Posted by: Randy Allgaier | December 18, 2008

Should the gay community be outraged? The Rick Warren issue


This morning as I was having my oatmeal and tea I heard the news that President-elect Barack Obama had asked Reverend Dr. Rick Warren, the Pastor of Saddleback Church to give the invocation at his inaugural. My visceral reaction was disappointment and anger. I disagree with Warren on a number of issues- same sex marriage, a woman’s right to make informed choices about pregnancy, and a number of other social issues. It was the pastor’s vocal support and advocacy for California Proposition 8 that made my blood begin to boil as I heard the news about his role in the Inauguration. With the level of agitation I had- I was about to go to the computer and write about this choice as an “outrage”.

But I never like to have my actions or the positions I take on issues to be guided solely by my initial reaction. Kneejerk politics is never wise. So I decided to wait, I read a little bit more, a heard a little more- including the choice of clergy that the President-elect made to give the benediction- Joseph E. Lowery.   I know that this post may bother some in my community.

As a gay man I remain disappointed with the choice of Warren, but I’m not going to set my hair on fire and, like it or not, when the President-elect promised to strive for a nation that is united- it means reaching out to those who differ with our opinions. President-elect Obama said during the campaign that he wouldn’t bow to special interests- that was something those of us on the left cheered. But I think we might have forgotten, like it or not, that even if we are on the side of the angels we are by definition a group that is united by an identity and we have a specific agenda. It isn’t just the bad guys who are the “special interests” it is also the good guys- us. Being a special interest is not a bad thing; it is necessary to have advocacy groups for issues that affect communities struggling to be heard. But it is a bad thing for a politician to be owned by any special interest group and any sort of identity politics needs to be done delicately.

In a news conference Obama said he is a “fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans.” But he said he will build relationships with people of opposing views, and wants his inaugural to reflect that goal.

“That dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign’s been all about: That we’re not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere when we — where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans,” he said.

Mr. Obama chose Reverend Joseph Lowery, considered the dean of the civil rights movement, to give the benediction. Rev. Lowery opposed Proposition 8 and is an iconic figure as a co-founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. In essence the President-elect has, as he said would, extend a hand to people who do not agree with him.

I realize that evangelical Christians will not be embracing gays and lesbians anytime soon, if ever. But does it help us to immediately react with anger to Obama’s choice for the invocation? Does it not help our cause for a President committed to our issues to simultaneously reach out to the evangelicals? And as much as I dislike Rev. Warren, he is as good as it gets when it comes to conservative evangelical leaders; in other words he doesn’t make my skin crawl.

I think that the President-elect is setting a tone of inclusion and being agreeable as we disagree; welcoming everyone at the table- even those with whom we disagree.

I do not like the choice of Rick Warren. I disagree with Reverend Warren on most things.  I am offended by the deeply insulting remarks he has made about gay and lesbian people, his support of Proposition 8 and his preaching that misguided support for this  measure to his followers; but I don’t think I am so delicate that I see Mr. Obama’s invitation to Warren as a slap or an outrageous snub. Mr. Obama is walking his talk and we should all be grateful for that since it is a rarity in the political sphere.  If a conservative Republican had asked a minister from the Metropolitan Community Church to say a prayer at an event we would be calling his action heroic and inclusive while those on the right would be pillorying their guy.  Shouldn’t we  strive to act better than those we oppose who villify us?  We need to concentrate on the fights that matter and not look like a bunch of entitled whiners.


Responses

  1. I am disappointed that a bigoted nut is famous and is getting attention for absolutely no reason. Sure, Obama could have picked a better person, but considering his overall fail at politics in general, I wasn’t expecting better.

  2. Well, the silver lining might be that the yahoos are getting a bone with absolutely ZERO policy changes to go with it.

    I hate this pick, but I love his (far more important) picks in science (e. g., the Energy Secretary pick)

  3. Very well written and much more cerebral than my own. Thanks for stopping by and commenting and may you be blessed this holiday season with peace, love and good health.

  4. Randy, your piece is very thoughtful and well-written, even though I completely disagree. Respectfully, I take issue with your view that gay people should feel one way or another. If you aren’t offended, fine, but many of us are for very good reasons. I’m a little weary of being scolded by people because I am intolerant of bigots.

  5. Ryan,

    I totally understand your feelings. I hope I didn’t come off as saying that the community should feel one way or another- because that surely was not my intent. I was trying to convey my own feelings and to raise some questions that I believe we should all think about.

    I have no tolerance for bigots either- but I do wonder if dismissing them and not trying to educate them is a good strategy. I don’t pretend to have the answer, I’m just raising the question.

    Lee’s and my wedding day, which was on our 20th anniversary- September 26th 2008, was one of the most joyous days of our lives. I certainly don’t like the idea of that event being legally meaningless so I too have a good reason to be offended- and as I said- I am offended by Warren’s outrageous remarks. But I am not offended by the President-elect’s choice, just disappointed.

  6. Good post!

    To me, the recent picks for Cabinet positions and such, as well as the Warren pick for the Inauguration, are acts of political genius.

    Obama has been steadily recruiting a powerful group of intelligent, capable people in his Cabinet – while at the same time neutralising opposition. Consider the Clinton pick, for example, which effectively takes her out of the running for 2012 and simultaneously reduces the PUMAs to a voice in the wilderness; or the pick of Richardson for Commerce.

    Similarly, picking Warren for the invocation is a very savvy political move – by doing so, he has immediately dampened a lot of criticism from the Christian Right and its components in the Republican Party. While it’s certainly a big onda among gay rights activists right now, he’ll be able to move past it by simply following gay-friendly or -neutral policies.

    All in all, very clever choices.

  7. Personally, Rick Warren was a very good choice. Rick Warren shows what America should be and that is of good and Godly moral character.
    Why don’t all the gay people read the “tora” of the Bible too find your answers to God word?

  8. God Bless and I hope and pray each one of you find Jesus.

  9. God has blessed me with a wonderful partner of 20 years. I hope you have blessings from God that are a tenth of how I”ve been blessed.


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