The blogosphere and the mainstream media (MSM) are ablaze with discussions about the specifics regarding President-elect Obama's inauguration. To be sure, Black people have been talking about it and making plans to attend at least since 11 p.m. EST on November 4th. Churches are chartering buses, individuals are buying airline tickets and begging their Congressional representatives for tickets to the staging area. Some witty soul has even created an email to poke fun at all of the busriders who likely will find themselves much closer to Delaware than to DC what with all of the traffic heading to Chocolate City.
All of the above is old news. The hot topic today involves the disclosure that Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church (Southern Baptist, in case you didn't know) will deliver the invocation. Print, internet, and television media are all descibing the choice of Warren as testimony to his ascension to the rank of presidential pastor that Billy Graham has recently vacated after a half-century. A lot of people are steamed, especially among the California gay rights advocates who are particularly miffed at Obama for honoring a man who used considerable influence to sway voters to back Proposition 8 which banned gay marriage in CA. Obama, for his part, reminds detractors that reaching across divides is part and parcel of his philosophy, not to mention a good explanation for why he was even elected. In addition, Warren reached out to Obama two years ago, inviting him to a forum on AIDS at Saddleback, an invitation that drew heat from conservatives because of Obama's positions on abortion and gay rights.
Let me say that I basically understand Obama's reasoning, but Warren remains a poor choice from my perspective, largely because his participation does mark an anointing of a new national pastor and this time I'd like to see someone other than a middle-aged conservative white man in the role. How about a woman to do either the invocation or the benediction? How about a progressive evangelical? How about someone from the religious left? How about somebody Black? How about.... And even if it had to be an evangelical white man, how about Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren, or Jim Wallis?
Some, notably Frank Schaeffer on the Huffington Post, have suggested that this is all about Obama's greasing the road for progressive policies by making nice with evangelical right-wingers at the beginning of the presidency. The problem with this logic is that right-wingers are far more likely to cut Warren's throat for doing the inauguration than they are to call a truce with Obama for having invited him. In the meantime, Obama allies himself with an anti-evolution, brazenly anti-choice, virulently anti-gay, and unconscionably anti-equality-for-women religious conservative. This is not the change that those of us who voted for Obama can believe in.
Now I have to say that Aretha Franklin, Elizabeth Alexander (poet), and Joseph Lowery doing the benediction are more along the lines I had in mind. But they are not getting a lot of play in the media because everyone knows that the person who speaks first (i.e., the invocation) sets the tone.
I'll be praying for Pres. Obama's administration.
P.S. Check out Renita Weem's blog entry about the subject for the best thing I've seen yet.