(CREDIT: Richard Vogel / Associated Press)
I've largely stayed on the sidelines with my criticisms of Obama lately, hoping to give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, I can't help but be disappointed that our President-elect selected the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, Jimmy Buffet of evangelicalism, Rick Warren, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
Undoubtedly, Warren is the darling of the media. Last summer, his California-based megachurch (which is so huge bar code stickers are assigned to babies to avoid losing them when they're checked into the nursery) hosted a much-discussed Civil Forum with McCain and Obama. Despite the fact that McCain may have had access to the questions in advance, Warren tried to appear politically neutral. But those who have followed his career know Warren is an unflappable "cultural conservative" with a track record of blatant homophobia.
From my book, The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right:
Rick Warren routinely claims to not be a part of the Evangelical Right when speaking to secular elitists at the New York Times, but he's playing both sides of the fence. Warren has gone on record calming that he's "firmly a cultural conservative." He also believes opposing abortion, gay rights, stem cell research, human cloning, and euthanasia are "non-negotiable" and "not even debatable" for people of values. He called the Terry Schiavo debacle "an atrocity worthy of Nazism" and according to ABC news, compared gay intimacy to sex with a horse. Prior to the 2004 election, Warren set-up voter registration booths on Saddleback's church patio. Most tellingly, he sent letters to 150,000 pastors insisting they encourage their congregations to vote for Bush.
In light of the passing of Proposition 8—an issue Obama has yet to show leadership on—choosing Warren for the invocation is a slap in the face to homosexuals and Obama's liberal base. As PFAW points out, Warren has "compared marriage by loving and committed same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia." Sorry Rick, giving donuts to Prop 8 protestors doesn't make your positions any more palatable.
Homophobia and questionable politics notwithstanding, Warren is a bible literalist who believes it took Noah 120 years to build his ark and that he'd never seen rain before the Flood because "God irrigated the earth from the ground up." Even more striking, Warren believes that Katrina was caused by sin:
"The Bible teaches that since sin entered the world, way back with the very first human beings, we have lived in an imperfect, broken planet, and that causes hurricanes and tornadoes."
Regardless, the media loves this moronic, book-censoring megalomaniac. And why wouldn't they? When it comes to being affable, he's a calculated professional. He is, after all, the author of the bestselling tome "The Purpose Driven Church," a handbook on how to appeal to "unrepentant pagans" (his words). Even Rick Warren's signature Hawaiian shirts are a cynical attempt to appeal to secularists: "I intentionally dress down" says Warren "to match the mind-set of those I'm trying to reach."
If Obama is as intelligent as he seems, it's curious that he's been suckered by such a fraud. And if 2009 is truly going to be about change, we can only pray that Obama will choose to surround himself with people who are indeed the smartest people in the room. Restoring intellect to the White House is essential. And forget the donuts, Rick. If you were a true man of God you'd realize that ensuring basic civil liberties is non-negotiable.