Dana Rudolph

What Barack Obama Should Do About Rick Warren

Filed By Dana Rudolph | December 21, 2008 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, inauguration, invocation, rick warren

At my alma mater, Wellesley College, on the first Sunday of the school year, students gather at the chapel for "Flower Sunday," one of the oldest traditions of the College. While Flower Sunday has Protestant roots, the service has evolved into a multi-faith celebration, with chaplains of the entire Religious and Spiritual Life team participating: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Unitarian, and whatever other faiths are currently represented and serving students' needs. It is a festive celebration of love and faith, filled with dance and song. It is so popular that the College now also holds Flower Sundays for alumnae during Reunion and the yearly conference for alumnae class officers.

I am an agnostic verging on atheism, with gastronomic, not spiritual, ties to my very reform Jewish roots. Still, I make a point to go to Flower Sunday every time I return to the College for Reunion or the alumnae conference, for I love the message it conveys. We are a community of diverse faiths and practices, but we can come together in celebration and sisterhood to share our traditions. There is a lesson here for our president-elect.

As much as many of us, myself included, would like to see President-elect Obama rescind Rick Warren's invitation to give the invocation at Inauguration, the ramifications for his relationship with the Evangelical community would be serious. Like it or not, they are a force in our society and a community—like the LGBT community—that Obama would be unwise to offend if he wants to build support for his agenda. I think Obama is right to try and build bridges with this community rather than set up an "us and them" dichotomy. Having Warren give the invocation was not the right way to go about it, for it has damaged his relationship with the LGBT community, among others, but I think the basic concept of reaching out is a productive one.

I suggest, therefore, that President-elect Obama open up the invocation and benediction to a group of religious and spiritual leaders representing the many faiths of our nation. Their order of speaking could be chosen at random, and they would each have a set time limit. Warren could be one of them—not that a bigot like him deserves to be there at all, but because of the repercussions at this point of leaving him out. His presence would, however, become just one among many. Perhaps openly gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson could be one of the others.

There remains, of course, the question of whether it is right to have a religious segment of the inauguration at all, but that seems a much more difficult issue to tackle. A multi-faith ceremony would at least avoid linking any specific faith to our government.

I am in some ways disappointed that Obama did not think of this approach from the start. Yes, a group invocation and benediction would be a break from tradition, but if Obama is really all about change and inclusivity, that should not matter. A multi-faith contingent would set a striking new tone for the administration, and perhaps for our country.

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I agree that all people should be included. To set one man up as a person who "invokes" a diety is giving that person enormous power to conrol a Theocracy with a symbolic message that god is above the president and the people. In a democracy a fair method would be 100 words from each religion and the same amount of words from non-believers.

there is nothing to defend this unholy choice of a vulgar rabid gaybasher like warren

obama has proven that even intelligent people do moronic things

alicia banks

Oh, I'm not trying to defend his choice. Just saying that since he's made it, this might be the best possible situation under the circumstances.

Gerri Ladene | December 22, 2008 5:01 AM

I'd like to know which of his Advisers made the suggestion for this choice to begin with! Any way to find that info?

Ms Rudolph,
You are a bit more flexible than I am. His support for Akinola and the programme to deny gays and Lesbians any rights at all in Nigeria, where reading this blog caried a mandatory five year imprisonment accompanied by hard labour, Warren's advocacy of violating international law by assasinating the Iranian PM (violation of Hague IV) make him totally unacceptable in my eyes, wholly aside from his opposition to women's reproductive rights and his work against us on Prop 8.

I think that we owe it to our imprisoned brothers and sisters in Nigeria to protest the selection of the advocate and defender of their persecutor Akinola.

I think that we owe it to the world to show that advocating for continued violations of international law by the United States is unaceptable and protest for his removal.

I think that we owe it to women in the United States to show that men dictating the reproductive rights of women in the US is unacceptable by protesting for his removal

I think that we need to demonstrate that those who advocate for and lie in order to remove existing Constitutional rights of our brothers and sisters are hugely objectionable and protest for his removal.

Four issues. Four reasons to remove Rick Warren, and two of them either crimes or condemned by the EU Parliament

Cool. Then we should have a bigshot from the KKK praying as well. I know that's getting to be a tiring analogy, but nobody seems to respond to it.

I will respond, JJJ---it is a ridiculous analogy, but no more ridiculous than having a man who advocated the murder of a head of state and defends actions that the EU Parliament condemns offer your invocation, all the while claiming that you are a feirce advocate for the LGBT community.

The haters get Warren saying the invocation

We get a band, and a harsh reminder from the Obama camp that the band is a breakthrough.

Well, international criminals got a breakthrough too, since Warren supports international crimes. And a bigger breakthrough than we got.

So where is the Wiccan high priestess or priest, and the Native American shaman in the inauguration? I mean both are growing religious communities in this country, so shouldn't they be included as well?

Maybe they just aren't a big enough voting bloc to interest him or his grand "coalition".

Slimy corporate politico.

This is probably the best idea i've heard so far, although I don't really see the problem with making the evangelical community mad either. Obama's going to have to do it anyway when he rescinds that "right of conscience" rule bush just passed.

What makes you think he's going to rescind it?

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | December 23, 2008 2:46 PM

Precisely. When I wrote what I thought were obligatory but futile comments during the mandatory minimum regulatory comment period, after chiming in during the pre-official-fight fight -- commenting both on the gay effects of the policy as well as the reproductive rights ones as well as the confluence of the two, I shared my analysis with key policy figures in the campaign and got the distinct impression that getting the damned thing reversed would first require some very strong, coalition-based wheel squeaking to even get the Obama policy team's attention, much less get them to play along. The appointment of Daschle in light of this is no surprise, either.

I'd also like to second diddly's "slimy corporate politico".

Thank you for this reasonable and articulate post. I totally agree 100%, people should stop giving Warren so much power...he's just a man for goodness sakes.

He is positioning himself as the new "Billy Graham;" he is advocating the murder of a head of state, he supports the man who imprisoned thousands of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

By all means, lets legitimise him.

Obama made a mistake.
He needs to admit it and move on.

But that is not going to happen, the Europeans will be miffed and see the US as still conducting cowboy foreign policy, the LGBT's will talk themselves into believeing that accepting this without protest is best, and those imprisoned in Nigeria will believe that we care not a whit for African LGBT's

i liked what you brought up in your post but believe it won't happen.

No, we don't have to give Warren power, but the onus is on Obama. He is the one enabling Warren's bigoted, bad and hurtful behavior. He kicked us when we were already kicked down with the passage of Prop 8.

i respect and admire what Obama is trying to accomplish. But when people work towards reconciliation, parties acknowledge what they have done wrong. i don't see Warren doing this. Obama is everyone's president yet his choice of Warren is NOT inclusive to our community.

So, my issue is not with Qarren, as i know his stances. My issue is with Obama and what i see as a lack in judgment and lack in sensitivity. This big of an event is NOT where you invite someone like Warren to invoke a prayer.

Warren does not believe Jews, Muslims and others that do not adhere to being 'born again' will not enter heaven. So, he is not very inclusive to numerous groups of people. How is he being there coalition building!

Happy Holidays!

Warm Regards,

Existential Punk

This is a great post, Dana. Very thoughtful and well-written. I love your idea about having many different types of spiritual leaders at the swearing in, in addition to Warren. I also understand the reasoning around why Obama can't take this back. I think it would backfire, and the gay community would ultimately suffer for it.

Change is slow, but inevitable. May we all live long enough to see the results of our efforts.