I have thoroughly mixed feelings about the President-elect’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the Inaugural Invocation.
On the one hand, I am completely sympathetic to the gay community’s dismay, especially after the Prop 8 setback in California. On the other hand, I think this is a good time to bring the large Evangelical mainstream in Obama’s direction … and including Rick might help do that. I think this is an important time for violating old categories and creating new coalitions, which also makes Rick a good choice.
So – I’m unequivocally ambivalent about Rick as a choice. (I posted additional thoughts on the kerfuffle over at Progressive Revival.)
When it comes to who my choice would have been, that’s a bit clearer for me. I would have chosen someone unknown to the media in order to draw attention to the thousands of humble, good-hearted women and men who are serving quietly for the common good, with no public fanfare.
With all the attention being paid to Wall Street, there’s surprisingly little being said about the poor, here and abroad, even though they’re the ones whose ranks will swell and who will suffer most in the global economic downturn. So I might choose someone working among the poorest of the poor in our cities (like the good folks at CCDA … http://www.urbanministry.org/ccda, or Simple Way or Camden House in Philly/Camden, or Latino Pastoral Action Center in the Bronx).
Or I might choose someone working among our Native American communities – another group that is sadly ignored again and again — someone like Richard Twiss or Randy Woodley (Restoring Eden … http://www.restoringeden.org/, or like the good people of A Rocha.
Or, in light of the ugly anti-Muslim sentiment that still festers in so many quarters of our country, I might have chosen someone from a Muslim heritage who is involved in grass-roots interfaith work, like my friend Eboo Patel.
But even if I tried to subvert the politicization of prayer by choosing a quiet, humble, unfamous servant of God and neighbor, I’m pretty sure that reporters would track down whoever was chosen, and I can guess what their first question would be: what’s your position on abortion and gay marriage? And soon there would be a kerfuffle similar to the one going on about Rick.
When election day comes, I hope that we’ll pay a little less attention to the political assets and liabilities of the one praying … and a little more attention to the compassion and love of the one being prayed to.