Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dick Warren 

This is getting me more and more angry. I've made a few posts in the thread below, which I'm now going to take the liberty of promoting. As a spiritual fellow-traveler among Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics, and as someone who admires Rowan Williams' struggle to keep the Anglican Communion together, I obviously have a few different reasons to be interested in this issue.

There are real difficulties in the gay marriage debate, which I won't go into here, except to say: gay unions demand to be recognized in the eyes of God; but gay marriage is not a coherent concept, because marriage in Jewish and Christian tradition is the blessing of the relationship through which God gives us new life; the reproductive aspect can't be put aside. I think that the state shouly only give civil union licenses, and not be in the business of marriage at all; there clearly can be no difference in the legal rights accorded to gay or straight couples. I mention all of this as a way of saying that there are actual complexities here, and that Barack Obama might have ended up working with a pastor who had done or said certain things about gay relationships that might have been unacceptable to many, but who nonetheless would have been at least a relatively less-offensive choice for the inauguration invocation.

Warren is not acceptable. He is a nasty, self-promoting schlub. He exploited the Prop 8 fight to make himself a bigger name. He doesn't give two shits about Obama or national unity. And Obama knows this, but seems not to care. Which makes Obama's talk about unity seem like posturing. And it also makes Obama's various religious maneuvers seem like so much clever posturing. And this is frankly offensive to me. Here is Joan Walsh in Salon:

Even on vacation, I can't quite get over the choice of pastor Rick Warren to give Barack Obama's inaugural invocation. I'm all for Obama (and Republicans, for that matter) reaching out to the other side. I am not theoretically opposed to Obama choosing an antiabortion gay-rights critic; I'm opposed to Warren himself. He's a poster boy for kinder, gentler 21st century bigotry, and Obama shouldn't validate him with this lofty symbolic role.

I tried to keep an open mind when Obama began courting Warren three years ago; Salon sent a reporter to cover the popular young Democrat's first visit to Saddleback Community Church, to talk about its laudable AIDS work, in 2006. I believe in seeking common ground, and I was curious to see what Warren – and Obama – were up to. I watched carefully when Obama went to Saddleback for a presidential forum in August, along with John McCain. As I wrote at the time, I think Obama got punked; Warren spent an inordinate amount of time at the forum on issues like abortion and gay rights, and the promised focus on poverty reduction and social justice got short shrift. At Saddleback services the next day, Mike Madden didn't find one worshiper planning to vote for Obama. One day after that, a self-satisfied Warren told Beliefnet he couldn't say for sure whether Obama could compete for the evangelical vote, but he insisted that an antiabortion voter backing a pro-choice candidate would be like a Holocaust survivor voting for a Holocaust denier.

Beyond his noxious political views -- Warren has compared homosexuality to incest and bestiality, supports the Iraq war, and, in fact, just gave George W. Bush his first-ever "international medal of peace" (yes, peace) -- I have come to distrust Warren personally. He looks to be from a long line of religious leaders more concerned about their own glory than the glory of God. I didn’t like him high-fiving with Obama about their million-dollar book deals, or complaining with McCain that $250,000 isn't rich in Orange County. I didn't like him misrepresenting the rules for the August forum -- he claimed McCain had been in a "cone of silence," but when that turned out not to have been true, he accused Obama supporters of "sour grapes" for complaining. It became obvious to me that the well-fed, well-coiffed Warren is full of himself, and Obama shouldn't contribute to his campaign for self-aggrandizement, especially at the expense of gay people and women, two groups who gave Obama strong support.

On MSNBC this afternoon my friend Chris Matthews kept saying that Obama has upset gays with this choice, but I'm not gay, and Warren's anti-gay rights stands are only part of my reasons for opposing his selection (although his leadership in the fight for the noxious Proposition 8, which Obama opposed, is certainly a reason to oppose his being given this special symbolic spiritual role). I object to the full Warren package, I think he's a force for division, not inclusion, and a terrible symbol for this inspiring new administration. And once again, I see an arrogance and/or naiveté on the part of Obama, when he defends his choice of Warren -- and it was his choice; read Madden's fine story -- as showing "we can disagree and not be disagreeable." I'd tell that to Rick Warren, not his critics.

On Thursday night Warren issued a short statement praising Obama for bucking his liberal base to invite him to give the invocation. Obama likewise made a big deal of Warren facing criticism for inviting Obama to his church. It's clear both men are using one another to prove their alleged political courage, and that's their choice; I object to Obama using the rest of us. This is a political and not a spiritual choice, and it stinks.

What is very bad about this is that Obama doesn't really "believe" in this -- how could a relatively smart guy like Obama believe that "unity" will be achieved by countenancing the views of a guy who says gays "think they're smarter than God" and are trying to get away with "disobeying God's sexual instructions." The whole affair is pure cynical calculation, the two men "using" each other transparently, as Walsh says. And this "cleverness" on Obama's part seems to involve wanting to hurt gays and get them angry at him (for surely in the wake of Prop 8 he knew what would come of inviting Warren to give the invocation).

Of course, this should piss off Christians as well as gays (and of course gay Christians most of all -- but we are all gay Christians, or should be in spirit!)

It should piss of everyone, including even the Christian fascists, because this is not a serious gesture to evangelicals but a gimmick. What kind of feelings could Obama really have about Warren? Of course I am supposed to know, I guess, that this is just a non-factor in this high-stakes realm of clever calculations.

Splitting evangelicals from the Republicans is one of the most important goals of contemporary anti-fascist politics. Failure to grasp the importance of this goal, failure to even understand the ineluctable religious dimension of politics -- these are reasons why the Democrats are not a serious anti-fascist party. These failures help to ensure that the Dems always and again collapse into a nihilistic politics of mere expedience and functioning.

Obama is clever enough to grasp this problem, but he seems to be approaching the issue purely at the level of gamesmanship, strategy, and gimmickry. Why insult a true man of God like Joseph Lowery by putting him on the stage with Rick Warren? What beliefs -- that is to say, Christian beliefs, supposedly so important to him -- can Obama really have if he's willing to turn the religious question into a game of gimmickry and one-upmanship?

Friday, December 19, 2008



Thursday, December 18, 2008

shit + mouth = sundae 

Ok, so the first tier cabinet picks sucked donkey dick. And depending on what you thought Obama was gonna do or who he "really" is, they were either predictable or disappointing. More of the same. An economy run by the clowns who got us here in the first place, and a war run by clowns who love the war. Now if you had read Obama's proposals closely you'd know that he didn't plan to end the war, but many people didn't and he certainly sold himself on that basis. Whatever, that's a different post.

The second tier was mixed, although as John Caruso points out the very latest is more crap.

So whatever. As expected, more corporate authoritarian dreck. For anyone who bothered to look at the receipt, or read the print, they knew what was being bought and by whom.

But this...this is absolutely bonkers:

Democrats...have chosen celebrity preacher and best-selling author Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration.

Warren vocally opposes gay marriage, does not believe in evolution, has compared abortion to the Holocaust and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Now, I understand that the people who invest in you expect to see a return. You've got to work the quid pro quo on that front.

But what kind of sense does this symbol make really? The very people you don't have to pay attention to, the liberals who'll vote for you no matter what with no strings attached and the wingnuts who'll never vote for you ever, are...well, the very people to whom you need not pay attention. So why are you paying attention to them? To appear bipartisan? For whose benefit? What's the upside here? Cuz I'm not seeing it.

Why go out of your way to piss people off for no obvious benefit? Why not just pick someone bland and uncontroversial? It's not like anyone pays any goddamn attention to who gives the invocation unless its someone totally insane. What. the. fuck?


Apparently he's chosen the homophile Joseph Lowry to do the benediction, so I guess it all evens out. Are benedictions as important as invocations?

Also, Bush had some progressive dude give the invocation at his inauguration. I guess this is too big a job to leave without symbolism and is customarily laden with meanings. Shows what I know about our civic rituals.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Some heroes are just ordinary folks who do what they can.


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