Last week when we first noted that Rick Warren had been tapped to deliver the Invocation at Barack Obama’s Inauguration, we complained that, despite the fact that we and others continually point out that “Rick Warren is really just a friendlier version of James Dobson, his media-driven reputation as some sort of ‘moderate’ evangelical preacher continues to win out.”
Case in point: this new article by the AP’s Rachel Zoll. In it, she explains that Warren really is different from the traditional Religious Right leaders because his “biggest critics [are] other evangelicals” … and then proceeds to fail to name even one of those supposed critics while suggesting that the mere existence of this unspecified criticism proves Warren’s centrism and moderation:
Rick Warren is in a place he never expected to be: at the center of a culture war.
The pastor chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to give the inaugural invocation backed Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in his home state of California. But he did so belatedly, with none of the enthusiasm he brings to fighting AIDS and illiteracy.
When other conservative Christians held stadium rallies and raised tens of millions of dollars for the ballot effort, there was no sign of Warren. Neither he nor his wife, Kay, donated any of their considerable fortune to the campaign, according to public records and the Warrens’ spokesman.
In fact, his endorsement seemed calculated for minimal impact. It was announced late on a Friday, just 10 days before Election Day, on a Web site geared for members of his Saddleback Community Church, not the general public.
For gay rights advocates, that strategy was nothing more than an attempt to mask Warren’s prejudice. They were outraged that Obama decided last week to give a place of honor to a pastor they consider a general for the Christian right.
Lost in the uproar was the irony of Warren’s plight. Ever since he began his climb to prominence in the 1980s, he has battled complaints from fellow evangelicals that he isn’t nearly conservative enough.
It is no surprise that he and Obama have become friendly. Each tries to operate outside a strict liberal-conservative divide, and has risked angering his supporters to do so.
“You can’t have a reformation without somebody opposing it,” Warren says. “If I wasn’t making a difference, nobody would be paying attention.”
Of course, as we pointed out last week, both the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family were thrilled with the announcement that Warren was to be part of the Inauguration … that that list we can also add Richard Land:
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded Obama for choosing Warren.
“I’m encouraged that President-elect Obama would select Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration,” Land told Baptist Press. “First, it is a signal that President-elect Obama is going to employ a big-tent philosophy in his administration’s approach to people who may disagree with them on some issues, but not others. His selection of Rick Warren indicates that people who disagree with the president-elect on sanctity of life issues are not automatically persona non grata at the White House in an Obama administration. It also indicates that the president-elect is not buying the radical homosexual activists’ argument that anyone who opposes them on the gay marriage issue should be ostracized as a bigot.”
If Zoll is going to write an article claiming that Warren is moderate because he has received criticism for not being conservative enough, the least she can do is actually include some examples of people leveling that criticism … maybe from someone like fringe crackpot Joseph Farah:
I’m writing to share my profound and abject revulsion at your agreement to offer the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as president Jan. 20.
I understand you want this to be a time of “healing” for our nation. I understand you consider Obama to be your “friend.” I understand your desire to bring “civility” to our society.
However, when we read the Bible, we see there are times for men of God to stand up to leaders, like Nathan did to King David, and confront them with the absolute truth of God’s word and His laws. That’s what all Christians should do when confronted with leaders embracing evil.
I’m sure you would not want to invoke God’s blessing on the inauguration of a figure like Adolf Hitler, whose rise to power brought the destruction of millions of lives.
So, in principle, you agree there is a time for believers to stand up to elected leaders and rebuke them – even publicly. Apparently, you don’t believe that time is now – that the deaths of untold numbers of born and unborn babies is not justification enough for such a stance.
Obviously, Farah and his ilk who have criticized Warren in the past hail from the far-right fringes of the Religious Right movement, but apparently that is enough for Zoll to declare that it proves Warren’s moderation – so much so that she can completely ignore the fact that current Religious Right leaders like FRC, FOF, and Land see Obama’s decision to include Warren as a welcome sign for their own political agenda.
If Warren really did represent some sort of new, more moderate evangelical movement, presumably the current Religious Right powerbrokers would be throwing a fit over Warren’s role in the Inauguration, rather than welcoming it as an encouraging sign.