Warren's Role

Friday, December 19, 2008

Steve Waldman, editor in chief of Beliefnet, talks about his recent interview with Rick Warren, and the significance of Obama's choice to have Warren deliver the inaugural invocation.

Question of the Day: Do you care that Warren was selected?


Steve Waldman

Comments [105]

Yoichi from California

I think Obama should ask Rev. Peter Gomes to co-deliver the invocation-prayer. Please refer to the following URL containing the message I sent to the web site.

Feel free to join me if you do not think it is a bad idea. I think this idea may benefit both Obama and Warren.

Dec. 27 2008 06:10 PM
Tony Davis from Brooklyn, New York

Yes, I care. I had hoped that the election was about us, those who supported Obama's idealistic vision, and not just about the election of a brilliant politician. I had hoped that we were building a grass-roots movement for progressive change. In fact, that's what Obama told us!

Giving Warren such a prominent role is NO WAY TO BUILD A MOVEMENT.

Yes, let’s “reach across the aisle” when we can find reasonable people on the other side. But there is no use reaching out to the hateful religionists. Sure, “holding one’s enemies close” is clever---too clever---if you are building a movement.

To quote Craig from Brooklyn (comment 51 above) “Warren's bigotry, intolerance, chauvinism, and disregard for science, stand squarely in the path of progress, diversity, and everything Obama claimed to stand for in calling for "Change you Can Believe In.”

Dec. 21 2008 09:34 AM

Thanks for your answer. I understand what you're saying and share similar goals - esp. around prevention. I've been thinking about the lessons raised by a UCB linguist lately, and your post reminded me of that, I will post it later (if you happen to stop by.)

Dec. 19 2008 06:43 PM
michael henry adams from harlem

I made a mistake. It oght to be Obama's Sista Solja moment that one worries about

Dec. 19 2008 05:28 PM
Emily Douglas from Brooklyn, NY

Great question, Eva. Yes, Warren has brought a great deal of publicity - and importantly, US foreign aid funding - to the issue of AIDS. That is impressive. But for me it's hard to separate that from his ideological mission, which is to address AIDS through the framework abstinence is the only prevention and heterosexual marriage absolute protection.

Does abstinence never work? No. Have Warren's initiatives prevented some HIV infections? Probably. But on a systemic level, what Warren supports contributes to mistaken beliefs about marriage as a safety net, harmful gender norms that result in women's vulnerability, and further stigmatization of men who have sex with men and sex workers.

Dec. 19 2008 04:31 PM

Okay, so what the heck is Rick Warren actually doing?
I mean, technically. Out of everything he's funding, there is nothing that works? Or are there some things that work?

Dec. 19 2008 02:57 PM
Emily Douglas from Brooklyn, NY

Okay, Eva, I see what you are saying. But a basic litmus test has to be whether a person's work is effective. Warren's work allows groups to receive funding while refusing to provide evidence-based services (services that have demonstrated their effectiveness) or any services at all targeted at men who have sex with men and sex workers. It allows groups to provide prevention services that do not work for women and can put them at greater risk. This is not just one segment of global AIDS work. Warren's advocacy allows entire HIV programs to ignore the most vulnerable.

Dec. 19 2008 02:53 PM

Okay, Emily, thanks for the link, I'll check it out.

But let me ask you a question - did you note that in the interview (unless I heard it wrong) Rick Warren came out for equal rights for gay couples?

To get his support for that is MAJOR, it's a REAL start, and frankly a faster way to get to the goal than the push for marriage which we here in California just lost $37 million to fight a losing battle.

Dec. 19 2008 02:43 PM
Emily Douglas from Brooklyn, NY

@ Eva - sure, there are other risk factors. It's just that Warren's approach, and the religious right approach generally, is to suggest that marriage itself is a prevention mechanism. This is not true. In fact, marriage has been called the "silent partner" in HIV transmission by groups like Population Action International, who do HIV prevention work. In terms of citations, please see (full disclosure, I am an editor at RH Reality Check).

Dec. 19 2008 02:37 PM
PW from Texas

In the political context it's a very good choice, as some have already pointed out.

But what the bleep is a religious ceremony -- no matter which religion or sect -- doing at an American presidential inauguration? I think the anger and frustration should be aimed at that tradition -- rather than at Obama's particular choice.

Dec. 19 2008 02:35 PM

Emily, what I mean is: maybe the issue of AIDS in Africa is too large to stretch the combined but still narrow template of LBGT and gender identity politics over it?

Just like the problems in this country are too broad to address solely from the narrow perspective of, say, Asian-Americans?

I agree with the earlier poster that gays don't "own" AIDS and shouldn't necessarily be assumed to the the most concerned people when it comes to AIDS in Africa.

But we're all missing a major opportunity to get something done when we apply an ideological litmus test to people who are actively working to help people other than themselves.

Rick Warren isn't perfect. But he's trying, and he's an important person to include.

Dec. 19 2008 02:34 PM

"Warren has lobbied for all kinds of deeply ideological restrictions on US global AIDS funding, restrictions that promote abstinence-until-heterosexual-marriage, don't permit any discussion of how gay men can have safer sex, and in no way acknowledges that marriage is a major risk factor for women in Africa."

Emily - citations? And on that last point, isnt the real issue the fact that impoverished rural African workers must travel away from home for long periods of time in order to do dangerous menial work to earn money, and end up going to prostitutes? So isn't the issue not marriage but poverty and a lack of decent local jobs? Or are you claiming that marriage per se is the risk factor and not a nearly unavoidable infidelity? If marriage is to be claimed as the risk factor for the disease among African women, then you're obliged to note that the other risk factors are LIVING IN AFRICA or BEING POOR.

Dec. 19 2008 02:27 PM
Emily Douglas from Brooklyn, NY

Brian, I love your show and deeply respect you as a host, but you got it more than wrong when you suggested to a caller that Warren's work on AIDS somehow mitigates his homophobia. Warren's work on AIDS IS homophobic. Warren has lobbied for all kinds of deeply ideological restrictions on US global AIDS funding, restrictions that promote abstinence-until-heterosexual-marriage, don't permit any discussion of how gay men can have safer sex, and in no way acknowledges that marriage is a major risk factor for women in Africa. Warren's AIDS work is part and parcel of his anti-gay, anti-woman ideology.

Dec. 19 2008 02:16 PM
Prince R. from Hoboken

Prejudice...No! Ignorance...No! Bigotry...No!

OMG...people need to get a life and stop thinking so much about this...people are loosing their jobs!

Dec. 19 2008 02:11 PM

I listened to the interview and didn't find it that inflammatory - I will re-listen, but I didn't hear him calling anyone a "bigot" or "living in a fantasy world". I thought what I heard him say was that divorce was much more harmful to American families than gay marriage.

I so agree. Divorce is really toxic.

And am I smoking crack, or did he make that point very strongly?

Separately, I have to ask: Did he literally say that gays are equal to people who practice incest and polygamy? I will re-watch, it seemed like a weird transition in the discussion. (And are we ourselves really in a position to trash polygamists? I wouldn't choose it for myself or my friends, but surely there are places where it is considered normal.)

to "the truth" - we agree on a lot of things, but I have to admit I don't agree with you that it's a "choice" or that it's somehow "unnatural" to be gay. It would be unnatural for me to be gay, it has been natural for, say, one of my childhood friends, to have known he was gay since childhood. There was no other way for him, and God forbid we had encouraged him not to be gay - he might have been obliged to marry a woman and we could have had a NJ governor situation on our hands.

Dec. 19 2008 01:30 PM
David from Dixon, Montana

Okay, Eva. I understand. But I have trouble saying that it is not fantasy to believe the earth is 6,000 years old, and it is not bigoted to deny others equal rights. Rick Warren is the one who name called when he said gays are equal to people who practice incest and polygamy. Why do you defend his (and other's) right to speak in a much more inflammatory way than I have, yet condemn me?

Dec. 19 2008 01:18 PM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

X + Y = XY

Y + X = YX

X + X = ????

Y + Y = ????

Dec. 19 2008 01:06 PM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

Eva, It is not what nature intended.

Dec. 19 2008 01:06 PM

"You should look up the words bigot and fantasy. It's not name calling, it's just fact."

David, I honestly believe that the attitude reflected in your post is actually how, by a very slender majority, Prop 8 passed.

There could have had more support to fight 8, but name-calling and an insistence that everyone but gay marriage supporters is a jerk is how potential supporters of gay marriage were alienated.

That's why the plain-spoken parts of the Nov. 15 demonstrations, which avoided name-calling and invited people to think of married gay couples as having everything in common with married straight couples, were so potent.

Dec. 19 2008 01:02 PM
David from Dixon, Montana

You should look up the words bigot and fantasy. It's not name calling, it's just fact.

Dec. 19 2008 12:51 PM

I know some fundamentalist Christians who aren't bigots, and have been true friends. Even though they live in rural areas, they don't live in a fantasy world any more than people on the upper west side or Bayshore, Long Island, do.
Let's stop with the name calling and we might be able to reach some common goals.

Dec. 19 2008 12:45 PM
David from Dixon, Montana

I, too, am disappointed—saddened is a better word—by the choice. Warren is a ridiculous figure and should be dismissed out of hand. Any rational person would have to conclude the man is a bigot living in a fantasy world, which is what fundamentalist Christianity is.

Dec. 19 2008 12:40 PM

I agree with every single paragraph of what you wrote. Point by point. Thanks for putting it that way.
I also voted No on 8 here in California, and was actually surprised that it passed. But I am encouraged by the Nov. 15 demonstrations of support, and I am actually optimistic that getting Rick Warren on board is a means to the goal of marriage equality.

To "the truth from Atlanta" - even the scientists don't know for sure, but I think it's pretty clear from the research we do have that very few people "choose" to be gay. Maybe in 50 years, scientists will determine that it's a choice, but from what we have now, let's concede that it's not.

Dec. 19 2008 12:35 PM
LadyC from West Village

There's a difference between being inclusive, and bestowing a major honor on a supposed man of God who has likened gays to pedophiles and practitioners of incest. Is this Obama's idea of bringing the country together? Is this Change We Can Believe In? Is this what I volunteered and gave money for? The whole world rejoiced at Obama's election. So now he gives an important platform, presents as the spiritual face of America, a man who virtually brags about his prejudice. Barack Obama's inauguration should be a day of tremendous joy in this country and around the world. It's really heartbreaking to see him tarnish it this way.

Dec. 19 2008 12:15 PM

It is appalling to see the degree of ignorance that so many people still have regarding homosexuality. It is not a choice. You are born like that. People, please: conquer your fear, step away from whatever sacred book you read, and look at the scientific evidence.

Same with marriage: it was created as a social contract to acquire property, period. It is a secular institution and as such it is not regulated by any one religious belief.

Man! Whatever your sacred book says, by all means knock yourself out doing/not doing whatever it says but stop! forcing that religious belief upon the rest of us. Simply put, YOU do not have the right to deny other people's rights based on what you believe your deity says.

As an atheist, I can respect the reasons a religious person might have to do whatever they do based on whatever book they believe but I will just not stand quietly and allow them to not only claim that what their book says is the "the truth" but to try to impose it on everybody else. YOU believe, YOU do it/do not it and leave the rest of us who look for evidence before defining anything as truthful alone! Enough!!!!

Dec. 19 2008 12:14 PM
hjs from 11211

so u tried the gay sex and thought it wasn't for u??

i guess i don't remeber choosing

Dec. 19 2008 12:09 PM
Yvonne from Brooklyn, New York

I am a 61 year old NYC born Carribean-American atheist who voted for Obama, am pro-gay marriage, survived a highly traumatic illegal abortion but am even more deeply concerned about global warming.

I think Obama's choice of Rick Warren to do the Invocation is consistent with who Obama is and underlines two basic stances he seems to have always taken: 1) people are all mixed bags whether it is his white grandmother or his former pastor and he looks at their larger message and 2) we cannot ever have meaningful change unless we are willing to bring all sides to the table, talk, dialogue ... "without pre-conditions".

Like Phyllis (14), I am an atheist ... so even the presence of an invocation feels like an assault to me never-mind headlines that say that Obama says he prays to Jesus every night; a lot of people do not realize &/or care just how much discrimination there is in this country against atheists especially in politics AND IN THE MILITARY ... we rank below everybody, gays, muslims, everybody in surveys like DJ (19), the blue son of a red state church-going mother who took a chance and voted for Obama, my life is full of people of every stripe.

All of us will have to swallow hard about something and trust the over-all direction ... that is what I have to do, and so far, I still have no regrets.

Dec. 19 2008 11:52 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

They don't want to talk about Rev. Lowry because there is not enough controversy surrounding him. People love drama.

Dec. 19 2008 11:49 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

HJS, I chose thank you. You chose too, whatever sex you chose, trust me, you chose it.

Dec. 19 2008 11:48 AM

Even though separation of church and state is one of the core guiding principles of this country, once more, it will be ignored during the presidential inauguration, creating, oh surprise of surprises!, divisiveness.

It is time for the United States to follow and enforce this guiding principle seriously. The law says religion doesn't belong in government affairs, period.

Dec. 19 2008 11:48 AM
Toots from Brooklyn

Can the speaker please speak to the Statue of Limitations on old debt? I paid off an old debt of my husband's earlier this year, but later found out that it had already been forgiven.

There seem to be companies that buy up forgiven debts and "try it on" in a very harrassing manner. Wish I had known about this earlier.

Dec. 19 2008 11:39 AM
hjs from 11211


FYI - sexual ORIENTATION is never a choice. when did u choose
Stop this confusion.

Dec. 19 2008 11:39 AM
art from harlem from Harlem

By degree...conversation and compromise can happen in a range of contexts with variable degrees of symbolic importance. Listening and working with Warren is necessary. Appointing him to a position of extreme cultural capital lends his position on gay rights credibility. Alternately, inviting Warren and a lefty leader to a less public table for constructive conversations about peaceful coexistence across differences would be "reaching out" WITHOUT the dangerous look askance at homophobia. To Bama's silence on the outrage: silence = death. Marginalizing gays & lesbians makes the world unsafe for everyone who exists even a degree outside of the center, and even those currently in the center. Please evote a show to this as you would to racism of this degree.

Dec. 19 2008 11:38 AM
AWM from UWS

Let me preface by saying that the Prop 8 result was horrible. This whole definition of marriage deal is nothing but another example of religious dogma being used to divide people.

But... after 8 years of Reagan, 4 more of Bush Sr. Clinton gets in it's "gays in the military" for the first 100 days.

After 8 years of Bush Jr., Obama gets in and now he is an enemy of the gay community, human rights, etc.

What about Rev. Joseph Lowery? What about the Lesbian and Gay Band Association? They're part of the inauguration too.

You can't succeed if you vilify someone every time they say something you don't like or engage someone who doesn't like you.

And, please, stop equating the struggles of the gay community with the struggles of the African American community. They are not the same, it is an exaggeration. Gays have never faced anything resembling slavery in this country.

Exaggeration and the demonizing of people who don't do things exactly the way you want them to accomplishes NOTHING.

Dec. 19 2008 11:35 AM
art prof from Harlem

By degree...conversation and compromise can happen in a range of contexts with variable degrees of symbolic importance. Listening and working with Warren is necessary. Appointing him to a position of extreme cultural capital lends his position on gay rights credibility. Alternately, inviting Warren and a lefty leader to a less public table for constructive conversations about peaceful coexistence across differences would be "reaching out" WITHOUT the dangerous look askance at homophobia. To Bama's silence on the outrage: silence = death. Marginalizing gays & lesbians makes the U.S. UNSAFE FOR EVERYONE. Devote a show to this as you would to racism of this degree.

Dec. 19 2008 11:34 AM
peter from manhatten

its so short sighted of homophobic christians (including rick warren) to claim that gay marriage should not be allowed because marriage has been between men and women for centuries, as if that's a good reason for maintaining the status quo. if we applied that logic to everything we would still have slavery and would still be stoning people to death for working on the sabbath!

Dec. 19 2008 11:22 AM
eric henderson from nyc

Isaiah 1:18 does invite us to "reason together" with God. Yet 2 Peter 1:20-21 is clear that our human will is not the origin of scripture and as such, scripture is inerrant and based on historicity accepted by secular and religious historians: 2 Peter 1:16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

So, I would have preferred to hear a scripturally based answer to Bryan's question on how we can place ourselves in judgment of the scripture as opposed to reasoning against the backdrop of the inerrancy of scripture.

Dec. 19 2008 11:22 AM
michael henry adams from harlem

Oppression is oppression and pain is pain. Being Gay, is, the same as being Black, a woman, Jewish or Native American. A lack of empathy is at the core of the hate pervading the world. It’s a foolhardy pursuit for any of us ever then, dismissively, to trivialize the suffering of others as insignificant compared to our own. Obama would never honor an avowed anti-Semite, misogynist or racist as he has the Rev. Mr. Warren. Of course this affront might have been mitigated by his having as well some avowed Gay clergy say a prayer or a Gay choir,(hardly difficult) or cabinet member or other high-level official perform the swearing in? That would underlined the alleged rational of pluralism and a new civic dialogue that’s supposed to justify Warren. Only, under the circumstances, one worries if this might not instead be Obama’s Queen Latifa moment? It's hardly the ideal start so many of us have longed for.

Dec. 19 2008 11:21 AM
BL Producer from Varick St.

We appreciate all your comments, however, we must remind everyone to please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.

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Dec. 19 2008 11:14 AM
Patricia Horan from Kent, CT

I gave up my allegiance to Hillary Clinton for this? I thought my outrage cards had all been played, but this smug neanderthal giving the invocation? Invoking what? Matthew Shepherd? Why are women and gays always expendable? I will not even watch this inaugural fiasco now. This is clearly how they operate in Chicago: sell something priceless for your own ambition. The saddest thing is that progressives of all stripes should be vocal, but this smarmy "support" of Braxton's is what we'll get. And then they'll have their AIDS work to make them feel better. I've lost all hope. Patricia Horan

Dec. 19 2008 11:11 AM
ceolaf from brooklyn

I hate to have to repeat this, but we should be clear about the gay marriage debate.

Gay men and women are allowed to marry, and always have been. They can marry straight people, and they can marry other gay people, so long as each couple is made of one (and only one) man and one (and only one) woman.

The law applies to gays and straights equally.

Gay marriage is about about changing the law pretty dramatically, but not without precedent. Outlawing polygamy was just as great a change. Requiring the real consent of both parties - as opposed to their parents -- was probably a bigger change.

As the social meaning of marriage has shifted, the law has not kept up. Marriage is no longer primarily about property, or even primarily about having children. It is now about love and partnership.

As such, it is long since time for the law to recognize marriage between a kind of couple that has existed for centuries. And so, the law SHOULD change. But we should acknowledge the nature and degree of the change.

What Obama should try to convince Warren and others is that their religious objections are their own business, and should not prevent a change in the civil law.

Dec. 19 2008 11:09 AM
O from Forest Hills

The Truth, you lose your credibility when you pick and choose what you believe from the Bible.

Judgement is the Lord's. We are all called to love everyone and just as you don't want discrimination, you can't discriminate on gay people. Them getting married doesn't diminish you and if you ever get married, your marriage.

Stop hating on the gays in the name of Jesus. Jesus is love not hate.

Dec. 19 2008 11:07 AM
Nina from Manhattan

A little late as the conversation is over, but - how about a little representation in the all-embracing Obama inauguration for the agnostics and atheists? I am a white female straight mother of two in favor of gay marriage (why should gays be exempt) and sick to death of the dominance of religion and religious treacle over political discourse in this country. Its only redeeming feature is comedic relief - viz the recent NY Times photograph of an evangelical prayer gathering(flanked by a pair of huge SUVs) for the auto industry.
So I say - bring on the godless!

Dec. 19 2008 11:07 AM
O from Forest Hills

Just as black people don't choose their skin color, gay people don't choose to be gay so their civil rights need to be protected.

People will always try to hide behind religion or the Bible to justify prejudice and hate. 40 years ago it was hate of interracially married couples and now it is hate of gay couples.

They are born that way and not a choice so it is a protected status based on that. Evangelical Christians have to get off the soapbox of hate and nastiness they call the Bible to justify their prejudice and cruelty to gay people.

Jesus loved everyone as they were.

Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone, the Truth.

Dec. 19 2008 11:05 AM
Hudson Ansley from Bloomfield, NJ

I wonder if this is some sneaky scheme to reduce the numbers at the inauguration ceremony. But seriously, this is the first choice by Obama that I am very much against. I am heterosexual myself, but feel that this must be a slap in the face for gays, and indeed is a slap in my face as an athiest (although I do not feel this is as strong as the anti gay aspect of this). I thought Obama's explanation of this choice was very thoughtful, but to me it shows that he does not understand what damage this tacit approval of anti-gay speech does to our society.
I was touched when Toni Morrison on the Leonard Lopate show mused about what the brilliant author and social critic and not insignificantly, openly gay black man, James Baldwin would have thought and written about the election of Barack Obama as president. In light of this choice for the inaugural invocation I wonder what he would have thought even more.

Dec. 19 2008 11:04 AM
Jenny from Brooklyn

I am furious. But then again, I never liked Obama, and I voted for him only because I had to. I was most certainly never interested in his absurdly idiotic "reaching across the aisle" and "joining together" nonsense. Reach across to WHOM? Right-wing nutcases who hate gays, reject reproductive freedom and want a free pass for the super rich? No thank you.

But we got what he promised - his middle of the road, preacherly bunk.

Dec. 19 2008 11:01 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

Hilary in Nyack - "Gay" is not a race it is a SEXUAL preference. Everyone is entitled to have their civil rights protected but NOT on the basis of what sex the choose to mate with.

Stop this confusion.

Dec. 19 2008 10:57 AM
ceolaf from brooklyn

Brian, I think that you are wrong.

You said that gay marriage is "The civil rights issue of our time." And even if you don't admit that you are wrong, you must admit that it is not an open and shut case.

Perhaps gay rights (e.g. housing, employment, presumption of guilt in sex crimes, harassment in schools, etc.) are the civil rights issue of our time. But gay marriage alone? No, it is merely the most obvious and contentious one. It is merely the one that bigots can most easily make their case. But the other aspects of gay rights matter more -- which is not to say that gay marriage does not matter at all.

But I would argue that gay rights are NOT the civil rights issue of our time, even generally.

High quality schools for the poor -- among whom minorities are over represented -- is the civil rights issue of our time. Our low quality urban schools impact more people than gay marriage does. Their impact is greater. They perpetuate class divisions, they cement the cycle of poverty, they act as barriers to the American dream. They perpetuate discrimination. They are a blight on our nation.

Education is the civil rights issue of our time.

Perhaps you don't agree, but you can't seriously think that the case is closed.

Dec. 19 2008 10:56 AM
Michael from Brooklyn

Do I care about Obama's choice of Warren for a role in the inauguration? In a word, No! This is a tangential issue dwarfed by the larger social, economic and international relations problems that really affect the lives of US citizens, gay and straight alike. So, let's focus on the big picture and cast this nonsense aside.

And, I agree with the need to eliminate the cliche "thrown under the bus" from all political and social discourse. It's a dumb expression.

Dec. 19 2008 10:55 AM
jean bond from upper Manhattan

First, your guest was not entirely correct in saying that Obama opposes gay marriage: Obama OPPOSED Prop 8 but he prefers the civil union formula.

Second, I wrote the following to Obama's website:

Dear President-Elect Obama:

The choice of Pastor Rick Warren to officiate at your inauguration is a shameful low blow, not only to women, the gay/lesbian community and liberal supporters of all stripes (straining to remain supportive), but also to the predominantly young evangelicals who are blazing a path away from the polarizing and backward stances taken by Christian fundamentalists over the last 30 years or so. How unfortunate it is to strike this dissonant chord as you embark on your historic presidency.

With great sorrow,
Jean Bond

Dec. 19 2008 10:55 AM

TTF Atlanta/New York - thre have never been laws gainst Italians getting married to anybody. You should realize that "black" is absolutley the right comparison for this civil inequality and not be in denial to justify hatred and bigotry.

Dec. 19 2008 10:55 AM


Thank you very much for addressing this issue. I think there is an important point to be considered here in our discussion about "reaching across the aisle" and including a diversity of voices in national politics: there is a critical distinction between opening up a dialogue among people with different opinions and inviting someone to the table who tells the other folks gathered there that they have no right to speak. Alas, Warren seems to be just this sort of person--one whose stance serves to shut down communication instead of fostering it.

Thanks, again, Brian, for all your work on your show; it's a wonderful program. Happy Holidays!


Dec. 19 2008 10:54 AM
Joy from New Jersey

I agree with johnjohn. The intolerance and aggression on the part on the part of the gay community surpasses that of Rick Warren. It's they who don't "get it" by accusing anyone who doesn't agree with them of hatred.

Dec. 19 2008 10:54 AM
sysprog from New Jersey

Fox News Channel, December 3, 2008:

SEAN HANNITY: Can you talk to rogue dictators? Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, wants to wipe Israel off the map, is seeking nuclear weapons.


HANNITY: I think we need to take him out.


HANNITY: Am I advocating something dark, evil, or something righteous?

WARREN: Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped. [...] The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers.


HANNITY: And if it took killing them?

WARREN: Absolutely.

HANNITY: But it’s not murder at that point?


* * * * *

There are other issues with Rick Warren's "theology".

It's not just a gay thing.

Dec. 19 2008 10:54 AM
Craig from Brooklyn

As someone whom "Hillary sent" to vote for Obama, I feel that, among other things, the choice of Warren for an Inaugural platform is a slap in the face to Hillary supporters--the ardent GLBT voters she attracted, feminists, and those Americans whose health care issues require stem-cell research. Warren is not "a part of the magic of this country," as Obama put it yesterday, in defending his choice in the name of diversity. Rather, Warren's bigotry, intolerance, chauvinism, and disregard for science, stand squarely in the path of progress, diversity, and everything Obama claimed to stand for in calling for "Change you Can Believe In."

Dec. 19 2008 10:53 AM
Dennis from Brooklyn

We all voted for "change." right? Well this is certainly a shade of that. I support this selection, not because I agree with Warren but because Obama has the guts and backbone to try and shake this broken, polarized, angry country up. THAT's what I voted for, exactly! Some of the comments and calls are why he needs to try and make change happen -- we're full of anger, hate, and name calling. I used to think that was the very definition of the republican party. I'm starting to think it's actually a more liberal quality. You have to try folks. Maybe now people will finally take their Obama pins off ;-)

Dec. 19 2008 10:53 AM
Julia Gardiner from connecticut

The position that homesexuality is sinful is a religious position; as such it has no place whatsoever in the public, civic sphere. I am absolutely furious at Obama's choice of Warren (as I am furious about CA's prop 8)

Dec. 19 2008 10:51 AM
brooklyn woman from brooklyn

I am a straight woman and a strong Obama supporter. But I am forced to realize that the choice of Rick Warren out of all the religious figures in the US shows the outcome of a very depressing trend in Obama's selection process. I wish it were not so.
Rick Warren is relatively lovable --compared to some fire and brimstone evangelicals-- but for example, he strongly supported Prop 8 in California. Giving Warren more public standing here supports his role in Africa, where persecution of gays is gaining force. His Ugandan protege Martin Ssempa is virulently anti-gay and has publicly burned condoms while offering faith healing of HIV/AIDS.
Warren doesn't believe in evolution, how great is that ?
I see this choice as cynical, not conciliatory: it supports the message I AM A CHRISTIAN, SEE? about Obama himself, for those who see him as a closet Muslim!
(And Warren, to follow the closet theme has called more liberal pastors "closet Marxists.")

Dec. 19 2008 10:51 AM
Elizabeth from Upper West Side, Manhattan

As a lesbian and Jew, I am horrified by Obama's insensitivity in asking Rick Warren. It's as tho' Truman had invited Father Coughlin to give his invocation for the sake of diversity! The inaugural invocation is a prayer and should not be given by a person who perpetuates hate in the world. And, as for Warren's work with HIV-AIDS in Africa, let's remember that in African this disease is mostly heterosexually transmitted. I will be boycotting the inauguration.

Dec. 19 2008 10:51 AM
Paul from Manhattan

The bigger problem, I think, is not WHICH preacher Obama might choose, but the fact that any preacher should play a central role. Why is a country in which it is forbidden to establish religion having a man of the cloth bless its new government at this official event?

If Obama personally wants a religious blessing, he should do it on his own time. The inauguration should be a secular, civil ceremony.

Dec. 19 2008 10:51 AM
guido from brooklyn ny

Furious. I was going to D.C. for the inauguration, but now...I just don't know.

Dec. 19 2008 10:50 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

Remove the religious invocation and watch the other half of the populaton erupt. Can't win!

Dec. 19 2008 10:49 AM
Betty from New Rochelle from New Rochelle

President Elect Obama shouldn´t be getting all this heat. He has the right to chose whomever he wishes without having to please everyone.
I have NEVER heard Pastor Rick Warren speak in a hateful way agaisnt homosexuals. He has the right to a religious belief against that lifestyle, just as we have the right to be or not to be gay. I have always heard christians say they love the gay person but hate the lifestyle and they should ENJOY their freedom of speech and say this.

We should get over this ¨if you are not with me you are against me¨mentality. Everyone should be able to express their opinion and be themselves without being stoned, whether you stand on the gay or straight side.

Betty from New Rochelle

Dec. 19 2008 10:48 AM
ceolaf from brooklyn

Does Warren preach against homosexuals generally? Or is this about his opposition to gay marriage?

Does he think that it should be ok to deny homosexuals housing because of their sexuality? OK to take that into consideration in employment decisions? Should they have separate/lesser schools? Does he say that it is OK to hate them, or to treat them differently (apart from marriage)?

Or is this about his opposition to gay marriage?

Dec. 19 2008 10:47 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

Jim Gay and Black are not synonymous. Why not use Italian?

Dec. 19 2008 10:46 AM
Betty from New Rochelle from New Rochelle

President Elect Obama shouldn´t be getting all this heat. He has the right to chose whomever he wishes and not have to please everyone.
I have NEVER heard Pastor Rick Warren speak in a hateful way agaisnt homosexuals. He has the right to a religious belief against that lifestyle, just as we have the right to be or not to be gay. I have always heard christians say they love the gay person but hate the lifestyle and they should ENJOY their freedom of speech and say this.

We should get over this ¨if you are not with me you are against me¨mentality. Everyone should be able to express their opinion and be themselves without being stoned, whether you stand on the gay or straight side.

Betty from New Rochelle

Dec. 19 2008 10:46 AM
Aaron from Bronx

The passion around this choice for an invocation belies how far the country has come.

Would we be discussing this if Billy Graham were again giving the invocation? Dr. Graham is no friend of the gay movement.

There are many more controversial choices, many more conservative preachers that President-Elect Barack Obama could have chosen. I see no issue with Rick Warren. My gay brothers and sisters like Henry Knox are overacting so much that I'm embarrassed for them.

The bottom line is that the country as a whole is still against gay marriage and views homosexuality whereas basic human rights for gay people is a much more generally accepted ground for advancement.

Dec. 19 2008 10:46 AM
Lenore from Upper West Side, NYC

As a proud lesbian and atheist (but not a proselytizer or recruiter for either), I would put a thought out there--WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE RELIGIOUS INVOCATIONS and all of that stuff at public governmental events?

Having said that, I too am repulsed by the President-Elect's choice here, as I am disturbed by his many choices so far that stress "continuity" rather than "change." In return for being invited to Warren's church last year, he invites Warren to the country's church, err, home. Completely unequivalent and disgusting.

Dec. 19 2008 10:45 AM
Joy from New Jersey

It's so upsetting to keep hearing how anyone who doesn't support gay marriage is a homophobic. I am a liberal democrat who happens to believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, although I support civil unions, and I am not homophobic, not do I believe that Rick Warren is! Hats off to Barak Obama for trying to connect us as Americans with many mutual interests. I respect him more for the gesture.

Dec. 19 2008 10:45 AM
johnjohn from New York

There's a lot of religious progressives who don't believe in gay marriage while believing that all people including gays are children of God. I am one of them.
I see more intolerance in gay community in their virulent oppostion to Rick Warren.

Dec. 19 2008 10:45 AM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

We will have these problems until belief in an invisible man in the sky (who cares about you) isn't a requirement for higher public office. In Europe and other places they laugh at us for our public displays of such beliefs. The people in Iraq aren't laughing so much - George Bush's god told him to invade Iraq, and that didn't work out so well for them.

Dec. 19 2008 10:45 AM
Carey from Jersey

To eva and everyone who voted for Obama, Mr. Warren, Mr. Obama, and Mr. Biden, do not believe that same sex couples have the same rights as everyone else (everyone that's straight that is).

Civil rights have come a long way in this country. Why stop with the Gay community?
(There people just like you, me, and Rick Warren).

Dec. 19 2008 10:44 AM
Robert from NYC

So what, do we own AIDS? He's a person of god (hahaha) he SHOULD do a lot for AIDS. Did he give to gays with AIDS?!! Stop the crap using us (gays) and AIDS. let's grow up folks and open our minds

Dec. 19 2008 10:44 AM
Jim Franco from New York City

Obama represented change and a sense of embracing all cultures. Suddenly with his decision to have Warren at the inauguration we have an Obama that is saying some citizens in the US are superior to other

How would Obama and Michele react if in Warren's clip they substituted "black" for "gay".

Dec. 19 2008 10:44 AM
marc from brooklyn

as a non-religious person, i find it questionable that this mix of church and state exists in the modern world. a christian invocation? lame.

Dec. 19 2008 10:43 AM
michaeld from nyc

With all the talk about Rick Warren, people seem to forget that Obama has also chosen civil rights champion Joseph Lowery to deliver the benediction. To me, these two choices reflect precisely the campaign that Obama ran on. Namely, to bring the country together in unity despite our differences. And in the end, it is Lowery who will have the last word.

Dec. 19 2008 10:43 AM
The Rev. Gawain de Leeuw (Episcopal) from White Plains

Remember, also, the relationship between any pastor and politician has plenty of dangerous pitfalls - especially for the pastor. Usually in the battle between the bishop and king, the king wins. For this reason, this is much more of a danger for Warren than it is for Obama.

Obama doesn’t need to change his views about anything. He won’t. Conservative evangelicals didn’t vote for him, so he’s not losing anything. He’s not changed his personal views about abortion or sexuality. He’s not suddenly become an evangelical. He does understand, however, that Warren is one of the few pastors that makes the church relevant.

Just because Warren opposes abortion and homosexual rights doesn’t mean he will have the political capital, or use his political capital, to promote sorts of policies along these lines. Warren’s energy around poverty and AIDS, however, is what Obama will listen to. And although he might not change his church’s views about sexuality, it might be enough that he just stands out of the way.

This is a low-cost alliance for Obama. There is no way in hell Obama will become anti-abortion. The cultural trend is toward liberalization regarding sexuality. Obama’s made the calculus. He gains through building a relationship with Warren. Warren loses credibility among his base for building a relationship with Obama.

Dec. 19 2008 10:43 AM

The Warren choice gives Obama a complete "Strike Out" on STYLE points for his handling of gay-/civil-/equal-rights issues.

Lets hope and pray that on the SUBSTANCE of these important issues, Obama doeas actually deliver on what he has led the gay community to believe he would deliver.

Dec. 19 2008 10:43 AM
Zak from Washington Heights

I am of many, many minds on this issue. I fear my responses to it aren't appropriate for the internet b/c they're not vitriolic screeds fueled on blind ire.

On the one hand, I have no problem with Obama's relationship with Rick Warren. I think it's even, quite frankly, a pretty politically astute move. It's easy to vilify Rick Warren for his views on homosexuality, but what is far more important in Rick Warren's preaching is his interest in fighting poverty and disease. That being said, his views on homosexuality are reprehensible.

While Obama's trying to focus on the positives of Warren's preaching in this pick, I can't help but see an ugly parallel in this choice to a common complaint against the Democratic Party for the last thirty years. Gay is the new Black, to the Democratic Party. For years and years there have been regular and justified complaints by African Americans that the Democratic Party took their votes for granted. The common wisdom was that blacks would turn out for Dems on election day so solidly that the Dems didn't even need to throw them a bone once elected. I can't help but feel that Obama may well be doing gays and lesbians the same injustice now. We shall see.

Dec. 19 2008 10:42 AM
Hillary Hazan-Glass from Nyack, NY

why is it that gays are constantly put at the bottom of the civil right list? obama wouldn't have chosen an anti-Semite, a racist, etc.-- why should any segment of the population need to be dismissed like this?

Dec. 19 2008 10:42 AM
John from Brooklyn

Why do we have to have an invocation at the inauguration at all? By anyone?

Are we no longer even going to PRETEND that there is supposed to be separation of church and state in this country?!!

Dec. 19 2008 10:42 AM
DRG from Sunset Park

Reaching across lines, and a conversation and meeting to bridge gaps and create conversation is one thing. But why bestow this man such a great honor? One thing does not translate to the other.

Dec. 19 2008 10:42 AM
KC from NYC

Good point on the civil rights equivalence issue, Brian. This is something of a political masterstroke, but have to draw the line somewhere; there are issues where compromise simply can't happen, and where giving someone a bully pulpit for despicable views is in itself immoral.

Obama is casting himself as something of a kingmaker with this move; Warren now goes from "an" evangelical preacher to "the" evangelical preacher. He will be the one who--in the most public of ways--has the president's ear.

Dec. 19 2008 10:42 AM
paul from virginia

i'm wondering if the rev. billy graham caused a similar uproar? warren is a minister of the christian faith and bible - why would you expect a dog to do anything other than bark?

Dec. 19 2008 10:42 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

People just love to complain. Who exactly would people not have a complaint about? I do not know too many Pastor, Preachers, Priest, Rabbis or Reverends who are NOT against homosexuality. What is the compromise here?

Dec. 19 2008 10:41 AM
Lewis Novod from nyc

President George Bush practiced diversive politics for 8 years. His was to divide and exclude. Barak Obama has repeatedly asked for inclusive politics. Asking Rev. Warren to the "table" by having him give the invocation is not to exclude gay rightists. This is not a country of right and wrong. This is a country of many facets and many thoughts and committments. We need to include as many of "us" to finds answers for the so many questions that face us today.

Dec. 19 2008 10:41 AM
Bob Smullen from Hackensack, NJ

Obama did not expect to take this amount of heat for selecting Rev Rick Warren to give the invocation. Obama, and maybe most of straight America, doesn't understand that Prop 8 was a tipping point for us Queer Folks. We've had enough and we're ready to fight back.

Dec. 19 2008 10:41 AM
Erica from Brooklyn

It's a slap in the face to all the citizens who were demoralized by prop 8.

A slap in the face to the people who supported his candidacy in the hope of supporting someone who is supposed to stand for change and inclusiveness.

Dec. 19 2008 10:40 AM
Noah from Brooklyn

I think the honeymoon is starting to End, I'm quite surprised this is occurring as Obama never supported Gay Marriage, but rather was only against constitutional amendments for defining marriage or ones that ever take away rights, now I think Obama was and is wrong on his stance, but this is what his stance has always been.

Dec. 19 2008 10:40 AM
Geoff from Brooklyn

this is completely knee-jerk reactions to a sound-byte.

mr. waldman is exactly correct about obama's positions to date.

no one has been listening.

obama also promised that he would be the president for ALL of the people in the US.

again, some don't appear to be listening.

Dec. 19 2008 10:40 AM
Johnny S from Cranford, NJ

So the pastor presenting the invocation has to pass an ideological purity test? I'm proud that Barack is reaching out to people and groups who have differing opinions. We were failed by an administration that forced ideological homogeneity. It's time for ideological diversity.

Dec. 19 2008 10:39 AM
jeff from Manhattan

"Hold my enemies closer"? When Obama includes the Grand Dragon of the KKK in his big tent, then maybe I'll buy this argument. And, yes, it will always be problematic to include religious figures in something like this, therefore don't do it, period.

Dec. 19 2008 10:38 AM

It's all about compromise, and compromise is what politics is about. I am abhorred by Warren's views on homosexuality, but he does take on environmental protection and poverty too. So I will keep my cool (I had better, since I am a militant atheist, too).

Dec. 19 2008 10:38 AM
Norman from NYC

OK, Obama is moving out by acknowledging someone to his right.

But when has Obama moved out by acknowledging somebody on his left?

Dec. 19 2008 10:38 AM
joan from brooklyn

I have been a conscious educator my entire life. I agree, let's keep our "enemies" close. but we do NOT want to let them lead.

Dec. 19 2008 10:38 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

Please give me a break with the gay problem. He opposes much more than gay marriage!

Dec. 19 2008 10:37 AM

Whoa - Brian - the civil rights issue of our time?

Checked out our penal system lately? Driving while black? Gitmo?

Let's maintain some perspective here.

Dec. 19 2008 10:37 AM
robert from park slope

You don't have to agree with someone 100% to work with them. Obama has found enough common ground with Rick Warren to reach out.

Dec. 19 2008 10:37 AM
Mickey Leon from Long Island

very disappointed!

Dec. 19 2008 10:36 AM
jj from nyc

Obama is trying to find common ground with Christian leaders. As far as I know RW is Pro-Green. So, there's the common ground.

I would have picked Joel Osteen.

Dec. 19 2008 10:35 AM
Michal from Brooklyn

Rick Warren may have his unfavorable views about gay marriage and abortion rights, but I think picking him was a sort of a 'down the middle' religious pick.

Warren is realistic about climate change ! That's unique.

He proclaims himself to be the pastor to CEOs ! That's interesting.

Dec. 19 2008 10:35 AM

I think this is brilliant.

I don't think you'll ever find full marriage equality for gays without getting the religious right on board.

I don't think you'll ever get the religious right on board if you shun even people like Rick Warren, who has arguably done more for people with AIDS than any other religious leader.

I don't blame gay people who are offended. But this is necessary, and part of the change Obama has been talking about - bringing people who disagree on board so we can find points of agreement (and thereby move forward...)

Can I encourage gay rights activists who are understandably upset about this that you should hold your friends close and your enemies closer?

Dec. 19 2008 10:34 AM
r. d. from Inwood

It's said that Warren and Obama have developed a friendship. It's quite possible that Warren is being more influenced by Obama's world view than the other way around. Can you imagine if he changes his mind, opens his heart, finally understands the words -- Love thy Neighbor as thy self -- and changes his views, bringing (some of) his followers along.
This could happen.

Dec. 19 2008 10:33 AM
Nicole from New Jersey

Let me just say that I am not gay nor am I religious so my convictions about this decision are not passionate, to say the least. However, I wish that people will explain where your suppose to find a religious leader or person in general that somebody somewhere is not going to have a problem with. Some atheist and strict interpretations would not approve of the invocation at all. So there is no "right" or "wrong" way to make this decision. It's completely open to interpretation. Regardless of what we border state liberals would like to think, Barack Obama does not belong to "us" exclusively". In addition you can like, relate to,respect, and admire someone who you don't agree with about everything.

Dec. 19 2008 10:10 AM
Dave from NYC

I'm simply repulsed by Obama's choice of Warren. Imagine if someone had invited George Wallace to speak in an inauguration, and that's what this feels like. As the brother of two gay siblings, I am horrified at this choice and its implications.

Dec. 19 2008 10:06 AM

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