Inaugural invocation choice angers some liberals

Some progressives are upset over President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to select evangelical leader Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, to deliver the invocation at the January 20 presidential inauguration.

Warren is an icon of the religious right and that doesn’t sit well with some liberals.

But the appointment does fit with Obama’s promise to reach across party and ideological divides and build an "inclusive" administration that could be a sharp contrast to the highly-partisan and devise years of outgoing President George W. Bush.

Which means Obama is in trouble for keeping a campaign promise.

Reports The Huffington Post:

On Wednesday, the transition team and Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced that Rick Warren, pastor of the powerful Saddleback Church, would give the invocation on January 20th. The selection may not have been incredibly surprising. Obama and Warren are reportedly close — Obama praised the Megachurch leader in his second book "The Audacity of Hope." Warren, meanwhile, hosted a values forum between Obama and McCain during the general election. Nevertheless, the announcement is being greeted with deep skepticism in progressive religious and political circles.

"My blood pressure is really high right now," said Rev. Chuck Currie, minister at Parkrose Community United Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon. "Rick Warren does some really good stuff and there are some areas that I have admired his ability to build bridges between evangelicals and mainline religious and political figures… but he is also very established in the religious right and his position on social issues like gay rights, stem cell research and women’s rights are all out of the mainstream and are very much opposed to the progressive agenda that Obama ran on. I think that he is very much the wrong person to put on the stage with the president that day."

Warren does have a rather peculiar relationship with the incoming president. The two share a general ethos that political differences should not serve as impediments to progress. On topics like AIDS and poverty relief, they see eye-to-eye. But Warren’s domestic and social agendas are at odds with Obama’s. And for the gay and lesbian community in particular, the choice is a bitter pill to swallow.

"Pastor Warren, while enjoying a reputation as a moderate based on his affable personality and his church’s engagement on issues like AIDS in Africa, has said that the real difference between James Dobson and himself is one of tone rather than substance," read a statement from People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert. "He has repeated the Religious Right’s big lie that supporters of equality for gay Americans are out to silence pastors. He has called Christians who advance a social gospel Marxists. He is adamantly opposed to women having a legal right to choose an abortion."

"Picking Rick Warren to give THE invocation," wrote John Aravosis on AmericaBlog, "is abominable."


  1. sherry

    Carl, clearly atheism is in the minority, and quite frankly there is not a way really to include atheists in an invocation which is a tradition.
    We are all free to believe what we will. I personally am a little weary of anyone who wears their religion on their sleeve.
    Jesus in his teachings warns us to be a little wary of those who pray loudly to be heard. We are advised to pray in the closet.
    That being said, I have no issue if we have a Jewish president who asks the blessing of his favorite rabbi, or the cleric of his choice.
    I truly don’t understand the offense taken by some of the posters for having an invocation by a popular minister.
    Imagine if BHO had chosen Rev Wright! I personally wouldn’t care. Wright is clearly not my cup of tea, but it’s Obama’s party.

  2. Carl Nemo

    Hi Sherry,

    Since an atheist is not burdened by the baggage of superstition regardless of the religious based source, he or she doesn’t need to invoke blessings and aid from a mythical being; ie., a “Sky Daddy”.

    The inaugural words for the day would be of a no nonsense, straightup, fact filled nature as to what we as a nation face and what sacrifices as well as work that will be necessary to overcome the challenges.

    An atheist president would also not use the inaugural event as a platform for converting the masses to his or her non-belief system.

    An intelligent atheist would also not impede the need for having an invocation in order to keep believers in such mythos satisified at the inaugural function.

    Granted the presidency can be a “bully pulpit”, but surely not one to convert believers to atheism or any other “ism” for that matter. That’s the sound reasoning behind the separation of church and state that seems to have gone awry since modern era pols have chosen to pander to Christian fundamentalists.

    This has truly has been toxic modus operandi leading to a national disaster as we’ve seen with the likes of G.W. Bush and company’s rise to power with the support of religious fundamentalist fanatics; the end result being, “national wreckage”… : |

    Carl Nemo **==