Inauguration Jubilee: Pastor Warren’s Incoherence


“We will hold out our hand  if you are willing to unclench your fists.”

So said  President Obama in his Inaugural speech.

So said civil rights activists to Pastor Rick Warren.

They said it after he likened  controlling  one’s homosexuality to controlling one’s promiscuity.   Just say  “No,” is Warren’s breezy prescription for slicing and dicing one’s  own sexuality.    “I think that’s part of maturity. I think it’s part of delayed gratification. I think it’s part of character.” Only, it’s not “delayed gratification,” is it?  His prescription is for a lifelong self-rebuke.

“Ah hah!”  you say.  “‘Pastor Rick’ would support  gay marriage if he thought  ‘gayness’  was a birth defect rather than a noxious choice.”

You’d be wrong.  He’d still oppose it because he’s  “… opposed to the re-definition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage….  Historically, marriage is a man and a woman.”

Warren enlarged the thought,  “Opposition to same sex marriage is shared by a majority of Americans and by President-elect Obama — and is based on Biblical teachings.”

And,  according to a  Time article,  Warren e-mailed a statement to his 30,000 members urging them to “vote yes on Proposition 8 — to preserve the biblical definition of marriage.”

(I’m not sure how  Pastor Warren feels about    Abraham, the famous patriarch who fathered   three great religions with three different and concurrent wives.)

Coincidentally,   in the Curry interview,  Reverend Warren stated, “I don’t think gay marriage is any threat to marriage.  So that’s not why I’m voting the way I did. I think divorce is a bigger problem to marriage than anything else.”  (Curry-Warren interview transcript)

So?    “No harm,  no foul”  is  one of our earliest legal tenets.  Our courts  simply do not weigh the legal merits of   hypothetical cases.  They do not engage in judicial review.  They like  their plaintiffs  harmed and bleeding from some dastardly act.  If  hetero marriages aren’t  threatened by gay marriages and there’s no demonstrable harm to non-gays  and there’s no apparent legal basis for heterosexuals to oppose gay marriage,  why did Pastor Warren work so hard to eradicate gay marriages in California?    “Warren says he joined the fray out of a concern if Proposition 8 wasn’t passed, pastors would lose their right to preach about the Biblical definition of marriage. But many constitutional experts say that fear was totally unfounded and gay rights leaders saw Warren’s stance as an infringement on their civil rights.”   (Curry-Warren interview transcript)

According to Pastor Warren, then,  he’s afraid that if gay marriage is legalized, he’ll be arrested for preaching    the Biblical man-woman version.   As absurd as that sounds, it’s heartening to know he cares for someone’s civil rights.

In the  Baptist Press, Pastor Warren is quoted as saying,  “This [gay marriage]  is not a political issue, it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about.  There is no doubt where we should stand on this issue.”

And then,  he used his pulpit  to rouse  30,000 church members against the law of the land.

According to most commentators,  in  a follow up to his Ann Curry interview,    Pastor Warren equated  gay relationships with  pedophilia,  polygamy/bigamy and incest .  What he actually suggested was far more bizarre:   that legalizing homosexual marriages  might open the door to legalizing   incestuous, polygamous  and  pediophilic (sic)  marriages.  (YouTube)

That’s right:  legalize  gay marriage and the justice system will run amok.  All manner of sinners will want to marry.  If you doubt his logic, I refer you to the  film, Reefer Madness.  It’s an old docudrama about what happens to people who smoke marijuana.

It’s distressing  that President Obama would appoint an invoker who’s illogical and incoherent.  Just as distressing is  Pastor Warren’s use  of his  tax-deductible ministry and Biblical verses to change our civil laws.

Even when King Henry VIII of England was ex-communicated by the Pope, he refused to cede his civil supremacy to the  Catholic Church.  For sure, some of  Henry’s  stubbornness was due to a lack of healthy male heirs and his desire to divorce-at-will, but  in the end,  King Henry rejected  Papal dominion over  England. It was an act of defiance at a time when people  feared Hell and The Church at least as much as they did  Henry.  After all, the Pope could condemn the entire country to burn in Hell  for eternity.

Henry’s great battle with the Church was one reason our founders codified the independence of  our secular state.

By all means, President Obama should  invite Pastor Warren into the tent.   I’ll work with   anyone willing to feed the hungry or save the planet,  but our spokespeople must not  be the kind who deny civil rights to  our fellow-toilers.

And, in case it isn’t clear,  it stresses my good humor that while  our states and municipalities face  gross  revenue shortages,  Pastor Warren’s   endorsement of Proposition 8 was made publicly and from his pulpit. He used his position as a  minister of a charitable-tax-deductible organization  to support passage of a public law on Biblical grounds.

On the other hand, maybe  Rev.  Warren’s  Invocation  is  the sound of  a  politically savvy  fist unclenching.   He  asked God to forgive us    “When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the Earth with the respect that they deserve….”

Is Pastor Warren  unclenching his fist or is he positioning himself to better dictate  the degree of  “respect”  the rest of us deserve?

LATE NOTE:   Please check with your local food pantries and soup kitchens.  The ones in my village are running on empty.  According to Reuters,  Cash America sees lower Q4 profit, cuts 2009 view.  Cash America operates pawn shops and provides cash advances.  “…fourth-quarter earnings were also hit by higher loss rates for its online cash advance product and heavier discounting to clear inventory during the Christmas season.”  In other words,  people  couldn’t afford to  re-pay their loans, redeem their lost valuables or to buy Christmas presents at their local pawnshop.

1.   Text of  Pastor Rick Warren’s  Inaugural Invocation or search at Associated Press.

Inauguration Jubilee: Saturday


Wikipedia says,  “A Jubilee is a time of celebration or rejoicing. It is defined in Leviticus 25:9 as Yovel in Hebrew, as the sabbatical year after seven cycles of seven years.

  • Jubilee (Biblical), the Jubilee specified in Leviticus 25:9  that is the original concept behind most of the following Jubilees.
  • Jubilee (Christian), the year of Jubilee is a special year for the remission of sins and universal pardon where debts are forgiven, slaves and prisoners freed, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is to occur every fifty years.”

1.   Holy moley.  Leviticus may be used to turn loving  folk into fire breathing dragons,  but one area of general agreement between scholars  is that the Jubilee  in Leviticus 25  signals a time of introspection,  atonement,  forgiveness and new beginnings.

2.   In Philadelphia, the woman who introduced Barack to the crowd spoke of  unemployment and breast cancer.   “But that’s  behind us now,” she bubbled,  touching  Michelle, Sasha and Malia  again and again —   the dream made flesh.

2.   In Philadelphia and Wilmington, the only people in the crowds  who didn’t beam and smile ear-to-ear  were the babies —  frozen like popsicles in adult arms —  and those amazing Secret  Service  agents with   their  dark shades and flat affects.

3.   According to multiple press accounts,   ten year old Malia Obama told her father, “First African American president….  [Your speech]  better be good.”

4.   Philadelphia:   the 100,000 in the crowd wouldn’t let Barack  begin his speech until the people had sung “Happy Birthday” to Michelle.   The Obamas are being taken into the American heart.  They are our First Family and they seem to care for the whole of us.

5.   People, people, people:  lining the railroad tracks as the inaugural train passes.

6.   If the people in my small town are any measure, there could  be an All-American-Flu-Out Tuesday.  In our stew of  job losses and foreclosures,  an Inauguration may seem  like a Royal Procession but even so, some increasingly  worried  workers in rural New York are still plotting to  skip out  Tuesday so they can watch their President  pledge to protect and defend their Constitution.

7.   In Washington, D.C.,  people are ecstatic that they’ll be made visible by a president who eats lunch in their neighborhoods.  The Right and Amazing Eleanor Holmes Norton is absolutely giddy.

8.   “Giddy”  pops to  mind too often.  I’ve tried to think of other words and phrases to describe the crowds along the railroad tracks  and the people in line behind me at the  store:  “beside themselves,”  “ecstatic,”  “overcome,”  “wistful,”  “childlike,”  “expectant,”  “bubbling,”  “burbling,”  “joyous,”  “exuberant,”  “ebullient…,” but “giddy” is the one I return to time and again.  Seasoned journalists are beside themselves,  overcome by their own stories, this historic  nexus and the celebratory crowds.

If there is a “mob mentality,”  this fervor is its obverse;  this laughing, hopeful feeling  is the humane side of the human animal.

It’s   why record numbers of us  will spend  this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service volunteering  in our communities. (Monday January 19th).   Here’s a familiar-looking  link  for finding  a community organization that needs your help:    http://www.usaservice.org/

Today in the grocery store, I was reminded  that some people in my small town have sworn to fly their flags at half-mast for the next four years.   All I can feel is regret for what they’re missing.