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Chill Out About Rick Warren!

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Headlined to None 12/22/08

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As a strong supporter of Barack Obama, and the gay rights movement, I find the uproar about Obama's selection of Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation to be understandable on the one hand, but self-serving and shortsighted on the other.

No one can argue that Warren's position on gay rights isn't ridiculous and detestable to all those, both gay and straight, who are committed to gay rights, including the right to marry. And anyone who supports those rights is bound to be disappointed at Obama's choice. But the level of anger among some demonstrates several unfortunate things.

First, it should be noted that Warren is being equally excoriated by as many Christian fundamentalists as Obama is by gay rights supporters. But Warren has not declined the invitation. Yet it seems that few on the left are willing to look at the potential benefits, and not just the negatives, of Warren's invocation for the Obama administration.

It would appear that those who are most upset about it aren't asking themselves whether it's likely, or even possible, that Rick Warren is going to have any influence whatsoever on Obama, with respect to gay rights, a woman's right to choose, or any religiously-driven policy initiative. Not going to happen.

It would also seem that those who are most upset are giving little thought to the enormity of the crises and challenges facing Obama on the day he takes office. It should be clear to every progressive that he is going to need the broadest possible support from the American people in order to avoid having this country slide into complete catastrophe. Among the support he'll need are the millions of people who respect and admire Warren, and who will see in Obama a leader who, although he clearly and unequivocally stands in opposition to many of Warren's religiously-rooted positions, is nevertheless willing to join him in a mutual commitment to fight poverty, HIV-Aids, and climate change. If Obama can successfully bring millions of Christian Evangelicals into the ranks of those who care about and are determined to help strengthen our economy, end the war in Iraq, eliminate torture once and for all, and repair America's place in the world, it will be much easier to accomplish all that must be done.

There will, of course, be many Christian fundamentalists and political ideologues who will oppose virtually all of Obama's policies and initiatives. But if Obama - and his supporters - can peel away enough Evangelicals from the historical Republican "base", he will achieve something that no Democrat would imagine being able to accomplish in the foreseeable future. Through Warren himself, and his much-maligned invitation to Obama two years ago to speak at Saddleback Church, a split began to take shape within the Evangelical community. That split, especially among younger Evangelicals, has been growing. And Warren's inaugural invocation will continue to accentuate and enlarge the number of Christian Evangelicals who will support and become positively involved in the Herculean efforts that lie ahead for all Americans.

I recognize and appreciate the offense being taken by Warren's role at the inauguration. But I look forward to a time, without being naive, when there are conversations between religious liberals and Evangelicals happening all over the country, when Evangelicals come to understand that while they are free to believe what they will, they cannot and should not attempt to impose their beliefs on others. The continuing dialogue between Obama and Warren, along with many, many others, might well be the beginning of a new era of tolerance and respect in a country that has suffered too long from the divisions that have plagued us, wrought by Religious absolutists who took joy from their successes at attempts to keep us divided.

Indeed, with the continuing interaction of people of good will - on both sides of the divide - there may well come a time when the majority of Americans recognize that same-sex marriage poses no real threat to "traditional" marriage or families. Polls already show that the public's long held resistance to the idea is waning. And although there is not yet a majority, the small steps being taken by leaders like Barack Obama, through his friendship with Warren, his commitment to reach out to people who hold different views, and his commitment to be president of all the people, is a model that those of us who consider ourselves "progressives" might consider emulating. No, I'm not suggesting that we throw a birthday party for James Dobson, or a benefit dinner for Pat Robertson. Obviously, there will be those that simply can't or won't be willing to adopt a position of tolerance and understanding. But we progressives can - if we choose to - begin to engage those who, like Warren and many others, recognize that there are indeed issues and ideas that we can agree on, and that we are all human, with faults and frailties, and that regardless of our religious beliefs or non-beliefs, there are important things that we can do together to help our country, the world, and generations to come.

We progressives have a choice. We can dig in our heels and declare that we have nothing to talk about with people who disagree with us on issues that we feel strongly about. We can ignore them or castigate them. We can - as we have for some time - claim that they are thoughtless, ignorant, and hate-filled. And some are. But at this "defining moment", when there seems to be a growing crack in the wall that has divided us, when an increasing number of Evangelicals are declaring their willingness to join with us in working on a number of challenges together, we might serve our long-term interests infinitely better if we turn our attention to peeling away more and more people from the grip of Dobson and Robertson, and create that new era of tolerance, mutual respect, and an appreciation for diversity.

The choices are clear. We can continue to demean and discount those who have angered us over the years for their mean-spiritedness, and even hate, and thereby assure the maintenance of the perpetual divide. Or we can pursue the peeling away that Obama has begun, and find that the worst extremists are increasingly marginalized while genuine progress is seen on the social and other issues that we care so deeply about. We can choose to be pissed off at Obama because of the invitation to Warren, or we can rise to the occasion, look beyond our immediate self-interest, and genuinely move forward to create that "better world" that we've championed for our entire lives.

So, will we allow the anger of the moment to cloud our view of the broader picture? Or will we swallow hard, recognize the disappointing event as an opportunity, and do all we can to help this historic president who holds such promise for breathing new life into a divided society and a hurting nation? Will we allow the anger to blind us in the way that so many Evangelical leaders have been blind for so long? Or will we prove, after all, that there is indeed wisdom, foresight, and an ability to step beyond our own prejudices and disappointments in the progressive movement to create that better world we've always claimed was possible?

There is always time for anger or hate. But the moments that open a path toward real progress are fleeting and rare. This may be one of them.

 

Ed Menken is a life-long, self-described "unapologetic progressive", a proud member of the ACLU, and a strong supporter of Barack Obama.
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Totally agree. I posted to another article, so I w... by Linda Bailey on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 7:02:41 AM
Hey Linda,Thanks for your comments! I suspect that... by Ed Menken on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:56:45 AM
I would ask why it is you still support Obama.Well... by William Whitten on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 2:54:06 PM
Hey William,Are you implying that you were an Obam... by Ed Menken on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 4:08:17 PM
What I am implying here is that it seems that it i... by William Whitten on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 4:40:41 PM
William,I see that you've offered lots of... by Ed Menken on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 4:50:10 PM
Good article and even better response to the all c... by Reverend Anthony Wade on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 9:14:40 PM
I had seriously thought about giving Rick Warren t... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 10:53:25 AM
Hey Dan,Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I too ... by Ed Menken on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:52:49 AM
We elected a president, not a king.  Those wh... by wagelaborer on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:49:24 PM
A voice of reason in a crowd of despair. I don'... by Sharon Roach on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 12:47:46 PM
I disagree with the article and everyone who agree... by William Whitten on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 2:22:08 PM
Guess that settles it. :^)... by Reverend Anthony Wade on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 9:17:04 PM
  Every attempt by those who feel that such t... by William Whitten on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:23:35 PM
Slowly back away from the thesaurus...:^)... by Reverend Anthony Wade on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:35:14 PM
Lol...even if you need a dictionary to do it, why ... by William Whitten on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 12:07:12 AM
It serves no purpose to have someone like Warren t... by J. Edward Tremlett on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 2:47:09 PM
Do you want to take the 50 or so million that foll... by E. Nelson on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 3:42:54 PM
"Do you want to take the 50 or so million tha... by J. Edward Tremlett on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 5:18:59 PM
Nothing wrong with sticking your head in the sand ... by E. Nelson on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 7:23:08 PM
If it means I don't have to hear you make weir... by J. Edward Tremlett on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 10:41:53 PM
The comments have managed to slur both the religio... by WML on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 6:07:20 AM
... it isn't so much Obama will influence them... by Mr M on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 7:23:46 PM
is Anti-American" was the last article by you... by sliphoch on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 2:49:41 PM
I see nothing in this article that contradicts Ed&... by E. Nelson on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 3:55:33 PM
Hey E,It's always good to see that at least so... by Ed Menken on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 4:14:53 PM
My previous article about Christian Fundamentalism... by Ed Menken on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 4:03:43 PM
Here is the best response I've seen or heard s... by WhichTruth on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 3:57:07 PM
And to frame it that way is simply inaccurate.Warr... by Elizabeth Ferrari on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 5:33:31 PM
Hey Elizabeth,If you think I was framing the issue... by Ed Menken on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 5:44:11 PM
That is a good suggestion. I have disperate bits t... by William Whitten on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 6:37:30 PM
Do you really think the few Evangelists Obama migh... by Mr M on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 7:10:38 PM
Well, Mr. M....Before responding to your reply, I ... by Ed Menken on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 8:07:30 PM
Your responses are classic Ed. I need to take tips... by Reverend Anthony Wade on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 9:21:02 PM
Yea Anthony you could certainly use some tips...Lo... by William Whitten on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 10:45:47 PM
... you can dissect me all day long if you wish, a... by Mr M on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 10:49:04 PM
 Hey Ed, Since you have a firm grip on "... by William Whitten on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:05:49 PM
I am a retired psychotherapist and, although I am ... by Dick Hudson on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 7:18:12 PM
Warren is not Falwellian.  The Falwellian typ... by Bill Samuel on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 7:32:21 PM
Hi Dick,I was wondering as to your professional tr... by William Whitten on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 7:36:00 PM
The one and only reason I oppose Rick is the outri... by tjb on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 7:57:30 PM
Hey tjb,You're absolutely correct about the sc... by Ed Menken on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 8:24:13 PM
I am no fan of Warren and that slanted forum at Sa... by Reverend Anthony Wade on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 9:23:33 PM
I’ll begin a response as did you, Mr. Menken... by richard on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 10:14:35 PM
...they NEEDLED that.  ...theres some thing i... by waldopaper on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:19:59 PM
Hey Waldo,Shades of Plato's, Cave of Shadows!!... by William Whitten on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:34:03 PM
.. we can't keep going around using quotes fro... by Mr M on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 1:31:37 AM
Richard, You use some very uncommon wo... by Chester Marzolf on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 5:21:55 PM
"Next time you want to impress people with un... by William Whitten on Wednesday, Dec 24, 2008 at 6:30:30 PM
How does a principled person invite an exclusionar... by robert braunstein on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 10:36:43 PM
"How does a principled person invite an exclu... by Michael Collins on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 1:29:12 AM
Did you guys hear that Warren changed his website ... by MJ Creech on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 10:52:39 PM
"Do you want to take the 50 or so million tha... by daveys on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:21:22 PM
and a time for right and wrong.Unfortunately, the ... by Richard Volaar on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 12:03:42 AM
  As Lord Acton once declared, in terms far m... by William Whitten on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 12:14:41 AM
You said, "...recognize the disappointing eve... by Michael Collins on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 1:19:18 AM
The invitation to Warren to give the inaugural inv... by csnet on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 1:29:22 AM
It seems to me you can tell more about a person&rs... by Jim Arnold on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 2:19:34 AM
As a heterosexual male, I'm amazed at Obama... by Perry Logan on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 5:50:51 AM
........on Joseph Lowery. He gets to wrap it up wi... by Linda Bailey on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 8:36:19 AM
You seem to be saying "pay no attention to th... by Jim Arnold on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 9:55:36 AM
Why on earth would any of you condone Obama c... by jersey girl on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 1:55:58 PM
Me Colts fan!  Why me Colts fan?  Colts ... by waldopaper on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 4:01:15 PM
I'm tired of heterosexuals telling me the choi... by Deb Della Piana on Saturday, Dec 27, 2008 at 4:19:51 PM
  After seeing the deluge of comments th... by Ed Menken on Sunday, Dec 28, 2008 at 2:58:32 PM