Rick Warren has gotten more than his share of attention over the last week since Barack Obama announced that he would give the invocation at the inauguration. Not surprisingly, this has spurred a lot of conversation about whether Obama is just trying to be inclusive of those who opposed him in the election or whether the president-elect is pandering to those whose votes he'll want in 2012.
It's hard for me to find room in my heart or my brain for the inclusiveness argument. People don't like to use the word, but "bigot" seems to fit the way Warren operates. When it comes to religion, it's his way or the highway; his version of intolerance declares that some of my family members are going to hell. And Warren isn't exactly embracing the gay community. Does Barack Obama really want this guy standing up there representing him on the first day of Camelot II?
Aside from the members of my family that Rick Warren thinks aren't worth "saving," I also have family who are more like Warren than I care to think about. I've had to look that face of intolerance in the eye and have been told that I'll be prayed for because my family is different from the one version of family many evangelicals believe in. I don't need that kind of prayer and I don't want to see that faux tolerance staring back at me on the morning of January 20, 2009.
Reaching out to others is admirable and I get what Obama is trying to do. But extending a hand to those who pretend to be your friends and who will pull the carpet out from under you if it's to their benefit is risky and naive. When we're young and innocent, it's hard to tell one type of "friend" from another. We've all been there and have regretted putting our faith in someone we thought was a friend, only to learn their true opportunistic character. I expect my president, at the age of 47, to be able to tell the difference.
Of course, while we're all focusing on the Warren Trojan Horse, the Bush administration is doing it's stealth thing by taking away rights women have for health care providers to do their jobs without inserting religion into the mix. You're not hearing a lot about that on the news, and I suspect the Sunday shows will continue to be filled with more debate about The Purpose Driven pastor than the efforts of Bush to toss women back into the dark ages of reproductive care with a little something called the Medical Conscience Rule, which would allow doctors and nurses and other health care providers to refuse to provide full reproductive medical care or information if it conflicts with the provider's religious beliefs.
The funny thing is this -- Warren and his millions of followers are on board with this change, as well. So can we really expect that President Obama will do his utmost to reverse these last-minute changes when they're supported by the ones he's giving high profile props to on Inauguration Day?
We all know the worn out phrase "the more things change the more they stay the same." If Obama's current version of change looks like Rick Warren, I don't want it if it means that those of us who want a tolerant society that respects all people must wait while our new president reaches out to those who laugh at such an idea.
Joanne Bamberger is a writer and political commentator in Washington, D.C. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of the political blog, PunditMom, and is also a Contributing Editor for Politics & News at BlogHer. Her commentary has also appeared on CNN, Fox News, BBC Radio & XM Radio POTUS '08, among others.