When I heard the news early this morning, or, rather read the news online that President Elect Barack Obama had decided upon Rick Warren, evangelical minister and bestselling author of the book The Purpose Driven Life, to give the invocation at his inauguration, I too was confused and upset. After all, Warren stands for many things I despise. He’s anti-choice. He supported Proposition Eight in California, that bill that brought into law discrimination against gays who want to marry.
I think it is perfectly reasonable for members of the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual) community to be angry about Obama’s choice. After all, they rallied behind him, and not just because they had no other reasonable choice, but they really believed that he was on their side, and that he cared about their rights.
I take a deep breath and I believe they can still have confidence in Obama. Though, I personally believe his must change his stance on gay marriage – during a debate I remember him saying he was not in favor of it but supported a plethora of rights – which I think he might choose that stance to placate the mainstream.
In fact, I think Obama’s choice of Rick Warren as the proof that his own bestselling book wasn’t ghost written. I’m referring to The Audacity of Hope, of which I’ve only read a few chapters. I haven’t given it up, I’m just not finished. But something in it really stuck out to me, and I was reminded of this passage when I read about Obama’s choice of Warren as a speaker.
It is in the chapter entitled “Values” and in a section in which he writes about empathy. He writes that the black leaders must appreciate the fears that whites have in regard to affirmative action, union representatives must consider the competitive necessities of their employers, and that he himself must try to see the world through George Bush’s eyes despite his level of disagreement with him.
The next statement is the one that directly relates to the situation with Warren:
No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.
Of course, in the end a sense of mutual understanding isn’t enough. After all, talk is cheap; like any value, empathy must be acted upon. (Obama, 68)
I’m glad that I’ve been reading this book because I now have even more cause to believe in Obama’s leadership capacity, and by choosing Warren – as much as I disagree with the man, or dislike him – he’s proven that he meant it when he said empathy must be acted upon.
After the protests were made today by the GLBT community and other liberal groups, Obama made a statement at a press conference. He said that though he is a “fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans,” that it was important for those who disagree on social issues to continue to work together.
Sources: Obama, Barack. The Audacity of Hope. 2006, Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, New York.
Obama Defends Inaugural Invitation to Warren. Hall, Mimi. USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/2008-12-18-warren_N.htm