of them know, I would argue, that they are not speaking the truth. We need to alter the conversation in THEIR realms so there is less false witness about us. It is possible.

It's difficult to see this possibility for most people when they are angry, but i will maintain steadfastly that it is there, it exists.

And if the GLBT community can access this opportunity to change the discourse among our opponents, significant progress will happen. It may happen even if we don't do what I suggest, but I think it would be easier and better received by the American people if we do.

[moved comment]

[moved comment]

obama and warren

I think this is Obama's way of trying to circumvent criticism about appointing so many Democrats to cabinet positions after repeatedly implying that his administration would be "a team of rivals." Of course you've got a lot of Clinton people in there, including HRC herself, but Obama did raise a lot of expectations that he would have a bipartisan cabinet, and what he's got right now is a lot of Democrats, a scattering of centrists, and one confirmed Republican. From where I'm standing, in other words, Rick Warren looks like a symbolic--and ultimately meaningless--gesture. Of course I know it doesn't feel meaningless to the GLBT community, but take heart: Rick Warren isn't going to be crafting policy. He's going to talk about how God blesses America, and then he's going to sit down.

Also, in case you didn't notice, Obama has never been on the leading edge of GLBT rights. Remember the VP debate, when Biden was so careful to explicitly state that neither he nor Obama favored gay marriage? But JFK and LBJ weren't on the leading edge of civil rights, either. The difference between a conservative politician and a progressive politician is that one will straddle the line between the status quo and regressive sentiment; and the other will straddle the line between the status quo and new ideas. Obama is straddling that line. That doesn't mean he'll never cross it.

But don't look for it to happen right away. Obama isn't a revolutionary character. He's revolutionary because of his funny name and his skin color, but in every other way--and maybe even because of his funny name and skin color--he's a fairly reconciliatory person. His first instinct is always to try and get on both sides of a divide. He thinks that this is how you build a legacy, even as you assemble a team of devoted supporters to help you achieve your goals. See paragraph #1.

Long story short: I would expect gestures like this throughout his time in office.

And these gestures are fine, if.....

and only if they are accompanied by real progress on our legislative priorities.

We have waited too damn long for real progress and America IS ready to embrace it. So, I don't mind him picking Rick Warren for the invocation (and it is, as you point, just the invocation and doesn't mean that he won't be with us when it matters) provided these gestures are accompanied by REAL PROGRESS.

Frankly, as I've said, I EXPECT to have DADT repealed in the first year, Hate Crimes Act and inclusive ENDA passed in the second year, and DOMA repealed by the end of his first term. That's what he's promised, and that's what I expect.

If that doesn't happen, as I was in 1996, I will end up extremely disappointed with a President that I worked very, very hard to get into power. Obama needs to know what we expect, and I don't want to hear any excuses about the country is "just not ready" for progress on GLBT issues. Because that is bullshit. America has been ready for ten years. And we expect progress.

Damn it.

So again, I don't see any reason to get upset about Obama choosing Rick Warren. If he doesn't deliver, count on me being upset down the road.

Doug and David are right

You can't achieve tolerance from others by showing you have none. We have right wing nuts expecting gay people to change the way they are, while some gay people are now showing they will not accept tolerance, they expect the right wing nuts to change the way they are. The right wing nuts win in that context. The gay community is losing a ton of support over this, while they are handing the crazies a big victory. This is a problem, particularly here in Virginia, home of Falwell, Robertson, Liberty U, Regent U, CBC etc.

It's one thing to walk through the middle of your enemies mine field, when there is no other way forward but when both flanks are wide open, it makes no sense to me.

Thanks Todd...

One thought however---it isn't just "tolerance" that we are looking for. We are looking for our CIVIL RIGHTS. There is a big difference.

I am not sure how us being angry at this choice would lose us a ton of support when the vast majority of American people support our civil rights in many regards (and even though marriage is the most controversial, over 56% of Americans support fully equal rights either as marriage or in the form of "civil unions"). But it's impossible to make civil unions and marriage fully equal as long as they remain separate legally.

Alas, and I am going to post about this soon, 90% of Virginians support non-discrimination laws in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity! 90%!!

How to lose a ton of support

"I am not sure how us being angry at this choice would lose us a ton of support when the vast majority of American people support our civil rights in many regards."

You lose a ton of support by attacking people's religion.

And that is what some of the people who are opposed to Rick Warren's invocation have done.

It's stupid, short-sighted, and ultimately self-defeating.


I think you are missing the point. I don't have nor do I think most people have the expectation that Rick Warren or Conservative Christians will change their scriptural interpretations. I'd sooner pass a camel through an eye of a needle than change their view. The expectation is that you do not give these people national prominence. You don't give them a platform and validate their myopic views of the world.

We had 8 years of that. I was just expecting something a little different.

Respectfully, I think you are the one missing it....

The idea is not to change Rick Warren or evangelical Christians' interpretations on scripture. Although there ARE most likely those out there who probably are open to that.

First, how is inviting Rick Warren to give an invocation at Obama's inaugural validating their myopic views of the world? I thought it was just asking Rev. Warren to say a prayer....

The idea is to explain to them why their religious viewpoint may not be enforced on all Americans in our statutory law nor in our Constitutions. They surely understand that many Christian denominations and other faiths are intrepreting things very differently, or not even considering the same creed. Religious viewpoints shall not dictate law. They need to understand why their viewpoint cannot determine our civil rights exactly because of freedom of religion---because honest witness will tell them that plenty of Christians are not intrepreting the scripture the same way they are when it comes to same-gender love.

And vigor in demanding that they STOP portraying this as all about sex and sex and sex. That's NOT what this is about. This is about our humanity, the REAL LOVE between to adults--honest, spiritual love for one another. They know that this comes from God. And they are powerless to denigrate it because they know they are wrong about it and refuse to admit that it exists. In essence, they are in denial of our love, and they must stop this false witness. We may not be able to change or challenge their interpretation of scripture, but that is not necessary to accomplish what we need to defray their opposition to our civil rights.

It's just not that black and white. It never is.

In response

To your question, as I have stated, it is putting him once again in the national spotlight. And on top of that, it is at a historic event. Providing someone that prominence gives them cachet. That is implicitly validating their view of the world. If it was just a prayer and that is all it was, then why not have the Chaplain of the US House give the invocation?

I understand your idea. An invocation though is not an opportunity to discuss this with people though. And I highly doubt that Obama is going to spend time in his inaugural address repudiating the views of Mr. Warren. So, this is all one sided. It is a PR coup for Warren.

I just needed to vent about this. There is no harm in that as I see it anyway. And so LBGT groups needed to vent too and demand that the invitation be revoked. Again, I don't see the harm in that either. Interests groups make these demands all the time, and they are no worse for the wear because of them. And at the end of the day, everyone can engage in the dialogue you are advocating without embracing Rick Warren and still being disappointed with Obama about making this selection.

On your very last point, for fundamentalists, it very much is black and white. Scriptural interpretation necessarily serves as a barrier for these people. It is exactly the same with abortion. They are values voters for a reason. They want to impose their values through law based on their scriptural interpretation of the bible. God on the money, prayer in schools, creationism... I think the argument about what the Establishment Clause means is lost on these people.

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A brave diary

Doug, thanks for your courage in posting this diary. This is the type of no-win stance that puts you in the precarious position of the middle of a battlefield, but it also happens to be right.

Look, let's count how many white Southerners Obama put in his Cabinet -- ZERO. Let's count how many evangelicals Obama put in his Cabinet -- ZERO. Let's count how many right-wing (rather than moderate) Republicans he put in there -- ZERO.

The speaking slot for Warren is strictly a symbolic gesture to maybe make a few evangelicals decide not to go into hiding and form militias for the duration of the Obama administration. I understand why it's offensive, but the practical, policy impact of this symbolic gesture is -- you guessed it -- ZERO.

BTW, the comment comparing this to inviting the Nazis to speak is a three-for-one: stupid, ignorant and offensive all at the same time. Warren is not talking about putting anyone into ovens. Read a frickin' history book before you invoke the Nazis, next time, okay, folks?

This is an incredibly moving and thoughtful article

I really appreciate your diary, Doug. Sometimes it is hard to truly be tolerant and value diversity. When you mentioned shunning, it exactly expressed a concern I had about the conversation about Warren's invocation. In our work lives, we all have to come together with people from all kinds of backgrounds to achieve progress for our companies and organizations. I value the diverse work environment that I have. But that doesn't for one minute mean that I share every value with every person I work with. A good manager looks for the talents among the people he or she works with and melds those talents to achieve the aims of the organization. Shunning does not accomplish anything. No person is one-dimensional. We have an amazing host of serious problems in this country, some that directly affect life and death for our fellow citizens. Let each of us give of our talents where they can best serve the country. If President-elect Obama was putting Warren in charge of civil rights, I would be fighting feverishly to stop him. Instead Warren will be offering prayer to God to guide our country and and our new President through the tough times ahead. I don't think that saying a prayer will hurt the GLBT community. Remember that Warren has been bringing a message of service to many people, to seek a purpose-driven life. It is a message that Obama shares with him. This is something you won't hear from the finger-wagging attention seekers like Dobson and Robertson. When you seek to provide for the needs of others, you have an opportunity to understand the world through another's eyes. Through greater understanding, you can forge respect. Demands of ideological purity and shunning, harrassing or punishing those who disagree will not move us forward. Yes, we should speak of our convictions and bring to light the shameful and hurtful things that Warren has said. But, having Warren give an invocation will not stop the march for civil rights.

this is an extremely dark, cynical and sinister act by Obama

Obama is too smart not to have know there would be this reaction. And as more and more of Warren's hateful invective comes to light on videos, it becomes even more repulsive. Combine this with Harvard Law grad Obama's FISA vote and he begins to look just like any other power driven cynical pol.

Throw in this idea of a new organization, separate from the Democratic Party, with a state leader in every state run out of a White House office while the "52 state campaign" directors are all let go and no new DNC chair identified and paranoids could go wild.

Gary Willis wrote a great rebuttal to the wingnut's so called theology on homosexuality in his book, "Why I am a Catholic" - check it out.

BTW I refuse to refer to these people as evangelical, fundamentalist or Christian because they are none of the three. I could write an exegesis to demonstrate how that is true but I'd need my own blog. There was a great "West Wing" scene in which the Catholic President Bartlett eviscerates their theology and exposes their hypocrisy.

If "wingnut" offends, please help me find another word that doesn't legitimize their "theology" which is more properly described as a ideology which has little to do with Christianity and much to do with the remnants of the John Birch Society.

That is a great scene on the West Wing

and remember the President's office invited that lady to the White House in the first place. You can't have a conversation if both sides don't show up.

An invitation to the White House on a specific topic of

possible agreement is a great idea but lending Warren a nation-wide podium lends him far too much credibility and an implication of general approval. The symbolism of the visual vastly overwhelms any words Obama speaks to try to distance himself from Warren's hatefulness.

Obama had to know this and did it anyway. Very scary.

Im surely they'll do good.

Im surely they'll do good. Lets just support Obama's team.
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