I guess it wouldn't take a whole lot of calculation to figure out where I land on the subject of Pastor Rick Warren giving the invocation at Barack Obama's inaguration--or would it?
On one hand, I have to disapprove. I'm not religious. Actually, I disagree with religion most of the time because it's arbitrary, and uses utter speculative crap like "God says so" as justification. I'm actually not really keen on the concept of an invocation in the first place. On that same hand, I'm in favor of gay rights, and actually everybody's civils rights, including--you guessed it, atheist rights. And I'm a pretty big proponent of women's rights, too, being all girly, and so forth. That being the case, the pastor has said some things I wonder at, and really don't think represent openness, inclusiveness, and dialogue with all people, and especially not the people I identify with. Instead, I see dogma and bigotry.
On the other hand, I respect Rick Warren's right to speak publically at an event to which he was invited, as a matter of freedom of speech, and Barack Obama's having extended an invite to him, as a matter of freedom of assembly. I question Obama's political sense in choosing a person for the invocation who offends many of those who supported him, but I understand that Pastor Waren had him speak at Saddleback some time two years back, and he might be returning a favor, as well as sending a message to those people of faith who did not support him (but might be mollified by the presense of the popular minister), that he will also be their president.
I was born during the day, but it wasn't yesterday. I get that these things can be deliberate choices, and can be intended as "messages" and so on. But my hope is that Obama meant no more than to extend an honor to a person who once extended him one, and that that is the actual end of that. And I am definitely aware of why so many people have blogged and posted to fora regarding this choice as if it were a meaningful thing--a deliberate slight, and a sign of things to come.
We want change. Not a change of words, and not a change of pitch and tone. Not a change for a minute. We worked for change, and fought for change. People put change on their credit card on Obama's site. People demonstrated for change. People tried to represent the change by demonstrating post-partisan positivity in their arguments with other people. For a little while, we talked about something good that was going to come, and not about the negative crap that was going on--that was what Obama's administration was supposed to be about. And looking at a good part of Saddleback ministry, people have read the news--same old shit. Gays need to get theirselves together, says them. Atheists have no business in politics, and women--you have no rights--you need a man serving over you and you don't own your body, and by the by, disabled people, don't expect any cure from stem cell research.
You look that over, and it's a hard load to swallow--no offense intended by the picturesque imagery, for the always-seeing-dirt-inclined. It's a hard load to swallow, to wake up to the idea that Pastor Rick and his very large megachurch are mainstream.
But your reality isn't. You love who you love, and you might be a female or you might have just found out you have Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or some other thing, or you might already have three kids and not be able to afford that one you have in you, right now. You might have just had your state tell you your marriage means nothing, and you will lose your rights, because, in part, his church funded a b.s. proposition where the majority got to decide if a minority deserved fundamental human rights.
Pastor Rick loves all of you, by the way--he just doesn't have an easy answer for you. Just like he might not have a response to the politically engaged atheist who wonders what he thinks is the relationship of church to state, or why he finds me or people like me unsuitable for leadership.
There are conservatives who are unhappy with the situation as well. They think Pastor Warren is betraying his beliefs by giving the invocation for a pro-choice politician who doesn't represent conservative values. Part of me wonders if there isn't something to say about a decision that irritates peole on all sides. But I think my overall concern, having read what so many others have had to say on the subject, is that whatver the reason for his choice, I do not think Obama was aware of how really offended so many of his supporters would be. He could not have--because so much of the language used at different times has really been, whether the pastor recognized it as such or not--hateful. And yes, I do think a belief system can cloud a person's awareness of how their words and intentions are perceived.
He has, most gallingly, compared gay marriage to incest, polygamy, and pederasty, adding that he wouldn't want to change the definition that's been in place for marriage for the last 5000 years. I hate to be a bore, but incest, polygamy, and pederasty are well-documented as actually being acceptable forms of marriage in different cultures within the past 5000 years (incest was run-of-the-mill amongst your Egyptian pharoahs, and first cousin-marriage not unheard of among European royalty. Polygamy is still practiced in Islamic culture, and was known in the Bible, and arranged marriages often enough occurs with at least one partner, generally the female, being a minor.) And to add to that insult (to intelligence!) he has suggested that those who might be biologically "wired" to be homosexual are immature not to defer their impulses, pointing out that he would like to make love to every beautiful woman he sees--
Which is nonsense. He sees them, and he may be stimulated--it passes. He is no more likely to hump the leg of a good-looking woman than I might be, or than a lesbian might be. Orientation is more than sex. It's more than a fleeting impulse. And it isn't diverted onto a more acceptable surrogate. He is saying he can still make love to a woman, and sort of fulfill his desire. I can't make love to a woman, and still be mature. Nor could a man of years and experience equal to Pastor Warren, make love to the man he desires, without having giving into an immature impulse.
It's insulting. It's saying to people "You don't know your mind, and you can't figure out how to be happy." It's saying, "My church knows what you need." But how does that reason? God doesn't take the place of that desire to love and be loved--by your equal. Even if you admitted a loving and all-understanding God, and a commensurate level of love raining down--it isn't the same. Not that same as sharing a bathroom sink, or bitching over a crappy movie together.
Not the same as figuring out how to live, or if it comes to that, survive the death of the other. Even God-believing gays want *lives*. Women want respect. Atheists deny all that crap he's saying altogether, because the truth is, sometimes "purpose-driven" means answering to yourself. Reaching your own conclusions about morality--and not giving in to the God-botherers.
I still respect that he will speak and that Obama asked him, and don't even a little bit hope a "Zapatos-tista" (my new coinage for a shoe-thrower--part Zapatista, part the Spanish for "shoe") will disrupt his homily. On the whole, I see his "elevation" in being picked to speak as kind of a paradoxically good thing:
Rick Warren is viewed as mainstream, but I don't think all he's ever said has been "vetted" as we say in politics. Perhaps with a little rational examination of what he thinks and believes, more people will decide, rationally, whether they also feel the same. And perhaps, in being exposed to so many more people, and witnessing this other movement (this Obama, hope and change thing), maybe the Pastor, who has some good things going in re: poverty-awareness and AIDS--even if he has paired with some damn scary people in Africa--might see things clearer.
In other words--I have hope for him. He might be saved.