Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Sooner or later, he just might have to stand for something."

Ouch. Apparently, the fallout over Obama's choice of Rick Warren to perform to invocation at his inaguration has yet to subside, and many of Obama's committed supporters are damn near close to having buyer's remorse:

Not that he was planning to attend, but Barack Obama should know that my sister's inauguration night party -- the one for which she was preparing Obama Punch -- has been canceled. The notice went out over the weekend, by e-mail and word of mouth, that Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation had simply ruined the party. Warren is anti-gay, and my sister, not to put too fine a point on it, is not. She's gay.

Richard Cohen explains further, why his sister has called the party off:

Obama has chosen above all other religious figures to represent him in this most solemn moment. He likens my sister's relationship -- three children, five grandchildren, so loving as to be envied and so conventional as to be boring -- to incest or polygamy.

The conventional thing to say is that Obama has a preacher problem -- first the volcanic Jeremiah Wright and now the transparently anti-gay Warren. But the real problem has nothing to do with ministers and everything to do with Obama's inability or unwillingness to be a moral leader. Sooner or later, he just might have to stand for something.

OK, then. Now, I come at this issue from a different perspective, and I happen to have a much more positive view of Warren than most involved here. I'm an evangelical Christian myself. I've discussed my views on gay marriage elsewhere, and yet I understand why people have taken issue with many of Warren's statements here. I think many of his statements are problematic, to be polite. That being said, I don't see Warren as the raving bigot many others see him as, and I don't think Obama does either.

There's no doubt that Obama (and most of his supporters) and Warren, on many key social issues don't end up in the same place, but I think Obama has made it clear that he is going to try to build bridges to various constituencies that haven't exitsed in a long time. Most of the political moves Obama has made regarding his new administration have been basically those of a pragmatic centrist liberal. This is good news in my book, although there is something to be said of the limits of pragmatism. Pragmatism only gets you so far, and there is a difference between cautious moderation and self-serving political calculation. I'm saying he's anywhere near that point yet, but a lot of his supporters voting him into office expecting a sweeping revolution. This is the view they imposed upon him, not so much what he promised, although he did not do that much during the campaign to dispel those notions, and frankly used them to his benefit. I voted for a centrist, so I'm not upset, although some lefties are starting to feel like they've been hosed.

I'm also not disappointed, because what I've seen from the President=elect so far hasn't fallen below my expectations. I voted for Obama, because I liked most of what he brought to the table. I did not however, fall in love with him to the extent that others did. Like I've said before, we may have elected a new kind of politician, but we still elected a politician.

HT: Simon

UPDATE: Mileage is your own, and I'll have to check this out as far as Warren's views on torture and global warming are concerned, but as Sara Robinson explains here, it's not just gay marriage that's the issue here.

UPDATE#2: Via Pat (with clear-headed wisdom as usual), comes this spot-on defense of Rick Warren, from that crazy, closeted right-winger named....Melissa Etheridge. Read it folks. Like I told you, things aren't always what they seem at first:

I told my manager to reach out to Pastor Warren and say "In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him." They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.

Not the hate-monger you might have been expecting, huh? Now, as noted earlier, others may still take issue with Warren's pro-life views, or his supposed squishiness on global warming, or his supposed endorsement/non-rejection of torture. I choose to take those with a grain of salt at this point. At this point, Obama has embraced someone with whom he disagrees. Wow, who knew he'd get so much heat for living up to his campaign promises?


PatHMV said...

Good post, Rafique. As I noted over at SF, the Warren critics really need to read this post by Melissa Ethridge before continuing with their breath-holding fits of pique.

c3 said...

Good discussion. The phrase that keeps resonating for me is "Just words!" Yes, unfortunately it has become just about words. Broader perspective on who a person has been, the sum total of what he's said and what others say of him seems now to be irrelevant. Yes, Rick Warren erred when in a Q+A seemed to equate a marriage between two men as the same as one between a brother and a sister. Warren usually chooses his words wisely so I'm trying to understand if he was saying this from a cultural/traditional view of marriage a marriage between two men is as illegitimate as one between siblings.

But be that as it may, its the same phenomenon of Obama's "cling" comments. The knee jerk reaction is "Ah Haaa!!! Now you are revealed for the despicable bastard I thought you were all along!"

And as its been noted elsewhere (and can be watched live on any of the Christianity Today blogs) there is an "equal but opposite (side of the political spectrum) reaction" from right-wing Christians. "How dare Rick Warren speak at the inauguration of that MURDERER!!!"

Warren is not a "niche filler" (unlike say, Hagee) and maybe "non-niche fillers" generate the stronger reaction ("Dammit, stay in your niche!!"). I suspect (and I sincerely hope) that President Obama will not be a "niche filler". I suspects that's what he likes about Warren.

young_activist said...

How can you support "the fight for human freedom", which is a universal value, and be pro one nation or another, which is sectarian value?