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Politics make strange bedfellows

December 26, 2008

by Kheven LaGrone

Rev. Rick Warren’s hour-long interviews Aug. 17, first with Sen. Barack Obama and, afterward, with Sen. John McCain, drew huge television audiences. – Photo: Monica Ahneida, New York Times
Rev. Rick Warren’s hour-long interviews Aug. 17, first with Sen. Barack Obama and, afterward, with Sen. John McCain, drew huge television audiences. – Photo: Monica Ahneida, New York Times
President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to invite Rev. Rick Warren to give the inaugural prayer set off a political firestorm. Some gay rights activists are angered and feel betrayed by Obama’s invitation to Rev. Warren; some accused Obama of giving an international platform to an anti-gay marriage messenger and homophobe.

Some gay rights activists seemed to believe that by their supporting Obama, they had made a pact with him to push the conservative right into a corner to wither away and die. They seemed to believe that the conservative right deserved no voice.

I heard a self-identified gay man call into a radio talk show and say that he regretted voting for Obama. As if McCain-Palin were pro-gay marriage and the man sacrificed his vote for Obama instead.

In the past, Rev. Warren had spoken out against gay marriage; however, recently he has said publicly that he does not hate gays or lesbians. Perhaps it is not a retraction of his earlier statements about gay marriage, but this recent public statement reaches out to gays and lesbians.

Nor does Rev. Warren’s recent statement mean that he has to support gay marriage. However, he does counter the notion that all opponents of gay marriage are homophobes. In fact, some people simply believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, together that man and woman make a lifelong commitment to raise the children that they bring into this world. Their opinion is neither faith-based nor homophobic. If anything, it is biology-based.

After Prop 8 passed, the pro-gay marriage movement seemed to be moving toward a pro-gay fascism. Some anti-Prop 8 protesters seemed to suggest that Christian conservatives should have no voice because their opinions were ill-formed and Bible-based. Some argued that to vote against gay marriage because of one’s faith violated “separation of church and state.” Some suggested that Christian conservatives who opposed gay marriage were just blindly following their religious leaders.

But whose vote is valid or invalid? Is a Christian’s basing her vote on her faith any different than a gay activist’s basing his vote on his gay relationship?

Some progressive critics dismissed Christian conservatives as “fanatical” or “irrational.” But was the privileged white American man wearing a suit and tie on national television and announcing that he was gay and an “oppressed minority” more rational?

Yet, Rev. Rick Warren may not truly be the voice of the Christian conservative. He had been attacked by fellow conservative Christian leaders for not being conservative enough and being “too soft on liberals.” Some pro-lifers were upset that he would agree to give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration.

Hence, conservative Christian leaders and these gay activists have become bedfellows in their criticism of the choice of Rev. Rick Warren’s to deliver the invocation at Obama’s inauguration.

Obama didn’t betray the gay movement nor is he pandering to the conservative right. Using Rev. Warren, he is creating a bridge between two “warring factions.” Under the Obama presidency, gay activists will have to share the national platform with opposing perspectives – including those of the conservative right.

Conservative Christian leaders and gay activists have become bedfellows in their criticism of the choice of Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Obama’s inauguration.

Demonizing conservative Christians by comparing them to the white segregationists during the Black Civil Rights Movement is shallow and misinformed. I’ve known some conservatives who don’t support gay marriage but do not hate gays and lesbians, so stereotyping the opponents of gay marriage is baseless and likely will not go too far.

A conservative Christian’s faith may be just as important and valid to him as sexual expression is to a gay activist. Therefore, marginalizing or invalidating the Bible will surely cause a backlash.

In fact, Obama has already begun bridge-building, as lesbian songwriter-singer Melissa Etheridge demonstrated in her Huffingtonpost.com article titled “The Choice Is Ours Now.” When she first heard that Rev. Warren would be giving the invocation, she called it “another slap in the face as the man we helped get elected seemingly invited a gay-hater to address the world at his inauguration.”

Later, she learned that Rev. Warren was to be the keynote speaker at a conference where she was to perform. They talked. She wrote about their conversation:

“He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with Proposition 8 because he didn’t want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about Proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church; I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids.”

Obama’s invite to Rev. Warren can bring the gay movement the visibility to counter homophobia worldwide. The gay movement will have the platform to counter the homophobic readings of the Bible and other religious texts.

And now, for balance, Obama can appoint an African American man who loves African American men or an African American woman who loves African American women to a position.

Besides, as Vice President-elect Joe Biden said, Rev. Warren is giving an invocation, not setting policy.

Kheven LaGrone
Kheven LaGrone
Kheven LaGrone, who can be reached at kheven@aol.com, is the editor of “Dialogue: The Color Purple,” a collection of writings by Asian and American scholars on the controversial novel. The book will be published by Rodopi Press and is coming out this spring 2009.

4 thoughts on “Politics make strange bedfellows

  1. Chris

    You say “Demonizing conservative Christians by comparing them to the white segregationists during the Black Civil Rights Movement is shallow and misinformed.” What CRAP!

    Yet Correta Scott King, a Black woman who paid the ULTIMATE price for Black Civil Rights – the death of her husband Martin Luther King, Jr. had THIS to say:

    “Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Ga. and St. Augustine, Fla., and many other campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement,” she said. “Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for MY freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions.”

    She also said:

    “For too long, our nation has tolerated the insidious form of discrimination against this group of Americans, who have worked as hard as any other group, paid their taxes like everyone else, and yet have been denied equal protection under the law…I believe that freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. My husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” On another occasion he said, “I have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible.” Like Martin, I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.”

    So, I guess I find it disheartening that a woman who paid such a price, the death of her husband, for Black Civil Rights, can see the similarities in the Gay & Lesbian struggle for equality as the Black struggle.

    Yet the Black community will not recognize this.

    Showing, yet again, that absolutely everyone will uses Gays & Lesbians as someone to feel ‘better than.’

    Jesus Christ himself would NEVER stand for this and you ALL know it.

    Reply
  2. Ann Garrison

    I have to disagree. Barack Obama’s excuse, all inclusive tolerance of the absolutely intolerant, is no excuse.

    And make no mistake about it. Rev. Rick Warren is absolutely intolerant. Speaking in Uganda at the end of March, he said, “Homosexuality is not a natural way of life and therefore not a human right. We will not tolerate this aspect, not at all.”

    In Uganda, as in Rwanda, Mozambique, and Kenya, Rev. Rick Warren preaches absolute gay intolerance and abstinence only, before married monogamy, as a HIV/AIDS prevention. No condoms, no HIV/AIDS education or counseling. And let’s face it, this is homicidal homophobia, and sex intolerance, in Africa.

    Since the outset of PEPFAR, President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, HIV/AIDS infection rates in Uganda, where the penalty for homosexuality is life in prison, have doubled.

    Let me add, however, that Barack Obama, on World AIDS Day in 2006, said, in Reverend Warren’s own Saddleback Church, that he unequivocally disagrees with Reverend Rick Warren on “abstinence only” campaigning:

    ” . . . abstinence and fidelity may too often be the ideal and not the reality – that we are dealing with flesh and blood men and women and not abstractions – and that if condoms and potentially microbicides can prevent millions of deaths, they should be made more widely available. I know that there are those who, out of sincere religious conviction, oppose such measures. And with these folks, I must respectfully but unequivocally disagree. I do not accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence. Nor am I willing to stand by and allow those who are entirely innocent – wives who, because of the culture they live in, often have no power to refuse sex with their husbands, or children who are born with the infection as a consequence of their parent’s behavior -suffer when condoms or other measures would have kept them from harm.”

    Let’s hold Barack Obama to that unequivocal disagreement, both here and in Africa. And let’s continue to call for the cancelation of his inaugural tolerance of the absolutely, and homicidally, intolerant Reverend Rick Warren.

    Being a hothead, I even called Barack Obama’s # to say “Bring back Reverend Wright,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hPR5jnjtLo .

    Reply
  3. Kheven

    Chris, I wrote that there is a difference between restoring white male entitlement and breaking down America’s race caste. it is interesting that you use Martin Luther King’s assassination as Mrs. King’s ultimate sacrifice. Many believed that J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, was behind the assassination. He was a powerful opponent of both King and the Black Panthers. He also used Baynard Rustin, a black gay man, to incriminate King.

    J. Edgar Hoover was also a white gay man (I know there is debate about whether or not he was white, but he passed as white, so I will refer to him as so here). He would not have had his power if he had not been “white” or passing as “white.”

    Reply

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