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President-elect Barack Obama has caught hell this week from progressives over inviting Pastor Rick Warren to give the Inaugural Invocation next month. While I'm no fan of Warren, Obama's invite doesn't really surprise me.
The new president claims he is a believing Christian. I take him at his word. Christians, by definition, all believe in the same Jesus. Christians may disagree on many finer points of Christianity.....but they agree on the big doctrine...Jesus. Obama, a Christian, has invited Rick Warren, another Christian, to offer the opening prayer at Obama's inauguration. Kind of ecumenical. Brothers in Christ, and all that.
Many progressives, while realizing Warren's appearance at the inauguration will be, at best, symbolic, are still worked up because Pastor Rick holds fundamentalist viewpoints on abortion, stem cells, and homosexuality. Practicing homosexuals are prohibited from becoming members of Warren's Saddleback Church. Warren worked actively in support of Proposition 8 in California, which rolled back a California Supreme Court ruling correctly finding that denying gays equal marriage rights, was unconstitutional. This, now, has become the new "separate but equal" division line in America. Pastor Rick has also drawn fire because of his statements equating gay marriage with incest, pedophilia and bigamy.
When pressed, Obama has responded that, despite the fact that he and Warren disagree on stuff, Warren invited him to speak at his church in 2006, anyway. Now, Obama is responding in kind. Obama knows that Warren, unlike what we saw in the last generation's Moral Majority rigidness, is open to confronting the problems of poverty in America, as well as global warming. The new president often stated during his campaign that his starting point as president would not be division, not red and blue, but instead, one America.
The early betting line out there is that Obama is a pragmatist......a leader who will emphasize practical solutions to problems, rather than ideological solutions. That's all well and good as far as it goes. The proof that Obama is actually a progressive Democrat, and not simply a pragmatist, will come with his policy decisions. We shall see.
My problem with all of this comes from a wider lens view. Previously, I have criticized Obama for his planned retention of one of Bush's open-sores....his unconstitutional, one billion tax dollars, "faith based initiative". Obama, allegedly a constitutional scholar, thinks that when government gives tax-dollars to religious groups, it is not "establishing" religion. His only disagreement with Bush the Younger's initiative is religious discriminatory hiring practices by institutions who receive those tax dollars. Obama might call that pragmatism.....I call that missing the forest for the trees.
American government, if it is to be successful in a modern world, must grow up. When we're children we do childish things.....but when we grow up, we put childish things aside.....well.....we try. If Obama wanted to bring change to America, inspire it to grow up, he could not only deconstruct Bush the Younger's faith based programs.....but he could also honor our founding document by refusing to bring religion into his inauguration altogether. No opening or closing prayer to any gods, even if they are only symbolic.
But that would be too ideological, wouldn't it?