I often find myself, as the "gay guy who has worked with evangelicals", being asked my opinion about Rick Warren being such a visible part of the upcoming inauguration. Here are some of my responses:
1. I fully understand the disappointment and anger, especially on the heels of the passage of Proposition 8.
2. I'm not sure it's fair to say that Obama has "turned" on anything as much as partisans on the left (including glbt advocates) were blinded by their own zeal. Obama has been to Saddleback a few times (including HIV testing w/Sen Brownback a few years ago). Obama never said he supports same-sex marriage - in fact he has said the opposite. He certainly never claimed to make gay rights a priority.
3. I'm not sure that Obama is simply trying to woo people who did not support him. Obama won California fairly easily, but Prop 8 also passed. Clearly, many Obama supporters voted for Prop 8. I'm guessing if Obama were more assertive about gay rights, he would have had a narrower victory.
4. On a more "Quaker" level, anger is divisive. Is it our role, as Quakers, to necessarily have to choose sides on this issue, or can we find a more loving response? Rather than lament and fight, what if we were to instead say "this decision has been made. What is ours to do now?"
5. I think the gay community would do well to understand that there have been so many advancements over the past decade that society needs a rest. We are on a positive course without a doubt, and within ten years all will be well. In the meantime, let's step up responsibility rhetoric, rather than rights. An example? Let's step up HIV-prevention. There's too much complacency and even complicitness in the gay bars, pornography, and internet. We cannot simply sit back and blame the government for the continuing spread of HIV in the gay community.
6. Finally, I think the Warren announcement gives pause: let's look at the entirety of this person and of the movement. Much is being exposed. Warren has done a lot for poverty and AIDS. He (and moreso his wife, Kay) have talked of being open and loving to people with AIDS. How does this settle with judgment of those at-risk for HIV: do they need to get HIV for us to care? Warren has also been clear that his belief does come with questioning. In addition, I know many evangelical Christians who are also upset by this announcement, and also many non-evangelicals who have really liked Warren's work and now are re-thinking that because they did not know his stance on glbt marriage. Anything that exposes where we truly are in society, I think is a good thing.
Basically, I think this, along with the passage of Prop 8, are quickly going to be "2steps back, 4 steps forward". We are already seeing this as a new level of dialog has emerged about gay rights, the fullness of people like Rick Warren, how he differs from the Pat Robertson/James Dobson crowd, and the hypocricy of being a "leader" in the fight against AIDS while being against gay rights. An example is Frank Rich's column (12/28/08) where he says: "Equally lame is the argument mounted by an Obama spokeswoman, Linda Douglass, who talks of how Warren has fought for 'people who have H.I.V./AIDS.' Shouldn’t that be the default position of any religious leader? Fighting AIDS is not a get-out-of-homophobia-free card. That Bush finally joined Bono in doing the right thing about AIDS in Africa does not mitigate the gay-baiting of his 2004 campaign, let alone his silence and utter inaction when the epidemic was killing Texans by the thousands, many of them gay men, during his term as governor." Bringing the long needed discussion of the separation of AIDS work from the people who get HIV/AIDS and how they get it to the forefront can only be a good thing.
I think, ultimately, a lot of good can come from this. What will only delay the progress from here is letting anger get the best of us.
New mercies I see
2 months ago