In choosing a prominent anti-gay evangelical preacher from Orange County to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, President-Elect Barack Obama has gone out of his way to insult the gay-lesbian community, which is still licking its wounds from the passage of Prop Hate, the California constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.
Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, leads one of the nation’s largest megachurches with over 20,000 members. As moderator of the controversial joint campaign appearance by John McCain and Obama, he is perhaps best known for his bestseller, “The Purpose Driven Life.”
Considered a more forward-looking evangelical for his stances on such issues as government’s role in fighting poverty, he nonetheless uses his pulpit to espouse the standard conservative opposition to abortion rights and was especially vehement in his denunciations of same-sex marriage.
Citing Biblical support for his position in a message to his congregation, he says that the tiny minority who are gay or lesbian – one or two percent of the population, he says – are trying to force a view of marriage that runs counter to what “every religion, in every culture, throughout the world has believed for 5,000 years: One man, one woman, for life.”
No doubt, Gov. Lester Maddox could have – and probably did – mine that same Bible for equally faulty anthropology to support keeping African Americans ignorant and poor and seated at the back of the bus in Georgia a half century ago, just as Confederate President Jefferson Davis could have – and probably did – cite chapter and verse to keep their grandparents in slavery a century earlier, just as Germany’s good Christians found solace in its pages for turning their heads from Auschwitz, just as – well, you get the picture. In the Wrong Hands, the Good Book can be twisted to support the most outrageous intolerance. Jesus would surely weep.
Here’s how Lori Vandemeir, Southern Vice-Chair, CDP Rural Caucus, expressed the outrage many progressive Californians feel:
“We also live five minutes from Saddleback Church and know Rev. Warren all too well. Saddleback Church (under Warren’s direction) was a key proponent for Prop 8, so to think that this man (who spews hate and uses his church to financially back that hate on a regular basis) is being rewarded by delivering the inaugural invocation is a slap in the face to everyone here in California who fought so hard against Rev. Warren and the Prop 8 supporters. I cannot imagine what the Obama team was thinking when they chose hate over hope in one of the very first moments of an Obama presidency. Shame on them!”
Obama has made no secret of his own opposition to same-sex marriages, favoring instead civil unions that give gays and lesbians important legal rights while keeping them second-class citizens, at the back of today’s bus. And he has made laudable efforts to “reach across the aisle,” as politicians like to say, including rather then excluding Americans of nearly every stripe.
And yet, in this case, he and his handlers have made a pointed affront to the gay and lesbian community that supported his candidacy in overwhelming numbers in an effort to appease or attract a deeply conservative evangelical community that is sure to support his programs the moment hell freezes over.
Editor, LA Progressive