Alex Blaze

Responding to Obama: We can disagree without being disagreeable, but Rick Warren cannot

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 18, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, big tent, homophobic behavior, inauguration, john lowery, LGBT, Prop. 8, rick warren

The Obama team has come out with its official talking points on the Warren invocation, and there's nothing there that's all too surprising. They want the celebrity power at their ceremony but they don't want to take responsibility for picking a known homophobe and extreme-right ideologue.

This battle isn't about the fact that someone who disagrees on politics is being brought into the fold. This is about someone who's a liar and a charlatan being brought into the big tent, someone, who, if he had his way, would kick the rest of us out. This is someone who doesn't agree with Obama on anything and who has specifically stated that his political opinions are non-negotiable. This is someone who worked on behalf of Bush's 2004 campaign to ensure four more years of pain for the United States for his political gain.

There are no openly LGBT speakers at this ceremony, and Obama has refused to nominate an openly LGBT person to a cabinet-level position. The message all this sends is clear: Rick Warren and his homophobic followers are the people who Obama's administration will value, not LGBT people. Their votes count more than ours, and they're the elusive Real Americans that need to be reached out to. The rest of us aren't worth their time.

Here are Team Obama's talking points, via the Huffington Post:

• This will be the most open, accessible, and inclusive Inauguration in American history.

• In keeping with the spirit of unity and common purpose this Inauguration will reflect, the President-elect and Vice President-elect have chosen some of the world's most gifted artists and people with broad appeal to participate in the inaugural ceremonies.

• Pastor Rick Warren has a long history of activism on behalf of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. He's devoted his life to performing good works for the poor and leads the evangelical movement in addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis. In fact, the President-elect recently addressed Rick Warren's Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health to salute Warren's leadership in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and pledge his support to the effort in the years ahead.

• The President-elect disagrees with Pastor Warren on issues that affect the LGBT community. They disagree on other issues as well. But what's important is that they agree on many issues vital to the pursuit of social justice, including poverty relief and moving toward a sustainable planet; and they share a commitment to renewing America's promise by expanding opportunity at home and restoring our moral leadership abroad.

• As he's said again and again, the President-elect is committed to bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground. That's the only way we'll be able to unite this country with the resolve and common purpose necessary to solve the challenges we face.

• The Inauguration will also involve Reverend Joseph Lowery, who will be delivering the official benediction at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery is a giant of the civil rights movement who boasts a proudly progressive record on LGBT issues. He has been a leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, gay or straight.

• And for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.

A few quick responses:

  1. Rick Warren is anathema to the "spirit of unity and common purpose." His politics center around divisiveness.
  2. Rick Warren has a history of talking himself up when it comes to activism and helping the down-trodden. He's dishonest about his record and has a big head about it to boot. His church was not the first on the scene when it came to HIV, climate change, or helping the poor, and they definitely have not done more than many progressive churches have. Plus, LGBT people have a longer history and have been working harder to help people with HIV/AIDS, and yet we're not represented among the speakers. Instead, we're insulted.
  3. Obama and Warren do not agree on poverty-relief, or at least I hope they don't. Rick Warren is on record as saying that tax-cuts are the way to help the poor, a tried and failed method that only serves to give more money to the rich. When it comes to "moral leadership abroad," Pastor Rick Warren has called for the head of Iranian president Ahmadinejad. He's lock-step with John McCain's desire to "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."
  4. There is no common ground with Warren. He has said that his political positions are "non-negotiable." The only common ground is to agree with him. He is absolutely opposed to women's choice and LGBT rights.
  5. While it's encouraging to see someone like Joseph Lowery address the crowd, the choice should not be between one pastor who's OK with the fact that LGBT people exist and another who plain doesn't like us. Presenting them side-by-side creates an illusion that acknowledging LGBT people's humanity is a choice on which respectable people can disagree. But it's not - opposing equal rights and others' basic autonomy is a moral failing.
  6. It's in poor taste to drag the LGBT marching band in the middle of this. Presenting them as another counter-balance to Rick Warren makes their presence a political choice on their part. It's implicitly asking them to quit if they have a problem with Warren's presence. But this isn't about them, it's about the speakers, none of whom are L, G, B, or T.

Obama was asked about Warren at a press conference, and here was his response:

I am fierce advocate for equality for gay and -- well, let me start by talking about my own views. I think it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something I have been consistent on and something I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency.

What I've also said is that it is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.

And I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion.

Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak, and that dialog, I think, is a part of what my campaign's been all about, that we're never going to agree on every single issue. What we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans. So Rick Warren has been invited to speak, Dr. Joseph Lowery -- who has deeply contrasting views to Rick Warren about a whole host of issues -- is also speaking.

We can disagree without being disagreeable, but Rick Warren cannot. He can't just disagree with same-sex marriage, he had to liken us to pedophiles and then say that our rights would take away from his.

Also, it's a bit disingenuous to call himself a "fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans." "Lukewarm" would be a better adjective. He can't use cred from other issues here because, while he's definitely in favor of some positive changes for LGBT people, he's not one of of our foremost advocates, in the Congress or elsewhere.

And for those people who still think Obama didn't pick Warren, the committee that plans the inauguration is saying something different.

This ceremony was supposed to be a momentous occasion, a time to come together to acknowledge the historical significance of this occasion as well as, well, celebrate the end of the Bush era. Instead, we have a president-elect who's drawing lines about who's counts and who doesn't in this country and who has counted us out. It'll ruin the day for a lot of us, but I guess when you try to stuff as many people under one tent as possible, some people will have to stand out in the rain.

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I am so terribly bored by this controversy.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | December 19, 2008 8:43 AM

I'm not bored -- not shocked, either. We were treated the same way during the campaign and that's when he actually wanted our money and our votes. Now we're just an expedient tool to help him prove how center-right he is -- just like all them God-fearin', queer-hatin-but-pretendin'-not-to-'cuzz-that-ain't-nice 'Murkins he really values 'cause, jes'-like-ShrubRove, he's in perpetual campaign mode and it's HuckabeeRomneyPalin he's running against and, with that crowd's "undecideds" on the line, well, being too gay-friendly'll cost ya! Besides, he and his InauguPimps know that those queers'll never stand up for themselves by withholding their money and their votes, even if it costs them in the short run but earns them not-to-be-taken-for-granted status in the long run. No, only the Robertson/Dobson/Gallagher/Warren crowd has balls enough to play that particular brand of hardball. Those queers'll fall for anyone who says they support their rights -- even only part of their rights -- no matter how much the candidate's behavior screams, "Back of the bus, hell no, fool, your place is under the bus!"

The mantra is, "We're way beyond squeaky wheels, boyz'n'grrlz. It's 'No More Mrs. Nice Gay' time."

Now's not the time to be bored, it's the time to start getting even. That's what one does when morality is absent from the leader who instead insists on playing pattycake with people who are actively engaging one in war. In wartime, only the Swiss get to be neutral -- and that's only because their Guard is the toughest soldier on the block. It's a lesson Obama has yet to learn but that, if we don't teach him, no one will.

Get tix to the Inaugural from your Congresscritters. Boo Warren -- and Obama whenever he makes another of his false unity claims. Call him a liar when he lies about supporting your civil rights while undermining them by giving an arch-enemy of them such a huge (bully)pulpit. They are lying. They don't care about you. They only want to use you.

Alex -

thanks for the comprehensive summary. I have a passing knowledge of Warren and his viewpoints and am a bit surprised by the reaction of some people to this announcement. Was I taken aback by the annoucement? Sure. But it hasn't led me to come to the conclusion you have (i.e. "The message all this sends is clear: Rick Warren and his homophobic followers are the people who Obama's administration will value, not LGBT people.").

I think we've clearly seen that LGBT were central to Obama's victory and will be central to his administration. I am certain that Obama will appoint an openly LGBT person to his cabinet within his first term and will, out of the gate, appoint/hire a number of LGBT people to significant positions in his administration.

Warren took a hit a couple of years ago for inviting Obama to one of his events. Obama is now willing to take a hit by returning the favor. I think that their partnership is one that has potential to, in the long term, shift (and possibly significantly shift) the alignment of evangelicals within the U.S. political system. Along the way, I think Obama will continue to open up space within that community for discussions about LGBT rights as part of larger discussions about human rights and environmental concerns.

To the extent that Obama has misstepped, I think he has a bit of a tin ear in understanding how to roll these kinds of decisions out and how to present them to the LGBT community. But I would imagine he is generally surprised every time we question his commitment to LGBT rights.

And to the extent that he is, I think the surprise comes from a deep rooted expectation on his part that, of course, we're all on the same team. His goal, though, seems to be a period of expansion for that team and, in general, such periods often create anxiety for long-time team members (am I going to be replaced? will I still have a big role? etc.). If these dynamics are accurate, he could certainly do more to alleviate that anxiety. I just feel like we could do a bit more to have confidence that we have a place on the team and give him some space to experiment with how best to pull in more players.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | December 19, 2008 7:51 AM

Give my regards to the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny.

I'm through with being agreeable with my disagreement.

Would I be considered as being agreeable if I said that churches such as Warrens should be stripped of their tax exempt status because of their involvment in politics and the citizenship of LGBT Americans?

Warren compares my marriage to that of a brother and sister and an adult with a child. If Warren also thought that equal protection of the law (as defined by the CA justices that granted my right to marry) meant that blacks should use their own drinking fountains, would Mr. Obama have chosen him to lead the country in prayer?

I guess Mr. Obama believes that as long as the people that are subjected to bigotry and maliciousness are LGBT, then he has no problem with spinning this appearance to make himself look like a uniter.

I am not surprised by Obama's clay feet. I knew he was untrustworthy the moment he said "God is in the mix" (if not before that) during his debate at Rick Warrens house.

All I can say is: "I told you so"

Thanks, gays, for helping to elect another Democrat wolf in sheeps clothing. You fools. You are all fools for putting idol worship ahead of your own self interest. You are no different than the millions of morons in middle America that elected and re-elected Bush even though he was raping Iraq and is now stealing your homes and jobs and retirements out from under you.

Get in bed with politicians and expect to contract crabs.

Thursday, December 18, 2008
The Bigoted Pastor Warren: Obama's Got A Nice Smile, But That's a Spotlight Behind Him, Not A Halo.
The Obama campaign brought together millions of people around the country who, for the first time in years, got mobilized, got involved. Obama now is in the position of trying to control those same people and prevent them from continuing to act as a grassroots organization. So I keep getting e-mails from the Obama folks asking me to join them in doing something -- contributing to food banks, for example. Well that's good, but it actually would be better to get out and demand jobs and an end to the war, which is what the Obama team does not want us to do.

And now we learn that Obama has chosen the Bigoted Pastor Warren from Orange County California, or "the Reichland" as most people call it, the territory "Behind the Orange Curtain," to preach to the world at Obama's inauguration. Obama decided to honor this man by giving him an international audience with the apparent approval of Obama to preach to the world, lead by example, tell it like it is.

Except that for the Bigoted Pastor Warren, what it is is this: he's a bigot. He does not believe in equal rights or civil rights or constitutional rights for women or gays. Couldn't Obama have found some other preacher, maybe one who wasn't quite so rich? Since when were Christians supposed to act like CEOs, always out soliciting money, building bigger temples in which to be worshipped, buying TV time to convince poor people that if they only send the Bigoted Pastor Warren some money, everything in their lives will be okay. God will make it so.

These mega-preachers live more like rock stars than like people concerned with morality. Tell me the difference between a religious book tour and a rock-n-roll tour? Big stadiums, big bucks, some dude up on stage while thousands worship at his feet, screaming. Usually white, middle-aged men on stage getting all the adoration and taking all the money. Probably they just couldn't sing, but would not give up their dream of living like a rock star. So they picked up a Bible instead of a guitar.

There is no question that there are priests, rabbis, mullahs, ministers, preachers all over this country who are decent honest people, preaching whatever their religious views are in small congregations with working class people. So why pick a guy who is the symbol of the most ostentatious county in the country, the most right-wing segregated Republican county, the mega-church dude, someone whose views of religion involve lots of attention to himself, lots of fundraising. It's all about money. Whatever happened to vows of poverty?

And where are the women religious speakers? Does "change" begin and end with Obama, but everything else will be the same, everyone other than white men will continue to be excluded from -- everything?

If Bush had chosen a pastor who had a segregated church and promoted segregation, there would have been an uproar, and there should be one around this guy Warren. The fact that much of the country may agree with him does not mean it's okay to deny an unpopular segment of the population their basic constitutional and civil rights. I think Obama's real message is that he's a politician, he wants to keep some support from some conservative groups, and he's willing to throw over gays in order to get it.

Of course the bigger problem here is the dangerous alliance between our federal government and the big business of religion which has gotten much bigger and richer thanks to George W. Bush giving taxpayer money to the churches. In a way, religion has usually aligned itself with the powerful forces in society as one more institution that can keep people in line. The government can arrest and imprison people, employers can fire them or work them to death, and the church can scare them into obedience by tales of the horrors of hell. So it should not be surprising to see most religions closely aligned with the federal government.

However, the new policy of actually giving taxpayer money to churches is a dangerous violation of our constitution. Go to the federal Department of Labor website and see their prominent promotion of "faith-based" labor programs: You Too Can Become A Rich Minister And Preach In Mega-Temples Or At Important Inaugurations.

By Obama bringing a mega-church leader into his inauguration, this signals that he plans to continue to give my money to religions despite constitutional prohibitions on doing so. Remember, these religions can receive millions or even hundreds of millions of dollar in income, but they pay no taxes. They have more in common with hedge and private equity funds, and the Wall Street Criminals, than with poor Jesus. What change?

Obama's got a nice smile, but that's a spotlight behind him, not a halo.