Whether one is a fan of the next President or not, any fan of faith should be cheered by President-elect Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to offer the inaugural invocation. Once again the President-elect shows that he will confound ideologues time after time. And especially in matter of faith and politics, nothing could be more important given the sharply polarizing power of each. Obama’s choice affirms that faith matters and that it should be bigger than any one dogma, doctrine or creed.
He demonstrates once again that he will confound ideologues time after time. His choice affirms that faith matters and that it should be bigger than any one dogma, doctrine or creed. Ironically, even if Rick Warren doesn’t share that belief, his willingness to bless this presidency places him at the center of a spiritual-political moment that celebrates precisely that kind of post- ideological thinking. So for those who really cannot stand Rev. Warren, sit back and imagine that the joke is on him!
But Obama’s choice in this matter is far more than a joke. It is a leadership lesson in how one stands for particular policies while celebrating an entire nation that differs about those very issues. Rather than opting for a theological mirror of himself when choosing who will give the invocation, as President Bush did when he chose Franklin Graham, Obama challenges us to remember that blessing can be found with all people – even those with whom we may differ sharply.
While we all have our limits, the moral outrage about this choice, focusing primarily on Rev. Warren’s position on gay marriage and his advocacy for Proposition 8 should not push anyone past theirs. After all the good works that Rick Warren has done for so many poor and disenfranchised Americans should provide some balance on the scales when we judge his views on gay marriage, abortion, and other issues to which so many Obama supporters object.
Having supported a candidate who was all about change, we have to ask ourselves if we plan to make any changes ourselves. Or was “change” simply code for throw the bums out? Should conservatives, both theological and political, now be treated as many have felt theological and political liberals have been treated for the past eight years? If so, then where is the change?
Real change should affect all of us. It redefines relationships and attitudes. And the first changes must always be made by those taking power. That’s what it means to wield power ethically and even more important in this case, civilly. So however we feel about Rick Warren, and especially if we care about securing a place for faith in the American public square, we should cheer Obama’s choice.