Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pastor Souljah?

Has there ever been such controversy about who's going to give the invocation at a Presidential inauguration? Bill O'Reilly thinks the PE's made a deft move designed to disassociate himself from Pastor Jeremiah Wright. My Episcopal colleague the Rev. Susan Russell, who heads Integrity, our church's advocacy group for gay and lesbian people, says she's disappointed because of Warren's prominent role in the culture wars.

Andrew Sullivan thinks some critics have overreacted to the Warren choice:
I think Obama is different. I think the earnestness and sincerity of his campaign, and its generational force, have given us a chance for something new, and I fear that in responding too viscerally to the Warren choice, we may be throwing something very valuable away far too prematurely.
That has always been Sullivan's hope about Obama, and while it would be churlish at this early date to say he's wrong, Obama's earnestness and generational force don't especially impress me (especially after we saw the youthful author of all that highfalutin rhetoric pawing a cardboard Clinton).

What's bothered me about the Warren choice was that it felt calculated and even a bit cynical from the beginning. Isn't there someone in the country who could've invoked the healing power of the Almighty without inspiring more anger and division? Instead, it looks as if the PE was either repaying Warren for inviting him to Saddleback Church early in the campaign cycle or using the choice to make straight (with apologies to Isaiah and my friend Susan) his pathway to the political center -- basically, a Pastor Souljah move.

I'm not saying that Pastor Rick's views on homosexuality or any issue disqualify him from a star turn at the inauguration. Any number of pastors, left, right, and center, are toting potentially controversial theological baggage. Warren's ministry has made a difference in tens of millions of lives. And yet because of his prominent role in the campaign and outspokenness on highly emotional questions, Warren lacks the magisterial, above-it-all quality of a Billy Graham.

Obama may not have grasped the difference between choosing someone to pray for the nation and someone to head HHS. As a result, the man who was supposed to bring us together politically has taken wedge politics all the way to the gates of heaven.


cp said...

Yes, Obama was tone-deaf in this choice. Why didn't he pick someone like Tony Campolo?

I have been called a bigot for having a problem with Warren's selection.


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