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Should We Trust Obama on Rick Warren?

By Lavender January 16, 2009

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Shortly after this issue hits the stands, I’ll see whether I had any handle on (then) President Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his January 20 inauguration

I first was appalled, then considered: Was Obama being canny? No way can he burst upon the scene, the freshly minted Commander-in-Chief, and put all gay issues on the front burner. If they are to be addressed, then so, too, must be the acknowledgment and inclusion of right-wing evangelicals.

I doubted—and still do—that Warren will be unleashed to rail against gays. Maybe being in the national spotlight can make him pause and consider some of his views—or, more realistically, modify their expression.

Warren is founder and pastor of the mega Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California (fourth-largest church in the United States), and author of the 20-million-copy devotional best-seller The Purpose-Driven Life. Because he’s in a position to affect millions of adherents, any change in tone or intensity can make a difference to his listeners.

If, as some maintain, the very act of observing changes the observed, possibly to be seen by the entire country—the world—it will push Warren to begin to see himself through a more inclusive lens. Or, that might just be my own blue-sky view.

I’ve encountered widely varying opinions on Warren, including a straight friend who thought Obama had made “a terrible mistake.”

Vince Sgambati, a gay dad whose column “In a Family Way” appears in Lavender, wrote to the Reader’s Page on Syracuse.com December 26, 2008, asking, “…do you really expect my family to be led in prayer by a man who would not allow us to be members of his church unless Jack and I repent our ‘lifestyle,’ or who compares our 32 years together to incest and pedophilia (having a 12-year-old child, I find such a comparison especially abhorrent), or who used his power to strip LGBT couples in California of their rights?”

On the other hand, Mark Segal, Publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, wrote in part: “The Rev. Rick Warren…community, get a grip!….This can be viewed as a misstep or a shrewd political move, depending on how much you trust the candidate you worked so hard to elect. So do you want to believe you were correct in your support or you were fooled? This is a trust issue.”

Segal added, “Personally, this is a small issue. One minute at the inauguration will not amount to political change, but instead leave the impression that the man who promised to bring us together is making an attempt to show those who didn’t support him he’s reaching out to them.”

Call me wishy-washy, but I can see both sides. I prefer to err on the side of trust, but we’ll see. Only time will tell.

One Response to Should We Trust Obama on Rick Warren?

  1. Sreekishen Nair says:

    Hi Mr. Boatner and Happy 2009,

    I agree 100% with your statement on Obama’s choice concerning the (ir)reverend Rick Warren -some who I do consider an “enemy” of sorts.

    When I first heard of the choice, I was sore dissappointed and really quite angry. I had been an admirer of Obama’s long before the his candidacy, mainly because of his outspoken and eloquent stance against the Iraq war. Knowing many other LGBT people (myself included) who helped vote him into office, I felt somewhat betrayed (as I am sure we all did) with the invitation that Obama offered to Warren.

    My first reaction was to invoke the image of a real hero: Bayard Rustin (I’m working on some paintings of him for a few upcoming LGBT Ar Exhibitions) I think its a shame that Rustin, a man who SHOULD be one of the most important people in American history, is relegated to the backseat of our memory simply because he was gay.

    Warren represents the kind of bigotry that keeps America from acknowledging Rustins contributions. As Obama is truely indebted to Rustin, I wanted to scream at him that, through Warren, he has turned his back on Rustin’s non-violent Civil Rights legacy.

    Then I remembered a famous quote by Rustin: “When I say I love Eastland, it sounds preposterous –a man who brutalizes people. But ‘you’ love him or you wouldn’t be here. You’re going to Mississippi to create social change —and you love Eastland in your desire to create conditions which will redeem his children. Loving your enemy is manifest in putting your arms not around the man but around the social situation, to take power from those who misuse it –at which point they can become human too.”

    When I reviewed this statement in my head, I come to the concluson that maybe Obama is doing exactly what Rustin would have.

    Anyhow, at least Bush is going… lets hope he takes the trigger-happy insanity and thinly-veiled deceptions with him.

    Here’s hoping you and yours have a wonderful and prosperous New Year filled with joy and peace… and CHANGE!

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