18 December 2008

Obama Sure Can Pick His Pastors

There's something to offend everyone, I guess, in the religious career of the President-elect, but I wonder whether anyone (apart from atheists) would condemn equally Rick Warren and Jeremiah Wright. That depends on whether there's any homophobia on Wright's record; if so, it hasn't been widely publicized. But now I suspect that some people who might have given Wright a pass are outraged over Obama's inclusion of Warren in the inaugural program. Obama defends his choice on "diversity" grounds, and in this context it should be noted that Warren, for his part, did not exactly reject the invitation, and definitely didn't use the occasion to denounce Obama for supporting the "gay agenda." So who are the extremists today?

I'd like to think I take second place to no one in my opposition to homophobia, but I guess I'd be wrong. My view on the immediate question is that gay-rights advocates have a right to be unhappy, but that they shouldn't expect Obama to bow to their objections. For starters, he's probably learned from the Clinton years that the worst thing a Democratic president can do is draw a line in the sand over gay rights right away. Clinton did that on the military question and got the worst of it. For another thing, Warren is one of many Christian "right" leaders who've supposedly called for churches to have a greater social and environmental consciousness. That could mean that there are many issues of more urgent importance to the nation on which people like Warren could be Obama's allies. Why risk alienating them by picking at a sore spot? Argue for principle if you like, but Obama is a politician; he must make alliances and compromises, and he must prioritize in order to accomplish anything. It's not in his interest to declare war on homophobia on day one.

But what's good for Barack Obama isn't necessarily good for every American. There is justice in the argument that an explicit homophobe like Warren should be regarded and treated the same way as an explicit racist or sexist. And for atheists and secular humanists, of course, there's reason to ask why Obama should bother with benedictions or other prayers at all. So if people want to protest the inauguration because Warren is there, more power to them. Let them make it happen, and let them be seen and heard. But be realistic. Don't waste energy trying to browbeat Obama into disinviting Warren. It won't happen. Don't expect the new President to represent your views exactly -- in a democracy or democratic republic, it's up to you to express yourselves.


Anonymous said...
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The Crime Think Collective said...

I'd be willing to open a used-shoe kiosk at the inauguration ceremony for anyone who would be willing to practice freedom-of-speech Iraqi style. Especially if Imelda Marcos would be willing to donate her collection.