When it was announced that Rick Warren would participate in the events of Barack Obama's inauguration, it seems that the whole GLBT community took to arms. Not only them, but progressives everywhere cried foul at the choice of Rick Warren at such an historic event. I think that I might have been one of the few GLBT identified people whom I know who did not feel great outrage. In support of the Obama team, let me say that Rick Warren took a real chance with his congregation and with his larger religious community when he invited Barack Obama to speak at his church. Intense criticism was levied against him, but he stood firm with his invitation. Warren said that it is important for people to find ways of building coalitions around issues on which they can find agreement. He broke with the typical "He doesn't believe like me on most things so I'm going to ignore him or worse speak badly about him" mentality held by both those on the Right and on the Left. Choosing him to be present at the inauguration was an act by the Obama team to show their intention to do likewise - to keep their tent wide, to build coalitions, and to keep ideology from stagnating progress. At the same time, the timing is very unfortunate. Warren's work in advocating for Prop 8 in California and its approval by voters wounded many GLBT people and their families. It was a moment when a minority was once again treated unjustly. How disappointing on a day when justice seemed so important for the American people. Perhaps if the voters had voted another way, even if Warren had supported the proposition, then the GLBT community would have been more forgiving. Or, had the proposition passed but Warren had been less vocal, perhaps they would have felt less strongly. Regardless of the "what ifs," this is what happened and Warren supported it, helped it to pass, and Prop 8 did pass, denying marriage to GLBT people. Many were sad and angry.
However, the Obama team invited three other Christian religious leaders to participate in the inauguration. The selection of these religious leaders illustrates Obama's commitment to diversity. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will provide the benediction at the inauguration. An African American United Methodist praying at the inauguration! WOW! Bishop Gene Robinson, Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire and openly gay man, will offer the invocation on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial. And, Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President of the Disciples of Christ/Christian Church will provide the sermon at the prayer service in the National Cathedral on Wednesday. She will be the first woman to do this.
I actually applaud the Obama team for inviting such a broad representation of Christianity - the faith of the new president - to participate in these historic events. And, I have to say that I'm a little excited - especially so - for Joseph Lowery's presence.
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