A lot of people are very upset about Obama inviting the now notorious Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration. This has been evidenced by the many, many blog entries posted about it and the HRC's petition asking Obama to rescind the invitation.
Rev. Warren was very vocal about his endorsement of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, and LGBT rights proponents continue to protest in front of his church (as well they should). Now they feel insulted that their guy, Obama, has made Rick Warren such a public part of our celebration
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't particularly like Rick Warren either. Oh, he's friendly, and he's a good speaker and all, but it's hard for me to like someone who is so opposed to a lot of the things I believe in.
When Prop. 8 made it to the ballot, I came out as bisexual in places where I wouldn't normally be out, and I gently made the argument for gay marriage to people with pretty closed minds. I encouraged people to vote against Prop. 8, and I helped get out the vote. Since the proposition passed, I have signed petitions and written emails (and blogs) against it and continued to speak out about it. I have supported the boycott against businesses that contributed money to the campaign, and I am following the legal challenges to it going through the state court system right now.
I absolutely do not want to invalidate anyone's feelings about Warren and his giving the invocation. He certainly would not be my first choice. Then again, I'm not Barack Obama. I don't have his experience, and I'm not as smart as he is. That's why he's going to be the next President and I'm not.
I was not always an Obama supporter either, but once I threw in with him, I went in with him 100%. I don't agree with his choice of Rev. Warren, but you know what? I'm pretty sure I'm not going to agree with all his choices or actions during the next 4 - 8 years either. I trust the man, though, and realize there must be good reasons behind the decision.
Some of Warren's apologists have tried to say, "Well, he's not that bad, or he also does charity work for AIDS. He says he loves gays even if he doesn't love gay marriage." I myself can't say that he's "not that bad," but he's not the worst, and therein (I think) lies part of the reason Obama picked him.
Unlike Pat Boone, he's not comparing the gay protesters in front of his church with the terrorists in Mumbai (What happened there, Pat? Early senility?). He listens to Melissa Etheridge and was willing to have Obama come speak at his Saddleback Church, despite their differences in opinion about abortion, gay rights, and probably a slew of other things. Warren is willing to give the invocation at a Democratic inauguration, despite the flack he is getting from the conservatives for "going over to the other side."
More importantly, Warren has hundreds of thousands - perhaps millions - of followers and readers all over the world. We already know that many of these people are not traditional Christians, despite their traditional social values. Warren has been asking his followers to focus less on abortion, gay rights and stem cell research, and more on global warming, world poverty, literacy, education, and AIDS and other diseases. He had tried to predispose them to placing a lesser value on some of the things that divide them from us, and more value on the things that unite us.
Does that mean he is worthy of giving the invocation? Not particularly. What it does mean, is that - through him - we now have access to all of his worshipers, and all of the readers of his book, "The Purpose Driven Life." A lot of his American supporters are "Reagan Democrats," or people who used to be Democrats before Reagan charmed the pants off of them. Many of them are not hateful or particularly homophobic; they are ignorant and biased, but not impossibly so.
We need to reach out to those people and bring them back into our fold. How do we do that? Not by yelling or being hateful. We do it by showing them our best side. We demonstrate to them what decent, honorable, normal people we are and what loving families we have. Will it win over everyone? Of course not, but given a little time, it will start winning over many of them. I am convinced of it.
Why else would Obama invite Warren to the party? Well, I think Obama knows just how uncomfortable he makes many Americans. I did phone banking full time during the election for 2 months, and I spoke to some of those people. They bought into John McCain's and Sarah Palin's insinuations that Obama is an unAmerican, Muslim, White-people-hating anarchist, and they bought into it lock, stock and smoking barrel. Choosing Rick Warren will calm them down. They know and like Rick Warren, and will be more inclined to watch the inauguration if he's a part of it, and maybe that will be one of the first steps toward the unification our country so desperately needs.
I know a lot of us worked our asses off for Obama - many people worked much harder than I did. We would all like a big pat on the back and reinforcement that Obama is going to be on our side in the struggle for gay rights. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to get much more than we've already gotten. Telling us how he feels about gay rights is like preaching to the choir. I believe he is already at work on our behalf softening up Americans who don't know anybody openly gay (yes, they still exist). He's got an international financial crisis to deal with, as well as an extremely unpopular war he has to get us out of, and a million other things. In his mind, he knows what he's going to do about gay rights, and he's told us, and it's time to move on to other things.
Undoubtedly, Obama is as tough as nails. You would have to be in order to deal - day in and day out - with the scum of the earth racists I'm sure he's encountered almost every day of his life, and still maintain his cool and get where he is today. And obviously he can listen to people with whom he disagrees without changing his own opinion; his membership in fiery pastor Rev. Wright's church proves that.
That is why I personally don't think the battle to kick Rick Warren out of the inauguration is one worth fighting. I have confidence that Obama is on our side, and has our best interests (and the best interests of our country) at heart. Protest peacefully if you want and make a statement, but I say let this election's losers have a place of honor in our celebration. After all, we just made more than a statement; we won the election.