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  • « Newsweek.com debate over Rick Warren | Main | Rick Warren vs. Ann Curry »

    December 19, 2008

    Some reader responses to Warren-gate

    Posted by: Chris

    Warren on beliefnet Some of the more interesting viewpoints so far...

    At first, I was upset when Obama chose Warren to appear at the inauguration, and then I was furious at his response that "a variety of viewpoints" would be represented. My reaction was that he had reduced the fight for the civil rights of an entire population to a "viewpoint."

    Discrimination is not a mere "difference of opinion" -- it's morally wrong. And someone who supported Prop 8 should not be given this kind of platform. Period. You do a disservice to all of us by giving Obama cover on this issue.

    We are not picking "this" as our battle. However, Obama's selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration shows shocking insensitivity to gay folks, especially for those of us in California who just had our marriage rights ripped away by Prop 8, which Warren vigorously supported.

    Please try to tell me with a straight face that, e.g., Jewish people should not be offended if Obama selected someone who had equated THEIR relationships with pedophilia to give the convocation at the inauguration of a Democratic President.

    It was during the Saddleback faux-debate that I first shouted at the television in derision when Obama signaled to millions of viewers that he opposes marriage equality and, for a nice bit of robocall usage, ‘God’s in the mix.’ (If that wasn’t providing cover to the supporters of the CA and FL amendments, I don’t know what was.) Had Rick Warren thrown his support behind an amendment harming any other minority group in this country, he would not be giving this invocation.

    Most responses ran along these lines, essentially arguing that our civil rights shouldn't be a matter of policy debate, and Obama would never have selected a minister who opposed black civil rights or favored discriminatory treatment of Jews or some other minority group.

    For one thing, the argument here is oval, if not downright circular. The whole reason we are having to fight for our equality is that many Americans -- and arguably most African Americans -- do not view our civil rights as analogous to black civil rights. So you can't start from the premise that it's the same and work backwards, unless you are more interested in hearing yourself speak than actually winning the debate.

    It's also incredibly unrealistic to apply the "if he said that about African Americans" test to gay rights issues, especially marriage. The public is much, much further along on civil rights based on race and religion; they are expressly written into our Constitution, for one thing. So instead of jumping ahead five or 10 or 15 years and trying to exclude our opponents from good society as extremist bigots, we need to meet them head on with confidence in our position.

    It's ironic. Those who presented Obama as the anti-Clinton are now using Clintonian triangulation and "depends on what your definition of 'is' is" rhetoric to justify Obama's VERY Clintonian move here. The more things change...

    Actually I was a Clinton supporter. She lost the nomination and McCain was not an acceptable alternative. I've believed for some time we will get very little from an Obama aministration, and nothing with any real political cost. … I know he doesn't support marriage equality - which makes him, to my mind, intellectually dishonest.

    Yes and no. Triangulation of the Clinton kind came in two forms: "Sister Souljah" moments that helped give Bill Clinton a centrist image, and actual centrist policy positions, like support for welfare reform, NAFTA, DOMA and Don't Ask Don't Tell.

    You may accuse Obama of the Sister Souljah variety here, since Warren's inclusion in the inauguration is a symbolic move, but it's the latter form -- backing anti-gay legislation or sitting on pro-gay bills -- that is an actual betrayal. I don't even see the Warren selection as a Sister Souljah moment, since Clinton did that to directly express his own personal misgivings about changes in the culture. Obama hasn't embraced Warren's gay rights opposition, in fact he has said the exact opposite.

    And while we're being "intellectually honest," Hillary Clinton has said repeatedly that she opposes same-sex marriage and does not even support a complete repeal of DOMA, a law that she is still defending as necessary for the time.

    If Obama really wanted to be "inclusive" why didn't he invite a senior Mormon to deliver the invocation -- they not only despise the gays, but from 1848 until 1978 blacks were forbidden to worship in Mormon Temples or hold Priesthood because they (according to official doctrine) were the cursed children of Cain whose skin colour was the mark of their original sin. How inclusive and healing it would be to have the invocation at his innauguration delivered by the leader of a chruch that institutionalised racism at the most fundamental levels until a mere twenty years ago.

    If Obama wanted to find someone of "shared values," I've no doubt he could have found a person of deep religious conviction and moral authority, but who was also more GLBT supportive. But then, that wouldn't have been such a huge PR coup.

    Comment No. 1 is answered above, since we can't snap our fingers and make society feel the same about our claim to civil rights as that of African Americans.

    Comment No. 2: He did find a minister who supports gay rights. In fact, civil rights icon James Lowery, who will deliver the benediction, is the rare black minister who supports full marriage equality. But you are still missing the point on "shared values" -- it doesn't mean share all our values. It means finding values we share even with those with whom we disagree. Bookend progressive pastors would not be inclusive; it would exclude the majority of regular churchgoers in this country.

    It is completely unfair of you to ignore the "Oh, I do" part of the BeliefNet interview. That is the part of the interview where he confirmed that he does, in fact, consider those other forms of marriage equivalent to same-sex unions.

    I did not ignore the "Oh I do"; I posted my own comment about it. I ran short of time yesterday, traveling from Washington to Memphis where I'm spending Christmas week. Taking the "Oh, I do" in context, I heard Rick Warren reaffirming what he had just said: that "redefining 5,000 years of marriage" would lead to marraiges we would all find objectionable, like having multiple wives or marrying your sibling.

    I based that partly on how Warren says in the same interview that he has "no problem" with civil unions or domestic partnerships. I've since learned that Warren later "clarified" his remarks:

    I now see you asked about civil UNIONS -- and I responded by talking about civil RIGHTS. Sorry. They are two different issues. No American should ever be discriminated against because of their beliefs. Period. But a civil union is not a civil right. Nowhere in the constitution can you find the “right” to claim that any loving relationship identical to marriage. It’s just not there. …

    I favor anyone being able to make anyone else the beneficiary of their health or life insurance coverage. If I am willing to pay for it, I should be able to put a friend, partner, relative, or stranger on my coverage. No one should be turned away from seeing a friend in the hospital. But visiting rights are a non-issue in California! Since 1999, California has had a domestic partnership law that grants gay couples visiting rights and all the other rights. Prop 8 had no -- zero -- effect on those rights.

    Warren is being both cagey and evasive. I've never really seen it argued that a state or federal constitution -- Warren is presumably talking about the federal one - guarantees the right to a civil union. When such an argument is made, it's for full marriage equality.  It's also true some of those who disagree strongly with judicial rulings on gay marriage or civil unions nonetheless support one or the other as a legislative matter. (For many years, I counted myself in this school on the abortion issue. I felt Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided but I would have voted for abortion rights in a state legislature.)

    He plays a similar game with domestic partnership rights and benefits, avoiding saying whether he would support them or not because they already existed in California at the time of Proposition 8.

    I do not see in those evasive statements the kind of bigotry and disrespect for basic human dignity that I keep reading about on the blogs. I see doors cracked open, quite widely for a Southern Baptist leader, for further dialogue and perhaps even common ground.



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    1. the troll on Dec 19, 2008 4:56:47 PM:

      Interview from AP:

      Warren: :I am sorry Mr Crain, you can't join my church because you are a homo. But you can have a donut."

      Crain: "you like me, you really like me! I am so glad because I need everyone to like me.

    1. Chris on Dec 19, 2008 5:11:20 PM:

      the troll: LOL. Well you figured me out, finally. I desperately want everyone to like me. Why just look how popular I am for disagreeing with almost everyone in the movement on Rick Warren!

    1. Mad About Megachurches on Dec 19, 2008 5:37:52 PM:

      "I do not see in those evasive statements the kind of bigotry and disrespect for basic human dignity that I keep reading about on the blogs. I see doors cracked open, quite widely for a Southern Baptist leader, for further dialogue and perhaps even common ground."

      He can't say that gays will burn in hell forever because it'd be bad for business. He wouldn't want anything getting in the way of his bottom line. But he really believes it.

    1. Aatom on Dec 19, 2008 6:22:51 PM:

      I couldn't agree with you more on these points, Chris. I've often admired your ability to cut through the precious crap that some gays dish out when their feelings are hurt. I'm not assuming that Obama will be a great boon to our civil rights, but I'm certainly not going to dismiss him merely for praying with someone I disagree with to salve my own disappointment. Keep up the great work.

    1. Chuck on Dec 19, 2008 7:37:55 PM:

      TMI. I got lost at the bakery.

      I need to go back and reread this long train of thought, over and over and over....until I catch sight of the caboose

      And I thought I could write long, long long treatises. ;-)

    1. Harry834 on Dec 19, 2008 11:18:57 PM:

      I recently signed the EQCA petition. But I began with some doubts. I'm feeling those doubts again. I'll leave the petition up on my blog, but I am happy to have read this, because my thoughts still gravitate to what Chris is saying.

      I do feel strongly, as Chris does, that legislation is the real issue, NOT a dumb speech (where he most likely won't preach his garbage, he's not dumb).

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