Warren, Prayer and “Unity”

Warren, Prayer and “Unity”


I know that as a gay man I should be joining like everyone else in condemning President-elect Obama in selecting Rick Warren to give a prayer at the inaugeration since he vigorously supported Prop 8 which banned same sex marriage in California, but I’m not.

I don’t agree with Warren’s views on this of course, but I’m not convinced that this is a fight we need to pick. Why? Well, I agree with Steven Waldman, Warren has done a lot to highlight and try to solve issues like global poverty and AIDS. He is trying to get other evangelical ministers to not focus so exclusively on gay marriage and abortion and really focus on “the least of these.” He’s still a social conservative, but he is one that takes the Biblical concern for the poor seriously. I can’t ignore that and I think that is something that needs to be lifted up. The more people who are involved in try to solve poverty, the better and I don’t care what their background is when dealing with an issue like poverty.

Second, many gays and lesbians seem to forget that Obama was about bringing people together. Let’s go back to that speech that made him a household name in 2004:

It is that fundamental belief — It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us — the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of “anything goes.” Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an “awesome God” in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

Now, politicians always talk about “bringing the country together” and then govern as a pure partisan. While I still have my doubts, I think Obama really means what he says. I think he really wants unity, to find some way to get beyond the petty partisan bickering and towards some true American consensus.

Many who are now angry at the Warren selection talked a good talk about coming together and unity. But unity for them meant being in totally agreement. In essence, it meant politics as usual, except with a liberal face instead of a conservative one.

The fact is, the guy is living what he said four years ago. He is trying to build bridges, not create new chasms.

I don’t agree with Warren on same sex marriage. However, his work has shown that while he might not appease some gays and liberal interest groups on this one issue, he is not a James Dobson.

Besides, we gay folk need to pick our battles and not go after everyone who supported Prop 8. Objecting to a guy that goes to the Third World and feed sick kids makes us, not Warren look bad. Gays need to be about making the case for gay marriage, not acting as some kind of ‘star chamber’ for those who disagree with us.

I’m not saying we can’t criticize Warren or any other person for their role. But let’s show a bit of class, shall we?

  • George Mauer

    Agreed Dennis. In addition, as I pointed out in a few other comment threads, his actual prop 8 rhetoric seems to be aimed at the only legitimate argument to be had. Namely, the fear that the legal nomenclature might land in such a manner that no church could refuse to conduct a gay wedding without exposing itself to discrimination charges.

    The obvious solution is civil unions and getting the word marriage out of the law entirely. I have not heard anything from him opposing such a plan.

  • mike mcEachran

    I agreed with George in a previous post, and (as a gay man myself) I’d like to chime in to agree with you, too, Dennis. I think the gay lobby has strategically screwed up on this issue from the begining. It’s time we had rational discourse with other rational people. I think Sanders is probably one of those (although I still want to know if he thinks I’m going to burn in hell – which to me is the real litmus test for the truly wacko – I have a feeling that secretly, he does not.) I respect people’s sceptism of gay marriage for the reasons that George outlines. Yes, a bit of class is what is needed here. Count me in.

  • Duckam

    I do totally agree that this is classic Obama – he really wants to bring people together, even those some might consider fringe/radical.

    While that sounds nice in a generic way, in the real world he can run into serious trouble as there are many partisan people out there who are really unable to accept moving to a truly open minded position.

    Particularly when it involves what many people feel is a civil rights issue.

  • TerenceC

    It was a great move in my opinion. Warren doesn’t stand for anything I believe in personally, but it doesn’t change the fact that Warren and his followers (directly or through other evangelical organizations) represent millions of Americans with fairly narrow political interests. He’s not a loud mouth, he’s a true believer in his many causes – most of which follow New Testament teachings. Obama just slapped any right wing evangelical who thinks their beliefs have to also become our laws – despite whose Civil Rights are trampled in the process. I believe BO doesn’t necessarily need to openly embrace the GLT population in order to allow these discussions to take place- it’s the “subtle bigotry of high expectations” we all need to watch out for. This decision will allow a national discussion on GLT hCivil Rights to occur without all the labeling, devisiveness, and social contraction.

  • kranky kritter

    Dennis, this a thoughful and open-minded post, and in the spirit which many centrists think is long overdue.

    Nevertheless, I share the concerns of others here who suggest that the partisans of each wing may conspire to devour the open-minded.

    Gays need to be about making the case for gay marriage, not acting as some kind of ’star chamber’ for those who disagree with us.

    I’m not saying we can’t criticize Warren or any other person for their role. But let’s show a bit of class, shall we?

    I agree with this sentiment. So I’ll hope to be surprised. But I’ll bet no money on a calm rational response from folks who are very angry and disappointed. Rightfully so, in my opinion, which further complicates things.

  • mike mcEachran

    I’ll be respectful to a guy who is trying to fight poverty, AIDS, and help the environment, but Warren did compare gay marriage to pediphelia. I have to express some outrage. These sentiments are dehumanizing, and lead to violence against innocent people. This really should disqualify him from the platform on a day that should be all about inclusion. However, I respect what Obama is trying to do, and I am prepared to take a hit like this if it serves a higher purpose.

    BTW, let’s see how much understanding and class is shown by the other side when Obama appoints an opening gay man to be Secretary of the Navy. Should be interesting.

  • Trescml

    Although I don’t agree with Warren on many things, I would say that including him works on a larger level. There are many huge challenges that this country needs to start working toward resolving (health care, Medicare reform, deciding how to handle Social Security, and the budget deficit to name a few). These big issues can not be solved by either a partisan Republican or Democratic take. These are issues that will need 65-70 percent of the country on board to make progress in the tough areas. I hope that Warren is part of a strategy that is working toward bringing enough people together to start moving forward in areas that have been basically stalled for the last 16 years.