The Rick Warren Controversy

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Looking for some good reading on the Rick Warren inauguration controversy?   Here are some various takes from the opposing sides.   First, the pro-Obama/Warren side:

Melissa Etheridge writes on the Huffington Post that those who are angry at Obama should reconsider:   “Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world.”

EJ Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post says that liberals should be happy that Warren’s accepting Obama’s invitation has angered the religious right: “Although I support same-sex marriage, I think that liberals should welcome Obama’s success in causing so much consternation on the right. On balance, inviting Warren opens more doors than it closes.”

David Axelrod appeared on Meet the Press this weekend defending the choice as bridging the right/left divide:   “You have a conservative evangelical pastor who’s coming to participate in the inauguration of a progressive president. This is a healthy thing and a good thing for our country. We have to find ways to work together on the things on which we do agree, even when we profoundly disagree on other things.”

And here are some voices on the other side:

Feminist lawprof Neil Buchanan of GW has two posts on Dorf on Law arguing that Obama’s “appalling and stupid” decision has let down his supporters on the civil rights issue of our time:   “[G]ay rights and gay marriage are the current great civil rights battle facing this country, putting President-Elect Barack Obama in a uniquely important position from which he can and should lead people to change their views about gay civil rights.”

Buchanan also reminds us that Warren’s despicable views are not limited to his views on gay marriage:   “He views homosexuality as something that people must “repent” before they can join his church. That is his choice in determining his church’s rules, but it certainly puts him in league with the Robertsons and Falwells of the world and not with many, many other religious leaders whom Obama might have chosen. Warren also has described people who are pro-choice as “Holocaust deniers” and says that he differs only in “tone” from the most extreme leaders of the Christian Right such as James Dobson. Warren’s views on women, moreover, include the “traditional” notion that wives must be completely subservient to their husbands; and spousal abuse does not — repeat, does not — constitute grounds for divorce in Warren’s world.”

Sarah Posner writes in the Nation that Obama has been swindled:   “Warren represents the absolute worst of the Democrats’ religious outreach, a right-winger masquerading as a do-gooder anointed as the arbiter of what it means to be faithful. Obama’s religious outreach was intended, supposedly, to make religious voters more comfortable with him and feel included in the Democratic Party. But that outreach now has come at the expense of other people’s comfort and inclusion, at an event meant to mark a turning point away from divisive politics.”

And Frank Rich of the New York Times has an eloquent editorial arguing that Obama is tone-deaf to a group of people still struggling for equality:   “When Obama defends Warren’s words by calling them an example of the”wide range of viewpoints”in a”diverse and noisy and opinionated”America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a”viewpoint”defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable. It is even more toxic in a year when that group has been marginalized and stripped of its rights by ballot initiatives fomenting precisely such fears.”

Finally, here’s Rick Warren’s response to the whole controversy:   those who oppose his presence at the inauguration have engaged in “hate speech” and are “Christophobes.”

[For the record, I am firmly in the Buchanan/Posner/Rich camp.   There shouldn’t be much doubt on the issue among progressives and feminists.   Doesn’t Warren’s response make that clear?]

– David S. Cohen

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