Criticism of Warren invitation unwarranted


By: Robert E. Meyer

To the consternation and disappointment of many ardent Obama supporters, Rick Warren, the famous mega-church evangelical author, was asked to officiate at the presidential inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Rick Warren has recently been maligned for, among other things, supporting the California voting initiative that would maintain a legal distinction between same-sex civil unions and traditional marriage.

That being said, no orthodox Christian recognizes Warren as the heir to Jerry Falwell’s ideological legacy. Warren, in fact, has more in common with the socially liberal evangelical, Tony Campolo, than Falwell, or any other icon of the right-wing evangelical movement. While Warren may be orthodox on the issue of traditional marriage, it is not an ideological hill he is willing to die upon as he himself has hinted at in public statements.

That is why the disapproval of Obama for conscripting Warren’s service is so puzzling and, in a sense, alarming. Liberal activists who reflexively condemn Warren as divisive, never make mention of the fact that another clergyman officiating the inaugural ceremonies is the practicing gay Episcopal Bishop, Gene Robinson. Ironically, Robinson’s pursuit of actualizing his own proclivities was a major catalyst in dividing an entire Christian denomination. How then, is one truly any more divisive than the other?

It is hard to rationally argue that Obama is failing to be “inclusive,” simply because he has chosen a clergyman who is orthodox in at least some areas. Even the benign act of throwing token table scraps to conservative Christians, is viewed as a major betrayal of principle for many liberal activists. A complete departure from the historical inaugural tradition of orthodox Christian observances fails to appease those who speak most demonstratively about tolerance and inclusiveness.

This appears to be overreaching on the part of progressive ideologues. Rather than embracing the evolutionary approach, by allowing for gradual assimilation of changes in cultural values and perceptions, these advocates take the revolutionary approach that demands immediate accommodation.

The scary part of this scenario is the rhetorical flourish by which some draw sweeping, inaccurate conclusions. One recent letter to the editor that I read, suggested that Warren’s position has historical affinity and connection with those who opposed the movements for racial equality and womens’ suffrage. That sort of insinuation is neither an isolated or unique perspective as viewpoints go, but they are knee-jerk red herrings. Not only does Warren have no sympathy for the aforementioned issues but, there is no basis for assuming they are even related issues on a continuum of bigotry, unless one constructs an argument founded on emotional innuendo and self-serving sophistry.

In the past, there has been little complaint about lack of inclusiveness when there has been a notable absence of Jewish, Islamic or other non-Christian clergy officiating at presidential inaugurations. This is largely because the president has the right to choose his religious representatives, which generally reflect his religious persuasions. It seems absurd to argue that the presence of a moderate Christian voice has suddenly become a threat to unity.

I must conclude that if any group is being nudged out of “inclusiveness” in this inauguration, it is those who faithfully adhere to traditional Christianity. The practice of “tolerance” tends to be a convenient one-way street for those who are most vocal in their celebration of it.

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