I greatly respect both Barack Obama's genuine desire to ensure that Americans of every stripe have a voice in our new government and his political savvy in reaching out to his ideological adversaries. But none of that makes me feel any better about the fact that Pastor Rick Warren -- he of those silly Purpose Driven Life books and the Saddleback Mega-Church in Southern California -- has been picked to deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration.
That Warren's hyper-conservative beliefs stand in such stark social and cultural contrast to Obama's own worldview would be reason enough to question the choice. It's easy to understand why some Obama supporters -- particularly gay voters, who see Warren and his flock as having been instrumental in the passing of California's Prop 8 -- feel like it's a very personal betrayal.
My discomfort, though, has less to do with any one issue than it does with the idea of the highest office in the free world once again cozying up to the lowest common denominator among America's faithful -- validating that group's absurd, irrational and often aggressively divisive belief system. While having someone like Rick Warren -- the Oprah of pop-Christianity -- up there next to our new president on inauguration day does send a clear message that all views will be given consideration from this point forward, it may also send a signal to those who happen to hold the one view that's been allowed to dominate the discourse for the past eight years that they'll continue to be deferred to.
It's not so much that Pastor Rick is getting an audience with the new president of the United States -- it's that he'll be seated at his right hand on day one.
This could very well be part of a smart strategy, showing even those who stood against Obama during the campaign that, as president, he wants to take immediate steps toward healing the nation -- or it could just be that since Obama and Warren are reportedly friends, the choice makes a certain amount of sense. Regardless though, and as much as I trust Barack Obama's judgment, it ties my stomach in knots to watch another political administration treating the Rick Warrens of the world as if they're anything more than simply the CEOs of Jesus Inc. -- carnival barking purveyors of "Evangelitainment," with ostentatious, monolithic temples and excellent PR firms.
Warren's undeniably overpowering presence on inauguration day makes it seems as if God -- specifically the Pentecostal, Southern Baptist version of God -- will continue to be granted ascendancy within our government.
And after what this country has endured the past eight years -- the heinous sins committed by those who claim to be acting on God's behalf and who seek the unconditional allegiance of those who worship him -- this should be the last thing any clear-thinking, rational American wants to see.