You're gonna get stung
December 18, 2008 | It was bound to happen. Barack Obama is about to enter "the bubble" of the White House, but he just popped the bubble of acclamation that has surrounded him since election day. Until today, he had glided effortlessly through the minefield of opportunities to screw up before even taking office. Cabinet appointments? Great choices. Staff? Excellent. Public statements? Presidential, measured, confident.
Inaugural? What was he thinking? He selected Rick Warren, pastor of the infamous mega- Saddleback Church, to deliver the invocation at his inaugural.
This is the same Rick Warren who held a "civic forum" at his church for the presidential candidates, at which Obama and McCain both groveled to the Fundies.
On the one hand, Warren is known for his book The Purpose-Driven Life and he has tried to position himself as the one who can bridge between evangelicals and progressives. Obama sees his presidency about bringing people together to solve problems. Seems to fit.
On the other hand, Warren is one of those staunch conservatives who believes that the Bible "is the supreme source of truth for Christian believes and living. Because it is inspired by God, it is truth without any mixture of error." Talk about a leap of faith!
Reliance on this "truth without any mixture of error" leads Warren to oppose things like abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and embryonic stem-cell research. These are litmus tests for True Conservatives.
Of course they conveniently ignore other less-convenient truths, admonitions, and prohibitions from the Bible, like eating of shellfish, women wearing clothing that 'pertains to a man', charging interest on money, shaving, wearing clothes made of more than one fabric, or stoning of adulterers.
Obama thinks he's sending a message of respect and inclusiveness, and I take him at his word. But— it is at best a mixed message. Warren was one of the main proponents of Proposition 8 that enshrined discrimination against gays and lesbians in the California Constitution by taking away their right to marry. To gays and lesbians, having Warren up there on the stage at the inauguration is akin to inviting Grand Wizard David Duke of the Ku Klux Klan to keynote at the NAACP.
But this is all beside the point — the real point is that there shouldn't be an invocation at all! Ours is a government of laws, not of religion. If a new president believes in a god and wants to pray to that god for his/her blessings, he/she ought to do it on his/her own time, not in a formal government ceremony. It is time to get religion out of government. All religion. Out, out, out!
We have George Washington to thank for all this, of course. He was the one who began the practice of including invocations in his inaugural. Supposedly he also began the practice of putting his hand on a Bible to take the oath and adding "so help me god" at the end of the oath. While I'm at it, Presidents ought to take their oath by putting their hand on the Constitution, for that is what they are swearing to:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.— Article I, Section II
Last updated on Apr 13, 2018