Roland S. Martin
You must be a bad man to have the political left and the political right mad at you at the same time.
That's where Pastor Rick Warren finds himself today as gays and lesbians come out in full force today after President-elect Barack Obama chose him to give the invocation at his January 20th inauguration. He also chose civil rights stalwart, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, to give the benediction.
What has gays and lesbians angry is that Warren is a staunch believer that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. An ardent opponent of homosexuality, he is also a strong pro-lifer. But that is secondary to the anger regarding his views of homosexuality, and that has led to a plethora of gay and lesbian leaders decrying his selection as a slap in the face, or as Huffington Post political editor Hilary Rosen to say on CNN's AC360 last night, a "kick in the stomach."
Feelings in the gay and lesbian community are still raw over the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which banned gay marriage after it was deemed legal by the California Supreme Court.
But what's ironic about all of this is that Obama has been on record as stating that he believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and cited his religious beliefs as the rationale. Yes, he believes in civil unions and gay adoption, but he is on the same page as Rick Warren on this one.
Yet that is irrelevant to gays and lesbians. They want Warren removed from the podium come hell or high water.
And then there is the political right. They are still seething that in the fall of 2006, Warren invited Obama to his church in California participate in a discussion on the global fight against HIV/AIDS. The social conservatives felt Warren was wrong to open his pulpit to someone who is pro-choice on abortion, but the pastor told them that he and Obama disagree on that issue, but agree on many others.
Obama has used the same rationale to explain his relationship with Warren. They agree on some issues, but not all. Yet Obama wants other Americans to reach across the aisle, whether political or otherwise, and find common ground with those who we might oppose on some topics.
Now social conservatives are angry that Warren would give a prayer for a president who doesn't side with them on the abortion issue. Again, this is where Warren says the issue of the presidency is bigger than anyone issue where they stand.
I certainly concur with that opinion, and believe that Warren has the right to his opinions. He is a religious leader, a moral leader, who has a steadfast faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he is obliged to that. And I will defend the right of a pastor to be able to exercise his faith, even where we disagree.
I have made the point that it would be just as wrong for those who are against gay marriage to demand that Rev. Lowery not give the benediction because he supports gay marriage. He offers his own theological reasons for such, just as Warren has his theological reasons for opposing gay marriage. So to gays and lesbians: is Lowery perfectly fine because he agree with you, and Warren wrong?
The real battle lines here simply come down to that of religion. And there are individuals in this world who have the view that religion is a part of who they are while others say it is the essence of who they are. I argued in an essay published in my book, Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith, that this will be the pivotal battleground between faith believers and gays and lesbians. It comes down to whether or not one side believes that homosexuality is sinful, and that anything other than man and woman uniting in matrimony is flatout wrong, and those who contend that two loving beings, whether they are of the same sex, should be able to do as they wish without any restraints.
Gays and lesbians have defined this as a civil rights struggle and will cast anyone opposing their view as being bigoted and discriminatory. People of faith say they are simply upholding the principles of their faith and are going to be held accountable to God one day for upholding the word of God. This is where the two sides are constantly at odds, and will forever be at odds.
There is no middle ground other than to say that you have your view and the other side has their view. And I just don't see either side giving an inch.
As for Warren and Lowery, both will be on stage and both will pray. Some will agree with all one says, some will agree all the other says, and in the end, that's just the way it will be.
Editor’s Note: You can read this and more from Roland Martin on Essence.com.
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