'/> Uncommon Hours: Would you have volunteered if you knew Rick Warren’s was the first voice you’d hear?
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Would you have volunteered if you knew Rick Warren’s was the first voice you’d hear?

By Bob Sommer

During the weeks leading up to the election, I crossed the state line from Kansas to Missouri to hit the bricks and the phones for Barack Obama. My home state of Kansas is so red that it still bleeds. It was a lost cause. But the race was tight in Missouri. There was hope. I partnered up with others to walk the neighborhoods of Blue Springs. It was hot and tiring, but we were determined. In the evening, I made phone calls at campaign headquarters in Kansas City. Spirits were high. Even Republicans were listening.

Now I wonder how many of those who volunteered, like me, would have been out there if they’d known in advance that Rev. Rick Warren would take center stage at what will be the most watched and largest attended inauguration in U.S. history. And extrapolating that question nationwide, is it difficult to imagine a different outcome to this election?

Make no mistake about Warren. He is a younger, up-tempo version of Jerry Falwell. Like most successful megachurch leaders, he’s a great salesman. But the kind of tolerance he understands is that you should tolerate him and his evangelical, fundamentalist followers, not vice versa. Nonbelievers have no place at his table.

And here’s how he described his opposition to California’s Proposition 8 in a recent interview on CNN:

RICK WARREN: “But the issue to me is, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.”

STEVEN WALDMAN: “Do you think, though, that they are equivalent to having gays getting married?”

RW: “Oh I do.…”

In a separate interview on NBC, he spelled out his attitude toward gays:

RW: “We all have biological predispositions….You say because I have natural impulses to the same sex, I shouldn’t have to reign them in. Well I disagree. I think that’s part of maturity, I think that’s part of delayed gratification, I think that’s part of character.”

So gays just need to grow up! That should straighten them out.

President-Elect Obama’s choice of Warren to give the invocation may be good—if transparent—politics, but is this really the best he could do if he wanted to reach out to conservatives? Was it necessary to set the table for the incoming administration with the new voice of religious intolerance?

Of all the churches and all the pastors in America, how did Rick Warren end up at the top of the list? In fact, why did the role have to be filled by a Christian at all, or even a believer?

Was it equally good politics—and nothing more than that—to gather gays and nonbelievers into the tent to win the election?

It is difficult to imagine that all of the people I worked with to canvass for the Obama-Biden ticket would have shown up if we’d known that the first voice we’d hear from in the new administration was Rick Warren’s. I’m not sure I would have been there.

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