Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Purpose-Driven Saddleback Website

Last night, a couple of hours after posting the previous blog, I was watching The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. (By the way, if you aren't already a devoted fan, you aren't a true-blue liberal.) She mentioned that John Aravosis had, on his blog, discovered that the website for Saddleback Church, home to the Rev. Rick Warren, had taken down language in the "We Believe" section stating that "unrepentant gays" would not be admitted into membership. While this is a step in the right direction, it is but a baby-sized one; if the church's policy remains the same--only clandestine--it is a step in the wrong direction.

I don't know if Saddleback made the decision to take down the offensive language due to any pressure from President-elect Obama's transition team or because of adverse publicity from Rachel Maddow, who made a humongous issue of it on Friday night. Whatever the motive, this symbolic action does not satisfy the need for real and meaningful compromise on the part of Rick Warren in return for the rare and elevated privilege of giving the spiritual message at the most momentous presidential inauguration since John F. Kennedy's. Obama should not be fooled.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Purpose-Driven Invocation Invitation

An Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama

Dear President-Elect:

Your invitation to the Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, to give the invocation at your inaugural in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2009, has been to the already invigorated activists among the gay and lesbian population of America what a red cape is to an irascible bull. It seems that, to Obama's advisors and, perhaps, even to the man himself, the queer vote is so firmly in hand that the downside to poking them in the eye with a sharp stick is so slight as to be completely discountable. He/they may well be right. As a gay man myself who has voted in every biannual election since 1968, I could count on one hand the number of times I have pulled the Republican lever and the kinds of Republicans who warranted that kind of "bipartisanship" from me have long gone the way of the Dodo.

Many activists are calling for you to retract the invitation to Rev. Warren to give the invocation. I think this would be a mistake. I see in this situation an opportunity for a teachable moment for the good Reverend. To retract the invitation would make you look indecisive, insincere, and confused. It would restore the Rev. Warren to his previous level of esteem among his evangelical contemporaries. Further, it would not truly satisfy your critics on the left, as it would merely mollify for the moment rather than fulfill for the future.

Here's what the you should do (with all respect to one of your high office): say to Rev. Warren that the invitation is still open for him to give the invocation at your inauguration, so long as he agrees to open his church to full membership for all people, regardless of color, race, ethnicity, religious background, sexual orientation, and gender identity or presentation.

This is the fairest resolution of this crisis I can think of. You would be saying that, while you are reaching out to him across the aisle, giving him perhaps the single biggest honor of his career, you expect that he will use this opportunity to do the same on behalf of those who are now barred from his church. You would send a message to all Americans that healing is a two-way street, that we all must do our part to close the divide that separates us and prevents us from solving the unprecedented challenges that lie ahead of us. You would be giving Rev. Warren the chance to turn Saddleback Church toward a more noble and universal purpose and imbue his appearance on the steps of the Capitol on this auspicious Tuesday in January with fresh hope for inclusion and love.

May it be so. Shalom. Peace. Namaste.