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Some worthwhile commentary on Obama’s controversial decision to invite Pastor Rick Warren to give the Invocation at the Presidential Inauguration

Below is a sampling of some of the more worthwhile commentary – both for and against Warren and his inclusion – I’ve seen on the controversy. I do want to make one point up front, before I yield the floor. Some people, including Rick Sanchez on CNN, are arguing that it’s hypocritical of “the left” to oppose Warren’s inclusion in the inauguration ceremonies after having supported Obama’s position during the campaign that he would talk to our enemies, including the objectionable Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Whatever one thinks of Warren and the controversy, it’s a silly point for the obvious reason that Obama is not inviting the Iranian President to give a religious invocation at his inauguration. If he wants to talk to Iran, he has no choice but to talk to the Iranian political leadership. He had plenty of choice in whom he honored with a prestigious place at his swearing-in as President.

OK. On to the show.

Michelle Goldberg

Key quote:

“The truth is that the primary difference between Warren and, say, James Dobson (of the Christian Fundamentalist group Focus on the Family) is the former’s penchant for Hawaiian shirts. Warren compares abortion to the Holocaust, gay marriage to pedophilia and incest, and social gospel Christians as “closet Marxists.” He doesn’t believe in evolution. He has won plaudits from some journalists for his honesty in forthrightly admitting that he believes that Jews are going to hell, but even if one sees such candor is a virtue, the underlying conviction hardly qualifies him as an ecumenical peacemaker. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, Warren himself described his differences with Dobson as “mainly a matter of tone,” and was unable to come up with a theological issue on which they disagree.”

John Cole

Key quote: (from an interview Obama gave to the Washington Blade during the campaign)

Blade: If DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is repealed fully or in part, the federal government most likely still could not recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships performed by states. Would you ask Congress to pass federal enabling legislation that would require the federal government to recognize civil unions and/or domestic partnerships performed by states so that same-sex couples joined in civil unions or domestic partnerships could obtain the same federal rights and benefits of marriage that you have called for?

Obama: I support the notion that all people – gay or straight – deserve the same rights and responsibilities to assist their loved ones in times of emergency, deserve equal health insurance and other employment benefits currently extended to heterosexual married couples, and deserve the same property rights as anyone else.

If elected, I would call on Congress to enact legislation that would repeal DOMA and ensure that the over 1,100 federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally recognized unions.

Pam Spaulding

First of all, Warren was Barack Obama’s selection. While it was announced by an inaugural committee, the buck stops with the man at the top of the food chain. He wouldn’t have the anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-science, church-and-state-merging Warren up there if he didn’t think it was a good idea. After all, they are friends despite the megachurch pastor’s sandbagging of candidate Obama during the Saddleback forum re: choice.

While it’s obvious that an invocation is just a prayer and that Warren is not part of the Obama administration, Warren taking the pulpit as some sort of olive branch to evangelicals and a show of unity and diversity is absurd and insulting symbolism. The fact that the Obama camp’s talking points mention a LGBT marching band’s presence during the official parade shows you how clueless (or calculating, you decide) these folks are.

A marching band is entertainment, someone up at a pulpit (whether you are of faith or not) delivering an invocation is an obvious, powerful symbol of a “message of the day” endorsed by the soon to be sworn-in president. It is delivered by the person selected because of who they are and what they stand for.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Key quote:

“The case against gay marriage, is for my money, a bigot’s case. The appeal to history is false, in the first, for the reason that all appeals to history are false. For thousands of years the dominant form of government in the world was a dictatorship–and then we “redefined government” to make democracy. Was that wrong? But more than that it’s false on the the actual facts–historically, marriage has not always been one man, one woman. It’s been one man and fifty women. It’s been one man and–what we would consider today–one child. One man and five children. One woman and five men. And so on…

No, the objection here is to gays, in particular, which brings me to Obama and Warren. I want to be absolutely clear here. Obama hasn’t betrayed anything or anyone. On this issue, he is what I thought he was. One of the first blog posts ever wrote (sic) noted the amazing hypocrisy in Obama lecturing black people on homophobia, while himself, holding a position on arguably the most important civil rights issue of our time, which was essentially bigoted. It’s my job to say things like that, to, at once, not just carp, but still not simply fall in line.”

Another key quote:

“Sorry, I was supposed to be getting to the diplomatic part. The diplomatic part is this: Barack is the president of the United States. He has all sorts of people pressuring them. His job is to respond to those pressures in such a way as to not break the consensus he needs to get things done, and to expand the Democratic brand in the American mind. So when people make the pragmatic arguments, it’s not that I think they’re wrong. They are, in fact, totally right.

But Obama’s job, isn’t my job. I just don’t think it’s my role to make him as comfortable as possible. This isn’t about betraying progressives, it isn’t about lefties being “depressed,” it isn’t about a Democratic civil war, and it doesn’t need to be squished into a seven minute segment on Hardball. Let’s be honest here–Barack Obama has, so far, been exactly what we expected. Exactly. Let us acknowledge that. But let’s not use that as an excuse to not our job, which is as I see it, to say, “Mr. President. Now, do more.””

Juan Cole

(Cole was in attendance this weekend at a Muslim Public Affairs Council gathering at which Warren spoke).

“A lot of pastors would tell the story of building their congregations and saving souls as the pinnacle of their lives. For Warren, that was only the beginning. He and his wife had an epiphany six years ago when she read an article about there being 12 million children in Africa who had been orphaned by AIDS. They started going to southern Africa, and Warren became devoted to helping those orphans.

But then he began thinking bigger. He has identified 5 major problems he wants to address:

Spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, disease pandemics, dire poverty, and illiteracy. He wants to do job creation and job training. He wants to wipe out malaria in the areas where it is still active. He is convinced that religious congregations are the only set of organizations on earth that can successfully combat these ills. And he is entirely willing actively and directly to cooperate with mosques to get the job done.”

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