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Three Cups of Tea for Rick Warren

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Rick Warren is providing the invocation for the presidential inauguration. As a pastor whose books have been read by tens of millions of Americans and whose voice is respected by an equal or larger number, he has tremendous influence and power. And as an open homophobe who aggressively works to wound gay people in this country (as well as pretty much anybody else who doesn't believe with his own particular and peculiar recently-invented version of Christian theology) he should be the guy with the bull's-eye on his back for the progressive movement.

But consider that metaphor for a moment. In Pakistan there are entire regions filled with people who not only hate gays but hate Americans as well, regardless of religion. We've tried bombing them (as the Soviets did, and the British before them). Three consecutive Western empires have tried threatening them, starving them, poisoning them, infiltrating them, and overpowering them - all without success.

And then Greg Mortenson came to one of their villages, had three cups of tea with them (a metaphor for hospitality - they nursed him back to health after a mountain climbing injury - and the title of his best-selling book), and now in dozens of these formerly Taliban-controlled villages the people are rejecting the Taliban, embracing modernity, and openly proclaiming themselves as our friends.

His "weapon" for this conversion? He built schools for their children, particularly their previously-banned-from-school girls.

We pushed the Palestinians on the West Bank to have open and democratic elections, assuming that because they were using the tool of our culture (the secret ballot) they'd vote in people reflecting the values of our culture. Instead, they voted in Hamas, a group that is openly hostile to us and our allies. Hamas' "weapon" for winning the hearts and minds of the Palestinians? They supported schools, hospitals, and fed and clothed people.

You'd think that we'd have learned from these experiences - particularly those of us who call ourselves "progressives" - that you get your desired results faster when you embrace, engage, and nurture your "enemies" than when you physically or rhetorically bomb them.

Barack Obama has learned that lesson, and is applying it in inviting Rick Warren to perform the invocation for his inauguration. In doing so, he is reaching out a hand to those who today are - out of fear and ignorance - pushing away gays the same way their intellectual ancestors pushed away African Americans when anti-miscegenation laws were supported by most of these same "fundamentalist" Christian churches in the 1950s and 1960s.

Joseph Lowry, who is providing the other bookend to the inauguration with the benediction, is the other side of the balance Obama is bringing to this inauguration. Lowry has said, for example, "The same folks who are against progress for black folks are the folks who are against progress for women and gays and farmers and young people and peace activists. We have to understand it's one struggle. This is ONE AMERICA, and the sooner we learn that the more effective our world will be."

And the more effective we will be at changing the hearts and minds of people like Rich Warren and his followers. This is a tremendous first step, and I congratulate Barack Obama on his wisdom, walking metaphorically in Greg Mortenson's shoes to eventually bring the enemies of America's true values of love and tolerance over to our side.

crossposted from the huffingtonpost

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War (more...)

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Since I am somewhat of an expert, when it comes ... by Ivan Hentschel on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 11:47:30 AM
will probably depend on whether you count yourself... by Amy Donahue on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 12:08:50 PM
David Duke was a crackpot and a fringe player that... by E. Nelson on Saturday, Dec 20, 2008 at 8:54:02 AM
with the above post. As an old theology student, T... by virginius "gin" arnold on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 12:09:29 PM
As much as I respect your opinions and knowledge o... by Sandy Sand on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 12:11:16 PM
Love you Thom-listen to your show and I understand... by Paula Sayles on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 1:32:30 PM
I think it was a brilliant move. ( See my comment ... by Paul Kruger on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 9:51:36 AM
This isn't necessarily Obama.This is classic E... by Charlie L on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 12:34:19 PM
See...people start with the assumption that anythi... by Paul Kruger on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 9:56:58 AM
Rick Warren is the most popular pastor in America,... by Bill Samuel on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 7:50:25 PM
I know several ordained religious leaders who'... by martinweiss on Saturday, Dec 20, 2008 at 2:52:37 AM
If Obama is going to succeed, he will need the sup... by martinweiss on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 12:34:41 PM
This should touch everybody and to take a look at ... by Gloretha Gray on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 1:03:21 PM
With all due respect to Thom Hatmann, a true progr... by BroadsideBalladeer on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 1:24:10 PM
on either total political naivete of Mr. Hartmann ... by Mark Sashine on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 1:47:07 PM
When you rightfully stated that Warren's selec... by Paul Kruger on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 10:22:03 AM
I agree that in a nation that is fast changing and... by Sharon Roach on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 1:48:23 PM
The three cups of tea metaphor did not go like thi... by Jim Stinson on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 2:50:53 PM
To really understand why some progressives are so ... by Charlie L on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 3:57:46 PM
the real problem with bigoted, religious extremist... by martinweiss on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 5:53:38 PM
Although Mortenson was making an important point r... by dick overfield on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 6:46:34 PM
I wish Americans would get a constitution and read... by shirley reese on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 7:59:37 PM
Like you say. Constitution provides freedom of rel... by Paul Kruger on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 10:02:09 AM
Why have a religious invocation or benediction at ... by Amanda Lang on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008 at 8:50:38 PM
Ever hear of tradition? It does not matter unless ... by Paul Kruger on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 10:26:21 AM
Jesus doesn't follow Caesar. He also doesn't sit i... by Tom Usher on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 12:39:12 AM
While Obama states that there is room for every cu... by emily horswill on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 3:13:09 AM
Having appointed those who know the most about war... by Paul Kruger on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 10:35:15 AM
... just gave Bush it's first ever Internation... by Mr M on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 9:28:41 AM
Obama inherited a culture of suspicion, greed and ... by Paul Kruger on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 9:46:34 AM
For those who feel they are progressives, I sure h... by Chester Marzolf on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 7:45:17 PM
First off, I don't agree with having religious... by James Nimmo on Friday, Dec 19, 2008 at 10:37:03 PM
  It's my observation that those mos... by martinweiss on Saturday, Dec 20, 2008 at 2:40:29 AM
I think you summed up my thoughts exactly. And I m... by E. Nelson on Sunday, Dec 21, 2008 at 3:06:03 PM