Sure, Barack Obama's choice of Rick Warren for the inaugural prayer proves nothing more probably than that Obama is a consummate politician. Obama will do what he has to do to win over voters. And he's probably figured out that letting Warren pray at the inauguration is a safe gesture and a symbolic way to extend an olive branch to a block of voters he has yet to win over en masse.
And so Obama begins his presidency like presidents before him, placating religious conservatives, in this case the New Right. Leaving the rest of us to be content with symbols from the Old Left (no disrespect to Rev. Joe Lowry and Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin).
I know progressive Christians are supposed to be won over by the fact that Rick Warren is allegedly the face of a kinder, gentler generation of Evangelicals. But we're not. Warren is as against women's equality, against gay rights, anti-choice, and anti-stem cell research as the old Right he fancies himself to replace. He has admitted that the main difference between himself and old style religious conservative James Dobson is a matter of tone.
So, it's been decided. Rick Warren's smiling, right wing, socially conservative, anti-gay, anti-women's rights biblical preaching has been deemed to be not as divisive as the blistering prophetic denunciations of American imperalism by his former pastor Jeremiah Wright. Reaching out to Warren reaps more political capital for Obama than does reaching out to Wright. The pro-gay rights man whose fiery preaching nurtured Obama into becoming the community organizer he is at heart remains a pariah, banished from the inaugural platform and the American public. The man whose anti-gay message is overshadowed by the fact that he represents the face of millions of conservative voters gets to pray for the country.
So what? It's only a prayer. It's not like Warren's been invited to help set policy. Those who say this obviously know nothing about the importance of symbols, and even less about the power of prayer Cross-posted from Beliefnet's Progressive Revival blog