Warren, Prayer and “Unity”

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I know that as a gay man I should be joining like everyone else in condemning President-elect Obama in selecting Rick Warren to give a prayer at the inaugeration since he vigorously supported Prop 8 which banned same sex marriage in California, but I’m not.

I don’t agree with Warren’s views on this of course, but I’m not convinced that this is a fight we need to pick. Why? Well, I agree with Steven Waldman, Warren has done a lot to highlight and try to solve issues like global poverty and AIDS. He is trying to get other evangelical ministers to not focus so exclusively on gay marriage and abortion and really focus on “the least of these.” He’s still a social conservative, but he is one that takes the Biblical concern for the poor seriously. I can’t ignore that and I think that is something that needs to be lifted up. The more people who are involved in try to solve poverty, the better and I don’t care what their background is when dealing with an issue like poverty.

Second, many gays and lesbians seem to forget that Obama was about bringing people together. Let’s go back to that speech that made him a household name in 2004:

It is that fundamental belief — It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us — the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of “anything goes.” Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an “awesome God” in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

Now, politicians always talk about “bringing the country together” and then govern as a pure partisan. While I still have my doubts, I think Obama really means what he says. I think he really wants unity, to find some way to get beyond the petty partisan bickering and towards some true American consensus.

Many who are now angry at the Warren selection talked a good talk about coming together and unity. But unity for them meant being in totally agreement. In essence, it meant politics as usual, except with a liberal face instead of a conservative one.

The fact is, the guy is living what he said four years ago. He is trying to build bridges, not create new chasms.

I don’t agree with Warren on same sex marriage. However, his work has shown that while he might not appease some gays and liberal interest groups on this one issue, he is not a James Dobson.

Besides, we gay folk need to pick our battles and not go after everyone who supported Prop 8. Objecting to a guy that goes to the Third World and feed sick kids makes us, not Warren look bad. Gays need to be about making the case for gay marriage, not acting as some kind of ‘star chamber’ for those who disagree with us.

I’m not saying we can’t criticize Warren or any other person for their role. But let’s show a bit of class, shall we?