Where politics and faith dance in the shadow of the windmill.

Rick Warren and the Big Show

Tomorrow is the show.  The Inauguration.  And with comes the controversy of Rick Warren.

The ins and outs of this controversy may already be fading, but before Warren stands up and prays, a few words ought to be said about what this means (or does not).  After all, in the land of the Windmill, Rick Warren does have some some standing.

Let’s start with the personal. To read Barbara Hagerty at NPR, there is a real bond of friendship behind the decision.  And as even die-hard partisans will admit, they often do have friends across the philosophical aisle.  So Warren is selected being a useful acquaintance, a friend.  And of course by doing so, Obama further cements the bond between them.

As to the politics, at its most basic, the Obama invitation has the marks of other actions, such as reaching out to Sen. McCain — it’s a way to bring  an outside group into the conversation.  After all, this is one of the real powers of his office, determining who gets heard.  And again, it is not that difficult to see the political goal he is aiming for: a defusing of the culture war.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped the social conservatives who are busily  trying to ramp up vision of Obama as an arch-abortionist,  one ready to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (aka FOCA) on a moment’s notice, independent of actual action by Congress.  Even while the fires of paranoia get stoked, Obama’s selection of Warren seems to side step the issue. Rather than contest the issue, Obama moves past it with an implicit “So?”

But it is not the battle over abortion that draws the ire from the left, but rather from the controversies over the role of participation of gays in society, and especially in the ability of gays to have their relationships recognized as marriage.

The great reversal

In the wake of Prop 8, those supporting marriage rights for gays and more broadly, full inclusion of gays in society have waged an aggressive push-back campaign.  Here, Warren’s support for Prop 8, together with his general Evangelical view of homosexuality have aroused political ire from the political Left.  What is distressing for those here in the land of the Windmill is that Warren’s views are not so separate from evangelicals generally.  Far from an exemplar of homophobia, his views are much more commonplace.   In much the same way that conservatives rail against “the homosexual lifestyle” or “godless elites” so now evangelicals get the favor returned. Susan Posner gives a sharp expression of the sentiment:

Warren represents the absolute worst of the Democrats’ religious outreach, a right-winger masquerading as a do-gooder anointed as the arbiter of what it means to be faithful.

The bitterness last month was palpable.  So where we have the President seeking to dampen the culture wars, progressives have found an issue on which to push even harder.

And for those of us who live int he shadow of the windmill, this animosity to evangelicals and religious faith generally is more than a little disconcerting.  It certainly challenges the path we have been taking.  But perhaps we should have seen it coming. Read the rest of this entry »

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March 2020