Invoke or provoke?
Yesterday, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Celebrations announced the program for the inauguration of Barack Obama, "based on requests from the President-elect and the Vice President-elect."
There will be musical performances by The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Aretha Franklin, and The United States Marine Band; poetry by Elizabeth Alexander, a Yale University professor; and an invocation by the Rev. Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church.
The decision to include Warren has drawn a lot of criticism from progressives, who argue that his views — on abortion, homosexuality, and gay marriage — make him unpalatable:
Ezra Klein says that "this might be a wise political calculation on Obama's part. But it is a cruel thing to ask of his coalition."
There's a time to pander to intolerance, and it is called the election. The election is over. January 20th is the inauguration. Pro-choice women and gays were a significant part of Obama's coalition, and they're being forced to accept that the candidate they worked for will use the election they won to elevate a powerful religious leader who works often and publicly against their interests. For them, the day will be darkened.
Andrew Sullivan, an openly-gay blogger and senior editor at The Atlantic, has been weighing in since the announcement was made. He doesn't sound as optimistic as he did during the campaign:
Warren is a man who believes my marriage removes his freedom of speech and cannot say that authorizing torture is a moral failing. Shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now. He won't be as bad as the Clintons (who, among leading Democrats, could?), but pandering to Christianists at his inauguration is a depressing omen.
There are a few people who think that the Warren pick was a wise one. Steven Waldman, the founder of Beliefnet, whom we'll hear from today, is one of them. He wrote a piece for The Huffington Post, in defense of Rick Warren. According to Waldman, "Obama was wise to ask [Warren] to deliver the invocation at the inauguration."
"Obama opted for spiritual bipartisanship," he writes. "The move helps to depoliticize prayer — which, of course, is very politically shrewd."
What do you think? What does this choice tell you about the next president's politics and priorities? Come Jan. 20, will you bow your head or shake your fist?