Shirley, whose opinion I deeply respect, asks
I would be curious to know who you would have selected to do the invocation (or, perhaps you would have chosen not to have one).
Legitimate question. I do find it fascinating that public school events are generally forbidden, on pain of lawsuit, from having a non-sectarian prayer at, say, a football game, or even having Christamas concerts any more, but that the civil inauguration of the President of the United States is free from such constraints. However, that's not directly responsive to your question. Here's the answer: I'd like the invocation at the Presidential inauguration to be presented by someone who has not politicized his or her pulpit. As I object to Pastor Warren, I would object to any Catholic clergyman who had called for, say, Senator John Kerry to be refused communion because he believes in abortion rights. To my mind, the fact that Rick Warren used his religious standing to lobby directly for the imposition of specific Christian views via the political process makes him tainted.
Moreover, there are certainly other issues to pick with Rick Warren, no matter how much he gives to charity, or expresses concerns about the environment. Take his flat-out view that evolution didn't happen, and that a scientific approach to the study of speciation and genetic change over time is mutually exclusive with Christianity, and places the soul of such a person in danger.
Warren further believes that all Jews who do not accept Jesus are going to hell when they die, and that stem-cell research and abortion are simply off the table for discussion.
It is questionable (as in Warren has avoided the question) whether or not he believes that all Catholics who believe in an interpreted Bible (via Apostolic and Church tradition) are going to join the Jews in hell because they are not advocates of a simplistic Biblical inerrancy.
This is not the man I would choose as the representative pastor to stand before the American people; he is not the man I believe Barack Obama should have chosen.
As for that gay marriage thing, several of my commentators have take profound issues with me on that.
Commenter David accuses me of wanting to censor a man who has more access to earned and unearned media than 99% of all Americans who are not Oprah will ever have in their lives. Moreover, since he and Barack agree on gay marriage, I should just shut the hell up:
President Obama opposes same sex marriage fraud, why should he censor someone with that point of view?
Then there is Anonymous [whose name is truly legion, in the Biblical sense], who stands up for the good pastor Warren thus:
He doesn't oppose freedom. He opposes the step by step dismantling of law and culture. This is one important front to protect. There has never been gay marriage. It doesn't take anyone's freedom to not recognize it. It would be like demanding health insurance pay for an artificial womb so people can be free to have children if they are men. It is just stupid.
I grow exceedingly tired of people who have absolutely no idea about the history of human sexuality or legitimized forms of human bonding, marriage, and family building sounding off with the evangelical talking points that there has never been gay marriage. I'm so tired of it that instead of writing it all over again I'm going to clip some of the responses I made to Leo over at Down With Absolutes:
Leo, exactly where do you get your grand historical generalization that homosexuality has been frowned upon? The Roman Catholic church had liturgies for same-sex unions until the Ren/Ref period. You certainly cannot be drawing such conclusions out of classical Greece or imperial Rome. Moving around the world into the Persian Empire, even the Abbasayd Empire under the Muslims, China, and others don’t support this statement.
When you move into pre-technological societies–Native American, Pacific Islander, steppe nomads and others–the factual/historical basis of your observation disappears completely. These societies tend to have completely different concepts of human sexuality from that of the west or the large-scale societies of west or east....
1) Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe; Boswell; academically well respected and not successfully refuted yet, though not for lack of trying
2) Most of the pre-technological societies don’t have anything that directly equates to Christian marriage, much less gay marriage; in most Eastern Woodlands cultures children were raised by their Uncles rather than their fathers, because biological parentage was less significant than clans lines, especially among the six tribes of the Iroquois, the Huron, and several Algonquian tribes; most West African cultures were matrilineal and allowed for both multiple husbands and multiple wives depending on the specific time and culture; many Native American and Polynesian cultures recognized a “third sex” role for non-heterosexual men (known as “berdache” in the Americas), often directly involved in kinship relationships similar to marriage.
The whole hetero-homo dichotomy requires that a society share the particular western linear definition of sexuality–news flash! most of the rest of the world throughout history hasn’t!
....The modern concept of the male homosexual in Western Europe is a 15/16th Century innovation that probably occurred due to changes in marriage, inheritance, and endowment customs. Before that, most men in England who had same-sex relationships were married to women and preferred to have sex with young boys. The “effeminate” homosexual [the term "queen" dates from this time] is a product roughly contemporary with the settling of Jamestown.
There’s plenty of solid academic research on all this, but you have to look further than web pages to find it.
By the way, I should point out that those who disagreed with me over there took issue only with Boswell's book. Not that any of them had read it or would read it; they merely relied on the reviews by conservative Christians which told them it couldn't be true. They never approached the berdache issue, or the fact that most societies throughout history have refused to be limited to our single-line paradigm of human sexuality.
You see, we've reached the point where (as my old friend Waldo puts it), prejudice against homosexuals is the last publicly acceptable bigotry in the United States.
Moreover, as Waldo also helped me discover, the people like Rick Warren who stood against Prop 8 not (so they said) out of prejudice toward homosexuals who wanted to get married, but to defend traditional marriage, are now going to court to have all the gay marriages performed when gay marriage was legal in California thrown out. Their spokesman: Ken Starr.
Assholes like Starr and Warren--and, yes, both men deserve the appelation here--want to retroactively invalidate 18,000 marriages.
Unlike Barack Obama, who declares that he is a "fierce advocate for equality" for gays and then turns around to ask a pastor who rejects all scientific evidence regarding the genetic nature of sexual orientation and labels homosexuality a sin....
Unlike Barack Obama, I will not equivocate.
Inviting Rick Warren to present the invocation is not reaching out; it is a smarmy piece of political pandering that victimizes a minority of American citizens to whom candidate Obama made promises both overt and implicit.