Down the Warren

At the Inaugural ceremonies, the opening invocation will be given by Rick Warren, evangelical author of The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? and all-around wanker.

He called for political assassination, telling Sean Hannity that it is the role of government to "take [] out" leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and denying that the suggestion could be taken as "something dark, evil."

Given that attitude, it's hardly a surprise that he recently gave George W. Bush a Peace Award, though he later clarified that "the Peace Award was not about peace in domestic — or foreign policy," so it wasn't inconsistent to give the award to a man who started two wars, authorized illegal torture by American soldiers, and excused the people who reopened Saddam Hussein's rape rooms and torture chambers at Abu Ghraib.
On a slightly less blood-curdling (but still horribly wrong) note, Warren endorsed the bigotry of Proposition 8, dishonestly alleging that he did so to protect free speech (it had nothing to do with "hate speech," and hate crimes laws wouldn't limit a pastor's ability to preach his views, only to encourage violence based on sexuality). He defended his bigotry by insisting "I have many gay friends, I've eaten dinner in gay homes." Some of his best friends, etc.

Then again, he told CNN's Larry King that the existence of homosexuality disproves evolution:

I mean here's an interesting thing I have to ask. How can you believe in Darwin's theory of evolution and homosexuality at the same time? Now think about this. If Darwin was right, which is survival of the fittest, then homosexuality would be a recessive gene because it doesn't reproduce and you would think that over thousands of years that homosexuality would work itself out of the gene pool.

Obama has rejected both the creationist anti-intellectualism on display there and the homophobic bigotry. He opposed Proposition 8, saying:

I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law. That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law. That is why I support repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and the passage of laws to protect LGBT Americans from hate crimes and employment discrimination. And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.

For too long. issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It's time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect. This is no less than a core issue about who we are as Democrats and as Americans.

He opposed anti-intellectual attacks on evolution, saying "I believe in evolution, and I believe there's a difference between science and faith. … And I think it's a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don't hold up to scientific inquiry."

His opposition to the war in Iraq is well-known, as is his understanding that the teaching of Jesus "is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application." In that same speech, he observed that "[p]astors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality." Wallis is a political centrist who sees how progressive politics flows naturally from religious teachings. So does Campolo (though his anti-evolutionism grates). So do folks like Pastor Dan and the folks writing at blogs like Street Prophets and in books like Dispatches from the Religious Left (featuring an essay by NCSE's Peter Hess).

Those folks may have less of a profile than does Rick Warren. Warren seems to be taking on the mantle of Billy Graham as our unofficial Pope. But Barack Obama doesn't have to go along with that coronation. He could take Jim Wallis or another leader in the religious left and push them into the spotlight. He could take Richard Cizik, Matt Nisbet's favorite evangelical leader, and help him rise above his recent difficulties at the National Association of Evangelicals. Cizik's outspoken concern about global warming and his willingness to rethink his views on marriage equality may have cut him off from the conservatives who run the evangelical churches, but it puts him squarely in America's mainstream. Plus he voted for Obama in the primaries, and sounds like he probably did in the general election, too.

Putting Rick Warren up for the invocation weakens Obama, it weakens progressive religious voices, and it plays into the hands of people who, as Obama put it, tell evangelicals "that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design." Obama knew that was divisive and wrong in 2006. He knew it hurt America, it hurt Democrats, and it hurt Christians. He can still change this decision, and I hope he does.


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"homosexuality is a recessive gene"? I guess he should get props for at least knowing what a recessive gene is, but thumbs down (as for most creationists of all stripes) for misunderstanding multiple genes, etc. But that's all the credit I'll give to this regressive racist moron.

I think I've seen enough signs already that Obama doesn't have much interest in progressives, but early indications seem to indicate a rather morbid desire to roll over and go belly up to appeal to the bigots in the US. Even given the fact that Obama didn't pick Warren (from what it seems, Congress did), Obama can and should say No to this. But, as with his Lieberman cave in, I doubt he will. I suspect we'll see the usual pandering and kowtowing that we've come to expect from Presidents, but hopefully he will still not screw us over as bad as the last eight years (or a McCain presidency would have). There is still hope, but the "Change we can believe in" just seems to keep getting farther and farther away.

I don't disagree with your sentiment, Josh, because runaway fanaticism of any kind is suicidal, but I am a little surprised by your reaction to his statements about Ahmadinejad, given his stated desire to annihilate the Jews, Holocaust fashion.

Which only confirms my suspicion that politics is thicker than blood, science, and just about anything else.

Long-Live the Culture War...

"[...]If Darwin was right, which is survival of the fittest, then homosexuality would be a recessive gene because it doesn't reproduce[...]"
Why do people have such a hard time with this? Evolution doesn't give a crap about individuals. Evolution is concerned with populations. Regardless of what traits, even "anti-reproductive" traits - an individual member of a population has, if it improves or at least doesn't harm the population's reproductive rate, there's no evolutionary pressure selecting against those traits existing.
Otherwise, ant colonies would only have a queen and drones (and be a lot less successful...)

You and Badger ("A regressive racist moron") made my day. It is a mistake, but then the pres-elect comes from a similar church. I think he does not see what we see.
Josh, to go back several blogs, I assumed you know about the OECD and UNESCO education sites, I just added the refs on and there is an interesting blog on managing edu at…
Let me know if you want more as I find them.

Island: Ahmadinejad is a horrible person in many ways, but I don't make a practice if advocating the assassination of horrible people. Besides which, he doesn't control Iran's military or their foreign policy.

Garance: please do keep me updated, but I'm reading, so don't feel the need to duplicate content.

Badger: While I'm also disappointed that Obama is going with Rick Warren, I don't think it's cause to write off his whole administration. Yes, it's an offensive but of symbolism, but his selections of Steve Chu, Jane Lubchenco, Hilda Solis, Richardson, Orszag, Daschle, and Emanuel all point to an aggressive and progressive administration-to-be. The symbolism matters, and I don't think he needs Rick Warren's backing to get his agenda through. He seems to disagree, but that doesn't minimize the progressive substance of his agenda.