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Guest Post by Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Director, Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing a multifaith organization with more than 4400 religious leaders in its network.
First, you need to know who I am. I am a Jewish Unitarian Universalist sexologist minister. I am heterosexual, married, middle aged, the mother of two children, and the author of parenting books. I am the co-founder and director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, a network of more than 4400 religious leaders from more than 50 faith traditions that affirm sexual justice issues.
And my heart broke a little last week when the President-elect selected the Rev. Rick Warren to offer the invocation at his inauguration. Perhaps like you, I was elated on election night. I’ve worn a button that says 1/20/09 for a year now. I celebrated this historical victory for weeks; I still haven’t put away the November 5th New York Times front page.
The American people have not just elected the first African American president, they elected a pro-choice, pro-family planning, pro-sex education president; a president who said the words “gay and straight” in his acceptance speech. My heart sang.
So, I don’t know how to make sense that Rev. Rick Warren was chosen for this honor. Some commentators have suggested it was a symbolic way of reaching out to the evangelical community that overwhelmingly did not vote for him. People said the selection of the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights hero, to do the benediction balances out Rev. Warren, showing the range of faith values in the US. Others suggest that it was shrewd politically, as Rev. Warren’s acceptance of the offer was an indication to the conservative community that they were to work with the new president. Others have said to let this go, because it is the appointments and actions that matter; after all, who remembers who prays at the inauguration. The conversation on my blog has been fascinating. Lots of people are trying to understand.
But, I keep coming back to the fact that the Rev. Warren has compared abortion to the Holocaust and homosexuals to pedophiles and incest perpetrators. I keep coming back to the fact that the Saddleback web site says that homosexuality is sinful; read it yourselves. I can’t forget that until two days ago, it also said that people who were homosexual were not welcome as members of the church community: what happened to “love your neighbor as yourself?” Did Jesus ever exclude anyone from worship?
And I can’t help but wonder is there any way that the inaugural team would have chosen a minister who held racist or anti-semitic views for this place of honor? Would it have been seen as insignificant if someone who worked on poverty but also had spoken out against Israel had been chosen? Why is it then that someone who has publicly advocated for taking away a woman’s right to choose and marriage from committed loving couples because of their biological sex is still all right? Think about the uproar from Republicans if President Bush had called on a pro-choice minister to offer his invocation. Why then are those of us who are upset about this being portrayed as unreasonable or politically naïve when we are speaking out against his hate speech?
Most of the people who have been quoted in the media protesting this decision have been gay and lesbian secular leaders. But I’m offended too. Millions of us worked tirelessly for this election because we believed in change, and that change would mean an end to the attacks on reproductive justice and LGBT persons’ civil rights. We understand that until all adults have the right to consensual sexual relationships and all loving adult couples have the right to marry, our own sexual rights are not secure. In fact, Saddleback until two days ago said that cohabitating heterosexual s were not welcome as members either. We’re all just a little less sure that we can count on the change we’ve been promised.
In this season of Advent, we are indeed waiting and praying that our hopes–not just for the new administration, but for us all–are realized. And I’m praying to let go of this dismay so I can truly celebrate on January 20th.