Monday, January 12, 2009

All Things to All People?

President Elect Barack Obama has taken a fair amount of heat for selecting Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration on January 20th. Unless you've been hiding in a cave, you know the issue centers around Warren's support of Proposition 8 in California, which won and effectively bars same-sex couples from becoming legally married (they can still retain most or all of the rights of a married couple under the domestic partners laws, and there are any number of churches that will perform same-sex religious weddings). The Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender community has taken it personally and don't believe that the choice of Warren for this plum position at the inauguration, represents Obama's stance on inclusion of all American peoples in political process. Obama seems to recently have taken steps to correct this oversight. According to this Yahoo! News story, Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, will "offer a prayer at the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural event." While Robinson himself denies that this decision was made to appease the Gay community after the outrage of including Warren, it can't help but be noticed as Obama's olive branch to the Gay community that all "minorities" (and equating sexual orientation with race in terms of "minorities" is still a rather thorny issue) are welcomed as Americans. This raises a couple of issues, though. The first is the issue of "fairness". Obama, in the context of these decisions, can be seen as trying to be fair to the widest set of groups possible, by showing in a tangible way, that each group has a representative at the inauguration. While the Gay community can most likely see that including Robinson is fair, does the door swing both ways? That is, can the Gay community also see that it's "fair" to include Warren to represent conservative and traditionally Christian Americans? Often, in the liberal world view, something is "fair" only if it includes representatives of the liberal view point and deliberately excludes opposing perspectives (such as Warren's). The other issue has to do with splitting hairs. While there are quite a number of different Christian denominations that present their version of Biblical interpretation, do all versions represent God as God sees Himself? Assuming that Obama actually has a personal understanding of the Bible and thus, what God stands for and expects from humanity, can Obama reasonably "play politics" with his faith and "dance on the head of a pin" like so many proverbial angels? All Presidents since the ol' cherry tree chopper himself, have stated that they have a Christian faith, but all Presidents have tended to lead the country first as a politician and somewhere down the line (I won't say "second" because that might put their faith too high on the list), as a Christian. Recently, even "Dubya" has gone public and said that he doesn't believe that many of the events depicted in the Bible are literally true. Politics not only makes for strange bedfellows but also for strange "pew warmers". In being so inclusive, does Obama risk appearing as if he has no personal convictions on faith at all? Having both Warren and Robinson in attendance may present Obama as "inclusive" but what message does it send about what he believes, in terms of his core faith? I certainly don't expect to find Obama sharing the same faith view as the very conservative Rick Warren (a likely heir apparent for such old guard Christian icons as Dr. James Dobson), but with Robinson, Warren, and other religious luminaries present, just what can we conclude about Obama's faith? Based on the observation of the events leading to the inauguration to date, I haven't the faintest idea.

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