President-elect Barack Obama erred in asking Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. A spokeswoman for Obama implied that the move was made for the sake of "inclusion." But what does it mean to include someone in one of the most symbolic events in recent memory who, with respect to gays and lesbians, acts contrary to the inclusive principles that supposedly got him invited in the first place? I can tell you: that the Obama team has crossed the fine line between being inclusive and relativistic.
This is somewhat ironic. During the now infamous morality forum during the campaign, Obama insisted that he believed in good and evil. C'mon Commander-in-Chief-to-be, where's that moral clarity now? Warren has called gays and lesbians horrible things. Let us be clear if the President-elect will not be: Warren is a bigot.
There is a time for shrewd co-opting of one's political opponents. I will even grant that there are significant areas where secular progressives and evangelicals (to whom the label progressive can sometimes also apply) could come to fruitful agreement. But the Innauguration is a time to elevate an example to the country and the world of what an Obama administration will stand for. Will relativism be one of them?
Many believed that "change we can believe in" would mean bringing people together in a level-headed movement that was pragmatic and at least somewhat progressive. When I marched for Obama in Boston's gay pride parade last summer, it was because I believed he would at least stand against people like Warren, not legitimate them by putting them at the inaugural podium.
I want to be reassured that this really is an act of shrewd politics. I want to know that the furor over this choice will win Obama political capital enough to accomplish some truly astounding things.
But I also believe that Obama has gone astray with this decision. Inclusion is the right way to go for this event. Selecting a man who in many ways represents its antithesis is not. By embracing Warren and elevating him like this Obama has compromised the purported purpose for the invitation, inclusion, and morphed it into something to the contrary: relativism.
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