Rick Warren: a good choice by Obama for the inaugural invocation


I’ve been paying attention to the left’s reaction to Barack Obama’s choice of Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration in 3 weeks. For example:

William Fisher, Huffington Post: Rick Warren: What Was Obama Thinking?

But symbolism is important, and it’s especially important for this particular inauguration. Regardless of how he may try to nuance it, Rick Warren is part of the constituency that was courted and won over by George W. Bush. And it was the enthusiastic support of this constituency that played such a major role in W’s journey to the White House. We can dialogue with them from now till The Rapture, but many of their ideas will still be anathema to most of those who elected Barack Obama.

Mike Madden, Salon.com: How the hell did Rick Warren get inauguration tickets?

For more than two years, cozying up to Rick Warren has been one of Barack Obama’s favorite ways of showing evangelical Christians that he might not be so scary, after all — and for just as long, palling around with Obama every once in a while has been Warren’s way of trying to show more secular-minded people that he’s not so bad, either.

But I’m more persuaded that it was a good choice. For example:

David Weinberger on NPR: I’m A Lefty And I Like Obama’s Pick Of Rick Warren

But he’s getting us to do what seems impossible: to listen to what’s best in what the other side is saying, because then you hear the shared values, and the other side isn’t another side at all. That means you put Rick Warren up on the stage with you, because he disagrees with you. Yet he’s there celebrating the moment when a person becomes a president of all the people. To progressives, Rick Warren is a symbol of views they disagree with. To the rest of the country, Rick Warren is a symbol of “the purpose driven life” that he has written about, a life lived for something larger than yourself … a value liberals completely share.

Andrew Sullivan in the Atlantic: Taking Yes For An Answer

If I cannot pray with Rick Warren, I realize, then I am not worthy of being called a Christian. And if I cannot engage him, then I am not worthy of being called a writer. And if we cannot work with Obama to bridge these divides, none of us will be worthy of the great moral cause that this civil rights movement truly is.

The bitterness endures; the hurt doesn’t go away; the pain is real. But that is when we need to engage the most, to overcome our feelings to engage in the larger project, to understand that not all our opponents are driven by hate, even though that may be how their words impact us. To turn away from such dialogue is to fail ourselves, to fail our gay brothers and sisters in red state America, and to miss the possibility of the Obama moment.

It can be hard to take yes for an answer. But yes is what Obama is saying. And we should not let our pride or our pain get in the way


  1. Randy Jennings said:

    I think the nation would be much better served if the invocation consisted of a reading of the Declaration of Indpendence, and the benediction of a reading of the Constitution. My choice for the reader would be James Earl Jones, but if Rick Warren could stick to the script, he’s be ok.

    January 3, 2009
  2. kiffi summa said:

    This choice of Obama’s is taking ‘political correctness’ way, way too far. I’m all for getting everyone to the table, BUT!
    I am opposed to honoring a person who identifies groups of people as ‘lesser’ than others who follow him and his religious persuasion, and then work fervently, politically, to make sure that those that he (RW) considers to be ‘lesser’ are deprived of their civil and human rights.

    January 3, 2009
  3. john george said:

    I think it is interesting that Obama has chosen to keep his word in trying to unite the people of this country rather than further divide it. I applaud him for it. I hope that this invitation demonstrates that he is principled enough to carry out his word rather than being driven those divisive elements of his party who would prefer to silence those with whom they disagree rather than really have a dialogue. I hope it is a true demonstration of tolerance and not just a political ploy.

    January 3, 2009
  4. Peter Millin said:

    Obama’s cabinet choices (with a few notable exceptions) are a Clinton admin re-run and far from centrist.

    Warren is nothing more then a side show in the soap opera called Washington.

    Caesar once said: “Give the masses bread and games”…..

    January 6, 2009
  5. Holly Cairns said:

    Eh, it probably is a political ploy of some sort. Obama is crafty, I think. I think he doesn’t want to be pegged as being a lacky for any one camp. And I think he likes to consider many points of view.

    Add to that that Warren is one of the most famous religious leaders of our day, and of course Obama will pick him. After all, that Purpose Driven Life is still hot hot hot, right…

    The GLBT sure seems up in arms about this. “Rick Warren hates gays” “Rick Warren is a creationist”

    For gosh sakes, he’s just the guy who’s there for the inauguration. This doesn’t mean the end or beginning of any one thing.

    January 6, 2009
  6. Bright Spencer said:

    I think Obama wants to pander to the right, so that he can keep his lead next term. If all he wanted to do was to “include everyone” in the process on a symbolic level then the better Inauguration Day choice would have a man or woman spiritual leader who professes the same ideology…all inclusiveness. There are many examples of religious organizations who actively include all Iconic spiritual leaders of the past and present in their daily services.

    January 6, 2009
  7. David Ludescher said:

    Bright: Obama might be pandering to the right. My sense is that Obama has decided that he is going to be America’s president, and not just the left’s president.

    I sent all of my children Obama’s acceptance speech. Not only did I think that they needed to understand the next president, but I thought that it was a truly presidental speech. McCain’s concession speech was perhaps even better. If you heard the speeches you wouldn’t be able to tell if the speaker was a Republican or Democrat.

    I’ve already heard several Republicans say that they didn’t vote for Obama, but they have been impressed by his Cabinet picks. His pick of Warren was impressive both for Obama’s prudence and his courage.

    January 6, 2009
  8. Patrick Enders said:

    Barack Obama is a very clever man.

    January 6, 2009
  9. Bright Spencer said:

    Obama is looking for communicators to fill a need for transparency. What I am learning to my dismay is that the vast majority of lawmakers of this country have little knowledge, if any about which they are making laws. The people all feel, if the candidate is a lawyer, why, he must be smart enough to take a seat in the House or Senate the

    January 7, 2009
  10. Bright Spencer said:

    Obama is looking for communicators to fill a need for transparency.

    January 7, 2009

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