WARREN TO GIVE INVOCATION…. Barack Obama is, for the time being, a man without a pastor of his own, so we knew he’d have to turn to someone else to deliver the invocation at his presidential inauguration. Unfortunately, Obama has chosen Rick Warren.
Dr. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church will give the formal invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration. The good pro-life theologian first met Obama in 2006 at a Saddleback AIDS forum in California. Obama used the occasion to press the evangelical pastors present to embrace “realism” when they considered the issue; preach abstinence, yes, but preaching against contraception can kill. (Here’s some of what Obama said that day: “I know that there are those who, out of sincere religious conviction, oppose such measures. And with these folks, I must respectfully but unequivocally disagree. I do not accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence.”)
When I interviewed Obama last year, he told me that the moment was integral to his decision to run for president; when was the last time, he had asked himself, when a Democrat had had such dialog with pastors about AIDS?
This is not too big a surprise, but it is disappointing. Obama and Warren have been friends for some time, and Obama accepted an invitation to appear at Saddleback’s presidential forum over the summer.
Not too long ago, CNN labeled Warren “America’s Pastor,” so this, coupled with his friendship with Obama, made it fairly likely that he’d be considered for a Billy-Graham-like role at the inauguration.
So why is it disappointing? Because, while Warren is certainly more tolerant of discussion than activist leaders like Dobson and Robertson, his beliefs run counter to Obama’s on most of the major social issues of the day. Warren is opposed, on religious grounds, to abortion rights, gay rights, stem-cell research, and euthanasia. In 2004, he described these issues as “nonnegotiable” and “not even debatable.”
What’s more, just this month, Warren supported* Prop. 8 in California for absurd reasons, and offered an incoherent theological rationale to Sean Hannity’s assertion that the United States needs to “take out” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
He is, in other words, hardly the ideal choice for the invocation.
I wouldn’t read too much into it — this is hardly evidence that Obama is going to be more conservative on social issues, for example — but it’s a genuine shame Obama didn’t call on a more progressive religious voice for the event.
Update: A reader reminds me that Warren was a featured guest at the Clinton Global Initiative, which I’d forgotten about. It reinforces, I suppose, the notion that Warren is positioned as some kind of go-to pastor for major political events. Still, there are a lot of progressive pastors out there, and Obama could have picked one of them.