In my opinion, having Pastor Rick Warren give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inaugural is a mistake, but it is a complicated, meaningful mistake that calls for a certain amount of analysis.

Rick Warren is a little different from most other well established Evangelical pastors. He is big, and famous, and powerful, and all of the evangelical fundamentalists in the United states have a copy of one or more of his book their on the shelf right next to the Bible and the Idiot’s Guide to Homeschooling your Children. So he is influential. But what is different about him is that he has used some of his influence to draw other evangelicals into working against global warming and to be involved in other important issues.

For this he can be commended, even though these efforts are usually fruitless and unimportant. Evangelicals can’t engage effectively in any pro-environment action because the conservative perspective is anti-environment and all fundamentalist evangelicals are conservative. Conservatives and evangelicals don’t live in Big Tents. A fundamentalist evangelical working against global warming is, from the conservative perspective, like a fireman who is an arsonist or a doctor who does not wash her hands before surgery. Except the doctor would be a ‘him’ because women should be at home doing chores and ‘educating’ the kids.

Nonetheless, it is easy to understand why Obama would a) have a fundie preacher give the invocation at the inaugural, and b) pick this particular one to do so. I want to lay out those reasons, give credit to Obama for trying to do the right thing, then tear the President Elect a new one for completely fucking this up. With all due respect, of course.


Reasons to accept, if not embrace, Obama’s decision to have Rick Warren give the invocation at the Presidential Inauguration

Obama is trying to erect a Big Tent. He mostly avoided (relatively speaking) taking a narrowly defined ideological perspective during the campaign. He is appointing conservatives and progressives, Democrats and Republicans, to positions of authority and power. He is being nauseatingly respectful of his political opposition. But, the “Big Tent” metaphor does not, by itself, describe what Obama is doing.

Beyond the Big Tent, I believe that Obama is doing something more proactive and more specific and potentially more powerful than merely ensuring there be a wide range of perspectives at the table. Obama is explicitly deconstructing well established boundaries that exist between and among diverse factions and philosophies. He is saying that Parties A and B have an historically deep, divisive, unfixable point of difference, but we are going to start with the premise that the difference is fixable, can bring us together rather than divide us, and the difference itself perhaps even possesses a power or energy that can be turned around to make something positive happen. He is insisting that people sit down together and not just talk past or negotiate around these differences, but rather, actively ignore the immutable barriers that separate us.

I like that, it can work, it needs to be tried, and even if it does not work in some areas we can look back later and say an effort was made … yada yada yada …

But then there are some realities to consider. This approach has been tried before, by Rick Warren himself. With respect to Global Warming, it turns out that when you get the fundies together to talk to scientists, ancient mortal enemies eventually recognized each other as such and start to bicker. The scientists remember that the religious establishment has never really atoned for their history of literally decapitating scientists, and the religious folk remember that there is very strong correlation between intelligence, scientific training, and atheism. This makes the religious people very uncomfortable when you sit down to talk. Seriously. Try it some time.

But the fact that this … bringing enemies together in the Big Tent … is hard is not a reason to not try it. No. There are other reasons that inviting Rick Warren to give the Invocation at the Inaugural is a bad idea that should be reversed.

Reasons to reject, if not actively attempt to thwart, Obama’s decision to have Rick Warren give the invocation at the Presidential Inauguration.

The first reason for resisting this decision is utterly obvious but has yet to be mentioned by a single mainstream commenter that I know of. Not even Rachel Maddow mentioned this, which, frankly, I find a little disappointing. (This is especially disappointing because I do have a major crush on her which, I suppose, makes me a gay woman, but I don’t care!) The reason is simple: It is offensive and unconstitutional to so deeply suffuse one of the most important public governmental ceremonies in which we engage with such a strong religious statement: That we must invoke the good will of a non-existent god or things will go badly. How medieval. How backwards. How superstitious. In fact, if you really get into it, you start thinking “Hey, let’s find some scientists and cut off their heads…”

But this (religious mumbo jumbo at government ceremonies even though prohibited by the Constitution) is how it is done, so let’s move on the the next objection.

Obama wants to have a Big Tent. But even in Africa, where diversity in political opinion is generally more commonplace than in other regions, there is an expression: “It is good to build a Big Tent. But even then, you don’t invite in the Hyenas.” One could argue, and many are making this argument, that Rick Warren is beyond the pale politically, and Obama should have realized this.

The counter argument to this comes from what I noted above: This is not just a matter of building a Big Tent, but rather, Obama is breaking down barriers and putting aside the deeply ingrained differences.

But there is a reason that this is not good enough.

The problem is that Obama has, so far, built a Big Tent, invited everyone to the party, but GLBT people are, for the most part, coming to the party as the caterers, not as full participants. During the campaign, rather than making the potentially controversial statement that when people call for full marriage rights for gay people that we should at least listen, he explicitly stated that he was opposed to gay marriage. If we are going to have a wedding ceremony in our big tent, fags and dykes need not apply.

OK, so maybe this was such a hot button issue that it would have been political suicide to enrage the hard right over the issue of gay marriage. Maybe that was just an expedience that can be overlooked. This would be a reasonable argument if Obama had made any other significant overture, show of support, or political sacrifice for the benefit of any aspect of the GLBTA coalition. I don’t think he has done this in any significant way. Please correct me if I am wrong.

I believe that the fact that Obama has not by prior action or words counterbalanced outreach to the explicitly anti-gay core of the fundamentalist right wing disqualifies him from claiming to be everyone’s president. Gay and lesbian people are not on the bus. In fact, the bus just went whizzing by and splashed mud all over them.

The abysmal political failure that we know of as Proposition Eight is relevant here. The fact that Proposition Eight passed, and that it was explicitly supported by Warren and generally by fundamentalist Christian groups, means that the GLBTA cause and coalition is forced backwards by one very painful and almost embarrassing step. Embarrassing at least to the “A(llies)” who see our brethren and sistren falter in the forward movement of a political and social transition that should have been completed long ago. Embracing the root cause of this uniquely American political and social failure is wrong. It is analogous to … oh never mind. The only analogies that come to mind right now are over the top sounding references to Nazis and Spanish Inquisitors.

And finally, the demonstrably shrewd Obama political machine has made a fundamental miscalculation here. Looking at this in a hard and cold non-emotional and purely Machiavellian way, there are two important dimensions to consider. One is the will and power of your allies, and the other is the influence your allies have on other allies or potential enemies. It is a bad move to isolate powerful allies, but it is even worse to anger the very well connected. Both fundamentalist Christians and GLBTA communities are powerful and well connected, so it would seem that this could be a coin toss. Pick either faction, make nice, gain power, get things done.

But there has been a very serious miscalculation here. Neither the GLBTA nor the Fundie Christian factions are trainable. They are not pets to take home from the pet store and add to one’s collection. They are potential allies with benefits and connections. But they are different from each other in a very important way. The GLBTA community is both diverse and philosophically committed to diversity. For instance, there are probably members of the GLBTA community who would agree with the arguments I made above (in favor of Obama’s decision) as politically necessary. But the Fundie Christian community is neither diverse nor interested in diversity. They do not have a big tent. They are narrow minded, committed to bigotry. In fact, they gain much of their power from bigotry. As has been shown again and again, the Fundamentalist Christian community is not a reliable ally unless you are with them 100% across the board with respect to a wide range of issues. And then you are not really their ally, are you? You are simply them. Ick.

The bottom line is this: In the long term, possibly even the medium or short term, Obama can’t have the Fundamentalist Christians as allies unless he simply joins them full out. This is how they play the game.

In politics it is important to chose wisely. In this case, I’m afraid that Obama did not.

Comments

  1. #1 Gay Power Living
    December 20, 2008

    This is a fantastic essay. You raise some very good points. I especially like the last part about the the untrainable polarity between the GLBTA and Fundi Christians. I found it absurdly naive of Obama to think that these people who attempted to destroy him are suddenly going to run out and vote for him. It seems like the hubris has begun to sink into his brain.

  2. #2 Matt Platte
    December 20, 2008

    Rick Warren will be palling around with terrists. Not that that’s a bad thing….

  3. #3 Shaden Freud
    December 20, 2008

    One of the strongest cases I’ve seen for inviting Warren came in a response to this story, which is well worth reading in full:

    Rick Warren has gay friends? Horses**t!

    Commenter fcvaguy replied,

    First, thanks for sharing a personal story like that. These kinds of stories teach the best lessons.

    The strong parallel…

    Unless I misunderstood, your boss invited you to a party at his house AFTER realizing you were more or less likely homophobic.

    If that’s true, then I say your boss is Obama.

    Obama is inviting Warren to his party fully knowing he’s got homophobia issues.

    Your boss changed your disposition.

    Obama will change Warren’s, or at least he thinks he can.

    Just a hunch.

    I have to add this argument to the “reasons to accept” column, even though, alas, I’m sure it’s a naive hope.

  4. #4 sdrDusty
    December 20, 2008

    Greg, I’ve been giving the thing a lot of thought as well. This is the text of a comment I posted elsewhere yesterday:

    NOT in support of the Obama decision, but an admitted possibility:(person)has been defensive of the selection of Warren… not defensive of Warren, mind you.
    One of his points was that we should consider how this could be used to our own advantage now.
    I must admit there is some validity to this. I still think that the invitation is wrong, And I don’t think the protest about it is unfair in any way.
    But there are many things that could be learned and gained from it.
    It’s as doubtful that we’ll change the thinking of many at Saddleback by this as it is that we’ll change Fred Phelps thinking. Warren is just a slicked down nice-ified version of him.
    But IF by giving him room to speak at this auspicious event, we can convince enough of the non-rabid believers that we’re not planning to criminalize their doctrine, and thus further gain our due rights, then the indignity of this will be well worthwhile. I’m not convinced that’s how this will play out, but it’s possible.

    What I’d like to see is for Obama to very diplomatically, serenely, make a spectacle of Warren and his bigotry. Make it uncomfortable for moderates to support his brand of subtle (but thus more potent) hate.

  5. #5 Pierce R. Butler
    December 20, 2008

    Three thoughts provoked by your posting, otherwise not too well-linked:

    * A major subset of the hyperchristians is currently enjoying a tizzy about how Warren is selling out, which makes me wonder if Obama is deliberately working to incite some schisms in what (despite our host’s opinion) is hardly a monolithic movement in the first place.

    * Sometimes I worry that our president-elect has not really learned from Clinton’s failures that the right wing in the US actually cannot be appeased or co-opted. Trying to focus on the pragmatic and the constructive, as Obama seems to, may mean that he has not paid sufficient attention to the irrationality that plays so large a part in human/American affairs.

    * If Obama were to disinvite the Purpose-Driven Bigot now, the resulting accusations of flip-flopping would do more harm than continuing with this tactical error. We can only hope that someone with a good arm can get close to the inaugural stand when Warren is speaking, and is willing to leave abruptly & shoelessly before the main event…

  6. #6 Hal in Howell MI
    December 20, 2008

    Thank you, Greg, for an insightful essay.

    I was deeply disturbed when I heard of this decision. It makes me doubt Obama’s judgment. As posed by Gay Power Living above, is this hubris? It is clear that Warren is an enemy of progress and modernity. Obama is deluded if he thinks this will somehow make him more palatable to the Fundies. Obama is attempting to bring Warren and his followers into the House of Tolerance and Reason and is either unwilling or unable to understand that these people are not housebroken nor are likely to be. I am apprehensive as to what the “steaming heap” of the “invocation” (that shouldn’t be given in the first place) will look like. Obama is over-reaching and has made a gross miscalculation. I question if he is perceptive enough to realize and acknowledge that this is a mistake.

    As you said, Obama did not choose wisely.

  7. #7 gb
    December 20, 2008

    “Gay and lesbian people are not on the bus. In fact, the bus just went whizzing by and splashed mud all over them.”

    Perhaps if Obama & co was to think back to not long ago when Rosa Park made her bold move. A page from history and a stand for rights! Perhaps Obama’s presidency considers gay rights may be a bit much for the religious establishment to assimilate all at once? (sarcasm alert) For the betterment of achieving his objectives….what is but one small sacrificial lamb such that the congregation of the big tent can feast and rejoice their rightousness?

  8. #8 Stacy S.
    December 20, 2008

    Yes, the decision to use Warren stinks, But – There is some good news.

  9. #9 David Harmon
    December 20, 2008

    Just because he hasn’t picked an inaugural chaplain who meets all your tests for acceptability, doesn’t mean “he’s made a mistake”. His choice makes some people happy, makes others unhappy, and (maybe) makes still others fight among themselves. That’s a choice of tradeoffs he had to make, and as it turns out, this time it involves someone with positions you stand against.

    But you know, sometimes that happens, and in this case it’s just a one-shot ceremony. Prop 8 is likely to get squelched by the courts anyway, and in any case, the Obama administration is likely to offer GLBTQAs a lot better hearing than any Republican administration would have. No harm in griping, but I wouldn’t either count on changing his mind, nor take this too seriously as a rebuff.

  10. #10 Hal in Howell MI
    December 20, 2008

    It’s still a stupid decision. Giving any official recognition, ceremonial or otherwise, to someone who wants to take away the rights of a group of people because the Bible sez so, is not acceptable.

  11. #11 Carlin
    December 20, 2008

    Don’t drink the KoolAide! This is nothing more than a craven attempt to pander to evengelical voters. Obama is not being brave or reaching out other than to grab votes. Obama knows that gay americans have no where else to go and so he can afford to throw them under the bus. But I think that Obama may have miscalculated and that the Warren pick will end up tarnishing his message of hope and change for many democrats and moderate christians.

  12. #12 Anne Gilbert
    December 20, 2008

    One could look at it this way: for many of the reasons Greg has pointed out, Rick Warren is actually one of the less obnoxiousof these “culturally conservative” evangelicals. He won’t stop being “culturally conservative”, I suppose(this is why he urged people to support Proposition 8). But perhaps, being exposed to a greater variety of people with a greater variety of ideas, he might be persuaded to listen to them. At least, that’s what I hope Obama has in mind. Maybe he’ll even, eventually, to the GLBT community. I don’t hold out much hope for this, but it’s worth a try. And although I think Warren was wrong, wrong, wrong to support Proposition 8, I’m not about to howl because he is participating in the inaguration ceremonies. Once Obama is officially installed, then it will be time to hold his feet to the fire.
    Anne G

  13. #13 Stephanie Z
    December 20, 2008

    David, who said this is about changing Obama’s mind? Once the announcement is made, particularly a high-stakes announcement like this one, it’s a bit late for mind-changing. That hardly makes it pointless to take a stand on it.

    Greg, my thought on this–my hope–is that it’s meant to do a couple things among the fruit bats out there. The first is to throw a small rope to people who have followed the path of demonizing Obama but who have become uncomfortable with the strength of the rhetoric. The second is to sow confusion among the people who are mobilizing to oppose his initiatives, so he’s dealing with a less-organized “resistance” when he starts making changes on day one.

    I don’t know that I’m right, and I don’t know that the intention matters much at this point. I’m just hopeful that there’s something good to come out of it.

  14. #14 Gerry L
    December 20, 2008

    BTW, there actually IS a Complete Idiot’s Guide to Homeschooling.
    In the library the other day I saw a copy of The Book of Revelation For Dummies. And I see at Amazon, it has some competition in The Complete Idiot’s Guide(R) to the Book of Revelation.
    What next, the Purpose Drive Life for Dummies?

  15. #15 Blake Stacey
    December 20, 2008

    I’m still bemused by the idea that being an expert in something which does not exist — or, to put it more kindly, something which cannot be proved to exist, lies to the contrary notwithstanding — qualifies you for a national soapbox. I mean, as long as the prerequisite is making shit up which people call “heartwarming”, why not have the convocation performed by, I dunno, J. K. Rowling?

  16. #16 daedalus2u
    December 20, 2008

    Maybe it is to give Rick Warren rope. If he says something homophobic in the invocation, Obama can repudiate him right there on the spot. Obama repudiated his own pastor of 20 years for spouting hate speech; he can repudiate Rick Warren for hate speech too. Repudiate Warren and then take the blame for choosing him. Say he wanted to bring the country together to move forward together, and it is unfortunate that some groups don’t want to move forward together, and that they will be left behind.

    What ever Rick Warren says, Obama speaks after he does, and Obama can spin his words to what ever Obama wants.

  17. #17 Elizabeth
    December 20, 2008

    Not to say I told you so, but we would not be talking about this if you know who had been nominated.

  18. #18 Xavier
    December 20, 2008

    I vote for thwart

  19. #19 omar
    December 20, 2008

    Stephanie: David, who said this is about changing Obama’s mind? Once the announcement is made, particularly a high-stakes announcement like this one, it’s a bit late for mind-changing. That hardly makes it pointless to take a stand on it.

    I do not agree. I think this may be the change we need!

  20. #20 Joel
    December 20, 2008

    I think the simplest explanation is usually the correct explanation. There is not grand political scheme going on here. This is Obama paying off a political debt. Rick Warren helped deliver the evangelical vote and this is his reward.

    It is well known that Obama does not personally believe that gay men and women should be allowed to marry, so why would it bother him in the least if he pals around with someone who shares his belief? Obama is certainly not going to try to convince Rick Warren that gay men and women should be allowed to vote, if Obama himself is not convinced of it.

  21. #21 Joel
    December 20, 2008

    That should be, allowed to marry. A bit too much cognac. :)

  22. #22 Joel
    December 20, 2008

    Gays Shut Out of Cabinet

    As if the news of antigay pastor Rick Warren’s invitation to deliver Obama’s inaugural invocation weren’t insulting enough to LGBT Americans, we’re now hit with the reality that no openly gay people will be seated at the cabinet table to weigh in on the next antigay flap.

    http://www.advocate.com/exclusive_detail_ektid68852.asp

    Ah well, we may not have a place in the Cabinet, we still have the closet!

  23. #23 Becca
    December 21, 2008

    I got mad at Obama re: Larry Summers. Seriously, a job that involves him as the boss of three [very acomplished] women? HOW could anyone think he’d handle that well?
    My Dad’s response… “well, Obama’s big on redemption”.

    There’s always the slim chance he’s trying to, you know, be a Christian. In those “turn the other cheek” or “I am my brother’s keeper” senses…

  24. #24 Aquaria
    December 21, 2008

    The problem is that Obama has, so far, built a Big Tent, invited everyone to the party, but GLBT people are, for the most part, coming to the party as the caterers, not as full participants.

    If that’s how the GLBT community gets treated, then this selection of Warren to speak at the inauguration makes women the maids, and nonbelievers the pinatas.

    I’m hanging onto my cynicism. I remember how disappointing of a Senator he turned out to be after an excellent campaign in 2004. Every now and then, he’d throw out a vote that let him pretend to be a progressive, but he’d cave to power more often than not. The FISA vote was not an anomaly for this man. GLBT and nonbelievers can’t expect to make any steps forward with his help. If anything, whatever they might accomplish will too often be in spite of him, not thanks to him.

  25. #25 stacey
    December 21, 2008

    This article is odd. It suggests Christan’s should ask for atonement for their clashes with scientists over the ages. For one, Christians that lived long ago, cannot atone they are dead now! But as long as we are asking dead people to atone, we should ask the followers of Mao, Leninism, Hitler, and the likes of Saddam who mass killed more in the name of secularism often praising scientists like Darwin than so called “Christians” ever had, but that doesn’t seem to ever be an issue, does it?

  26. #26 BILLOFTHEDESERT
    December 21, 2008

    We have never been forgiven for Tennessee William’s exposure of the secrets of the Southern white male. We never will be forgiven for what we know. There’s no going back. In the meantime, Warren is just another politician and a rather small one at that for all his “power;” as is Obama until he proves himself otherwise; and as is that miserable excuse carrying the house silver out the back door as we speak. Please hold your gasps of surprise until after I have left the room. And the more public Warren’s exposure, the better things will go for us. The whole goddam world is watching this. They’re not going to miss this show for anything.

  27. #27 Robbins Mitchell
    December 21, 2008

    So Obama wants a ‘Big Tent’ does he?….trouble is,the tent he is trying to erect leaks like a sieve and was bought with illegal campaign funds….sorry,but I’m not even going to sneak into THAT tent to watch the show…I’ll stay outside and let the rubes and okeydokes have the choice seats

  28. #28 Aquaria
    December 21, 2008

    Wow. Look at stacey the idiot.

    No, I’m not going to bother pointing out what sane, intelligent people know about the issues her ignorant fingers typed into the keyboard. It won’t do any good. She’s as impervious to facts and reason as she is bent in the head.

    I’m tired of trying to talk sense to nitwits like her. She deserves only scorn and ridicule–and lots of it.

  29. #29 Lynn
    December 21, 2008

    I believe that the fact that Obama has not by prior action or words counterbalanced outreach to the explicitly anti-gay core of the fundamentalist right wing disqualifies him from claiming to be everyone’s president. Gay and lesbian people are not on the bus.

    They’re in the band!

  30. #30 Joel
    December 21, 2008

    They’re in the band!

    Obama should point out with pride the hairstylists and caterers too.

  31. #31 Notagod
    December 21, 2008

    Interestingly, now is the time to start working on the next election it’s only two years away.

    Also, I don’t think the evangelicals are as powerful as their leaders would like us to believe. In this past election, it seemed to me that the christians abandoned McCain only when it seemed likely that he would lose. Even though the christians don’t like Obama they still want the illusion that he won because they didn’t support McCain. I think the last election shows that the christians can be defeated. As soon as we can get the politicians to understand that, we will be able to put superstition at the back of the line.

  32. #32 Spaceman Spiff
    December 21, 2008

    I, along with a few others above, will take an optimistic stand on this decision. Obama says he wants to do things differently in Washington. I take this as an example of exactly that.

    I don’t know what the precise percentages are, but if someone said that ~20% of Americans would identify themselves as evangelical Christians, it wouldn’t surprise me. Bitterness and malcontent stem from feelings of exclusion. Do you recall how the U.S. Senate and especially U.S. House of Representatives was run under the “the hammer”? Do you recall how the Bush-Cheney administration regularly excluded all except those who agreed with them? I believe that with this highly visible act of inclusion, PEBO is attempting to do things very differently from and disarm those who have the points of view of V.P. Cheney, Tom Delay, Sean Hannity and Anne Coulter.

    Given the significant fraction of Americans who call themselves evangelicals (not to mention the conservative Catholics), isn’t it better to provide them reasonable representation “within the tent and around the fire”? Remember, you don’t have to agree with their points of view (or world view) to acknowledge them first as human beings and second as Americans (rather than as ‘hyenas’). The fact is, whether we agree with their world view or not, they are here — so how best to deal with them? And remember — in 4, 6, 8, or 12 years, the pendulum may swing again.

    If one is to try this ‘rapprochement’ tact with conservative/evangelical Americans, then it would seem to me that you need to engage with (a) someone recognized by them as representative of them and (b) someone who has some potential for being ‘reasonable’. Certainly, one could argue that this wasn’t the best forum to do this — but maybe PEBO thought it was. If nothing else, it certainly will give the Fox News people something to ponder and talk about that doesn’t involve “rousing their rabble”. See here, for example: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/elections/2008/12/21/rick-warren-defends-invite-obamas-inauguration/.

    The goal isn’t to get these people to vote for you — merely to act in a manner that they are not made to feel marginalized as Americans, that they know that someone will listen to, even if not agree to their points of view.

    Remember, just last February, many evangelical leaders broke from the “flock” and called on their followers to act as stewards of the Earth, specifically with regards to climate change (see here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/08/national/08warm.html ).

    And for the record, I voted for BO and have no use for superstition. Plus I am elated with BO’s stance on science and its place in our democratic society: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2008/12/20/the-end-of-hope/ .

  33. #33 Alex Deam
    December 21, 2008

    Stacey, oh dear.

    This article is odd. It suggests Christan’s should ask for atonement for their clashes with scientists over the ages. For one, Christians that lived long ago, cannot atone they are dead now!

    He means the Christians who are living now.

    we should ask the followers of Mao, Leninism, Hitler, and the likes of Saddam who mass killed more in the name of secularism often praising scientists like Darwin than so called “Christians” ever had

    Well firstly we put the followers of Saddam and Hitler on trial. (Whether those trials were legal is another matter of course). Secondly, Hitler and Saddam never did anything “in the name of secularism”, since well, Saddam was a Muslim and Hitler was a Roman Catholic. Let us not forget that the hatred of the Jews comes straight out of Christianity and has been a big reason for antisemitism for two millenia, and it was the main way Hitler inspired so many Germans to adopt this view of Jews at the time.

    In fact none of them did anything, “in the name of secularism”. Lenin and Mao didn’t kill anyone “because a non-existent God told them to”. They didn’t kill anyone BECAUSE they were secular. They killed people firstly as part of a revolution and then because they wanted to keep their power. Zero to do with secularism.

    And none of them praised Darwin. Hitler even banned the works of Darwin, and Lenin and rest of the Communist party rejected evolution and genetics on that grounds that it was eugenics and led to fascism (notice the parallel with today’s Christians who still come up with this strawman). Stalin then proceeded to kill most of the scientific population (mainly because they were the most educated, and therefore most likely to challenge his authority), particularly biologists due to the aforementioned strawman, though not, of course, the nuclear physicists (he wasn’t that mad).

    And I reckon if you totted up the number of people that Christians have killed in “the name of religion”, it would come to a higher number than the amount killed because of Lenin, Hitler, Mao and Saddam (even if we didn’t include some of Hitler’s count under Christianity as well). Hell, I’d even throw Stalin in there to and I still reckon Christianity’s done worse in total.

    but that doesn’t seem to ever be an issue, does it?

    What, it isn’t an issue that Hitler, Lenin, Saddam and Mao killed a lot of people? Yes, there wasn’t a Cold War at all. And clearly we never remember the Holocaust EVERY YEAR. And if the last 5 years didn’t make Saddam “an issue”, then I have to ask, what on earth would have?!

  34. #34 Alex Deam
    December 21, 2008

    This would be a reasonable argument if Obama had made any other significant overture, show of support, or political sacrifice for the benefit of any aspect of the GLBTA coalition. I don’t think he has done this in any significant way. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Greg, I shall. Firstly, Warren isn’t the only religious figure involved at the ceremony. Joseph Lowery also is, and according to Wikipedia, he has “advocated for LGBT civil rights and supports same-sex marriage”. So there you go right there, Lowrey cancels out Warren, and this is an overture to the LGBT community. Not that it would’ve mattered to me if only Warren wasn’t there. Think about it. He doesn’t need to pander to the LGBT community in his inauguration. They are already on board. He is not about to lose them to the Republicans now is he!

    Anyway, you missed what was said by Obama in the same press conference as he announced these two. Obama said, “It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans.” That, as Keith Olbermann said, is just about a first for an American President.

    And anyway, again as Obama said, “We have to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable”. I think that is fair enough, and has been one of the things wrong (amongst many more of course) with George Bush’s 8 years.

  35. #35 Joel
    December 22, 2008

    He doesn’t need to pander to the LGBT community in his inauguration. They are already on board. He is not about to lose them to the Republicans now is he!

    Interesting. He can piss on us because we have no place else to go. Wow, thanks Barack, but I’m not into water sports.

    “It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans.”

    It’s a secret to me. A fierce advocate that does not support equality for gay and lesbian Americans, a fierce advocate who doesn’t need to concern himself with insulting gay and lesbian Americans, because we have no place else to go.

    Barack can say whatever he likes, and usually does. Barack’s actions are not in sync with his rhetoric.

  36. #36 Greg Laden
    December 22, 2008

    I think that it is important that Obama made the statement that he made. It would be really bad if he did not make such statements. But what we are seeing is not a substantive contribution towards positive change, but rather, a shift in the nature of political rhetoric in the US national mainstream that is happening with or without Obama.

    I assume that Obama has a similar attitude towards gay-osity as your average semi-liberal African American Harvard educated straight male community organizer from Chicago who is a Democrat. I assume he is not really against gay marriage but is not pro-actively pro-GLBTA enough to break that barrier and come out with it as a candidate. I assume he has “no problem” with GLBT issues but like most straight men of his age and class rarely if ever views a person’s GLBTness as a cool and positive feature of that person’s humanity.

    In my heart of hearts, I’m quite willing to see this play out and keep a positive attitude about Obama and his progressive side. As a liberal atheist GLBT-symp I am pissed off, prefer to stand firmly with my brothers and sisters rather than on the fence (though I understand why someone might want to stay on the fence for a while with this issue) and I am now suspicious in a particular subarea of politics and policy regarding Obama where before I was not particularly thoughtful at all due to lack of opportunity for meaningful, critique-able action to occur (or not).

    We all have to keep in mind that he is doing this Big Tent thing and that this is going to be clumsy. If everybody whined and complained that they did not get their way in the Big Tent (with respect to who else is there vs. not) then there can be no Big Tent. As I think I made clear in my post, and as was the whole pointof my post, we have to make a decision as to whether or not Rick Warren giving he Invocation at the Inaugural is a big tent thing or something beyond the pale. Is this like asking the local Anglican Bishop to join your ecumenical Chanukah celebration or is it like asking the local Neo Nazi leader. There is a difference, there is a line, it is important.

    I have provisionally concluded that a) Rick Warren at the Inaugural with an Invocation is criminal. It is like the latter in this comparison; and b) this may well be a screw up, and not a signal. This is a screwup for which Obama takes heat. From a position of proving heat, the GLBTA community can move, later, depending on Obama’s actions, into a stronger coalition with him or into a position of more persistent critique. Atheists too. THIS (Rick Warren at the Inaugural with the Invocation) is not the make or break thing. But it is, undoubtedly, the set-up for a make or break situation.

  37. #37 Free Thinker
    December 25, 2008

    Mentioned a lot in these reponses, are the terms “homphobia”, “homohobe”, or “homophobic”. I think it is safe to assume that the mere thought of HETEROsexual behavior would make a homosexual person uncomfortable, turned off, or even repulsed. Why then, isn’t a homosexual called a “hetero-phobe”, when he/she makes fun of straight people?? I am a hetero-sexual male. The thought of homosexual behavior seems unnatural to me, and even repulsive. It does really seem strange, to a hetero-sexual person, having sex with someone who is the SAME sex. And again, that strange take – there’s nothing wrong with it. ……I think the term “homophobe” is thrown around WAY too much, and is used today to intimidate some people into hiding their natural feelings. For the mere fact I just stated, that homosexual sex is a turn off for me and I think it is strange – I would be labled a homophobe by many people. WRONG. Homophobic behavior is when for instance, someone wouldn’t buy a car from a gay sales person just because he was gay, for fear the gayness would rub-off on them. Or when a homeowner treats a gay neighbor impolitely or even cruely. Homophobia, is unfair treatment of gay people in NON-sexual situations – just because they are gay. ………Gay people are people with feelings, intelligence, hopes and dreams, just like anyone else in this world. To treat them unfairly because of their orientation is wrong, so wrong. Their sex does not harm anyone. …… Just because hetero-sex or homosexual-sex turns off or repulses people of opposite sexual orientations, it doesn’t make them “homophobes” — or even HETERO-phobes”…..If a person thinks homosexuality is repulsive, they should be allowed to say as such, without fear of reprisal, and the same for a person who is repulsed by heterosexuality. Again: not liking a style of sexual behavior – OK. Treating others like crap BECAUSE of the way they have sex – NOT ok. Rick Warren didn’t say he hated gay people, he just said homosexuality: the WAY they have sex – repulsed him. There is absolutely nothing wrong with stating that fact. And people, pleeeease stop throwing around the term “homophobe”.

  38. #38 Stephanie Z
    December 25, 2008

    Free Thinker, that’s a lovely apologetic. Too bad it isn’t actually based on what Warren has said.

    And even if it were based in fact, who goes around just listing the various sexual practices they don’t want to engage in? I mean, really, when was the last time you heard a preacher presenting his opinion of the reverse cowgirl?

  39. #39 Greg Laden
    December 25, 2008

    I’ve always been a bit put off by the whole cowboy/cogirl/cowpoke sexual imagery. But I don’t think I’m specifically afraid of cowboys and such.

    OK, OK, I admit I’m afraid of them. SO WHAT!!?!?!?

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