Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Quick Word on the Rick-Warren-Inaugural-Prayer Controversy

As you probably know, President-elect Obama has asked celebrity pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Many were upset that Obama chose a pastor who opposes same-sex marriages and homosexual relationships in general. Others are upset that an otherwise reliable evangelical leader would associate himself with a pro-choice politician. Should be fun.

I've generally been ambivalent toward Rev. Warren. I'm not crazy about his theology (and few would accuse Warren of being one of the great theological minds of our time), but I can admit that Warren has done some good work fighting poverty and HIV/AIDS and that The Purpose Driven Life has had a positive impact on millions of readers. I wouldn't consider myself a fan of Warren, but he never really bothered me. So when I heard that he would be giving the inaugural invocation, my first thought was, "OK, whatever."

When people first made a fuss about Obama's choice of Warren because of Warren's views on same-sex relationships, I understood their concern but didn't see a need to join in the fuss. I figured that homosexuality was minor issue for Warren. Though I disagreed with his views, Warren wasn't anti-gay in the same way that James Dobson or Tony Perkins are anti-gay, so I didn't worry about it.

I didn't realize, however, that Saddleback (Warren's church) does not welcome homosexuals as members. Then I read where Warren compared homosexuality to incest and pedophilia. (He has since issued a clarification.) Maybe Warren was a bad choice after all.

If nothing else, this controversy has made me aware of how casually we brush off homophobia (and misogyny, for that matter). Unless someone becomes a public crusader against gay rights and women's rights, we're willing to overlook his or her anti-gay or sexist views (especially if he or she has a religious justification for said views). We don't afford the same leniency when it comes to racism (and it's good that we don't). Though I have convinced myself to be upset by Obama's choice of Warren, I suppose it's good that we're having this conversation. Just something to think about.

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