Well, it didn't take long for the glowing halo over Obama's head to dull and get slightly askew. If you haven't heard by now, Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" as well as mega church pastor, has been asked to be a part of Obama's inauguration ceremony. You can read more about the ceremony plans here. The reason that this is causing such an uproar? Warren is and has been outspoken about his position against gay marriage. Many gay rights groups worked for Obama's campaign and now they feel they got stabbed in the back. I got an email from the Human Rights Campaign today about it. Rick Warren is one of those who backed Proposition 8 in California which bans gay marriage in the California constitution.
I'm sure you've all heard about the ruckus over Prop 8, but I'm intrigued with the way that things have been playing out in the gay community. I, like many others, was ecstatic when Obama was elected (had tears as I watched his acceptance speech) and angry when I heard about Prop 8. If California can't defeat such a measure, what hope is there in other states? I've already watched similar measures take place in Missouri, which kills my chances at legal marriage in my own home state. The passage of Prop 8 seemed to be the 2 steps back to the Obama one step forward. So I can understand the disappointment and anger that has been felt upon the invitation of Rick Warren to some degree - it's inviting the enemy to the celebratory feast in a way. However, I would remind people, particularly those who are so upset over this, that Obama has always said he would try to build bridges and unite America. He also said he would invite people he knows he disagrees with to work with him - it's how he understands the other side of an issue and takes various perspectives into consideration. Rick Warren speaking at inauguration is one of what I believe will be many such invitations.
Gay marriage and abortion may be the two most divisive issues - at least social issues - in this country. They come up over and over again in political campaigns year after year, and while we tend to have our steroetypes (that Democrats are pro-choice and pro-gay rights while Republicans are pro-life and homophobic) we all know that when you get to know people as actual individuals, it's not usually that cut and dry. I know that I amaze people when they hear me say that I tend to be pro-life (WHAT?! A lesbian who isn't pro-choice?) and I used to vote much more Republican than I have these last few years. Let's face it - most of us aren't cut and dry members of either political party - there are too many issues for all of us to agree on all of them no matter what our ideals and underlying values. The parties have to meet to decide what their official stances are on things on a regular basis - these things are much more fluid than they get made out to be. Obama said up front that he's not a proponent of gay marriage per se (he and Biden seem to be in the "civil union" camp), but inauguration day isn't going to be about any stance on particular issues. It's about celebrating a moment and starting a new administration with a new attitude. The previous administration was a bland mixture - everyone agreed to the same thing, had to play by a party line. Obama is mixing it up - he's inviting everyone to the table and asking everyone to talk with each other. That means the gay activists are going to have to learn how to tolerate Rick Warren and others like him. We can't say we want tolerance and then be intolerant to those who aren't just like us - that's what we usually do but it's not anything different than what's been done to us.
I have a Nalgene water bottle covered with various stickers to make a statement and personalize it so that I can tell which one is mine. One of the stickers that gets a lot of comments is "WARNING: Intolerance will not be tolerated!" Funny, yes, but it also makes a point. When we fight intolerance, it means we have to fight it within ourselves as much as in other people. Injustice isn't just something done TO us, it's also something done BY us. I could start quoting scripture about planks in your own eye while you're picking out dust in someone else's but I think you get the point. Let Obama go with this and let's see what happens. Warren isn't even that bad a guy if he's getting people more involved in fighting HIV and AIDS and doing other good things in this world. Nobody is all right or all wrong, so let's let it go. There are more important things to spend our energy on and we've got four whole years to see what Obama's going to do and what direction this country will truly move.