Barack Obama has selected televangelist Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and an outspoken opponent of abortion rights and same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration Jan. 20. Why? What was he thinking when he picked this particular religious spokesman—a publicity hound who fights against causes of great moral importance to many of Obama’s supporters—for such a prominent role in the inauguration?
I consider this Obama’s first big misstep, and not only because of Warren’s stance on abortion and gay rights. He represents a combination of evangelicalism and boosterism , in the tradition of Norman Vincent Peale and Billy Graham, that is a particularly repugnant part of American religious tradition. Many have suggested that the choice of Warren puts him in a position to succeed Graham as the nation’s best-known pastor. No religious leader should occupy the role that Graham played in successive administrations—as an unofficial counselor to presidents, a predictable functionary on all ceremonial occasions, and a spokesman for one brand of religion. It is a brand of religion that has always been allied with American anti-intellectualism, and that is yet another reason why Obama’s choice is so puzzling and disturbing.
Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren participates in a panel discussion during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York in this September 26, 2008 file photo. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Warren, who opposes gay marriage, as a speaker at his inauguration, creating a commotion over what inclusiveness will mean for his administration.REUTERS/Chip East/Files
How wonderful it would have been if a humanist had been included in the inaugural ceremony for the first time. Secularists, unlike evangelicals, voted overwhelmingly for Obama. It is truly disappointing to me to see Obama catering those who make up a significant share his enemies and disregarding the views of his friends….
By Susan Jacoby