Sunday, December 28, 2008

Obama and Rick Warren

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.


Anonymous said...

saBrad,come on. Warren is indefensible. Trying to kiss up to him maybe is a winning strategy, but it is hateful to gays.

But my negativity on warren's selection to give an invocation is Obama's blindsidedness in refusing to understand that evangelicals believe their beliefs are enactable as law so we all have to live by their precepts. Separation of church and state means church matters stay with the churches, and state issues remain away from the theological beliefs. That way someone's belief system cannot be jammed down someone's throat.

Anti gay bia is based in faulty theology. But then that faulty junk is cast as law. That's what's wrong with warren, and why I am furious with Obama. He is too smart not to get this point. He therefore must be manipulating for political gain. I spit on that.

George Safford
Warrenville, Illinois

Brad Ogilvie/The William Penn House said...

Hi, George: I hear you, but I also know there is much more going on here. I would encourage, first, to acknowledge that the furor may be inhibiting listening. What is happening here is the truth of some cultural divides are being exposed, and only then can they be addressed. We now have an opportunity to address this issue in a way that would not have been possible a few weeks ago - it would have stayed buried and festering.

You state Obama "refusing to understand that evangelicals believe their beliefs are enactable as law...". I can tell you that in many of the conversations with and among evangelicals, their is not agreement on this at all. In fact, there has been a fairly dramatic shift here which is why people like Dobson, Robertson, Bauer and others have rapidly lost their influence.

I still maintain we are on a positive course with gay rights. This is an opportunity for greater accountability for words and actionsl. But if we engage in blanket name-calling and demonizing (i.e. "the problem with evangelicals"), we will just get back "the problem with gays/liberals..." etc. Our challenge is to turn our emotions and passions into a postive force. Just looking at your reaction here (the language only), you leave no room for discussion or dialog. It could easily be said that there is a faulty theology to anything that is completely pro- or anti-most things. We have to struggle. That's my main point - let's talk, not yell.

anothermotherforpeace said...

I have to admit I dont know much about Warren except that he is an evangelical minister outspoken against same sex marriage. Personally I am for love. I am for the expression of love in all forms; including same sex marriage, child-rearing, and equality for ALL human beings.
And I absolutely agree with Brad and am grateful to him for taking this difficult (because it is easier to maintain an 'opposed to' position than it is to reach across a chasm) step toward embacing love and beginning to build bridges for the future. I hope/pray that this is Obama's intention as well.
Serious human rights issues will never be resolved without a coming together in order to build understanding and acceptance. This is love in action, Spirit in action. Thank you, Brad