December 18th, 2008
02:30 PM ET

Obama's choice angers gays and lesbians...and social conservatives

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Roland S. Martin
AC360° Contributor

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.

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Clyde

    Rush Limbaugh, Anita Bryant, Warren Jeffs, Jerry Falwell, etc., etc., etc. All hate mongers and fear promoters. Is this the best we have to show to the world? I don't care how anybody feels about this guy, Warren. This decision shows blatantly poor judgement and it's just plain embarassing. I expect much better than this from our president elect and his "team."

    December 18, 2008 at 7:00 pm |
  2. CaseyJ - Palm Springs

    Read the Constitution Roland. Having religion play any role in any part of our political landscape is highly questionable, at best, let alone an inauguration.

    This has nothing to do with whether gays agree with anyone's views or not. It's about respecting our CONSTITUTION and equal rights, or have you forgotten that in your cushy job, Roland? Maybe you're rubber is too far removed from the road at this point in your life.

    Our country hasn't existed 200 years on principles of faith and religion. If it had, we and the entire world would have been destroyed by now.

    December 18, 2008 at 6:50 pm |
  3. Newell Knox

    Gays are human. This is a human rights issue. Bush was never my president. Obama will never be my president. He is my bitter enemy. From this point on, anything thing I can do legally to stop him, I will. He is evil.

    December 18, 2008 at 6:32 pm |
  4. Eric in Metro Houston

    I think Obama really messed up by not asking the POPE to do this instead of Warren. If he had chosen a pastor from a traditional black church, that would have caused a rift for being non-inclusive. Somebody like a Dr. James Dobson would have REALLY caused a problem with both the left and the right. Besides how many people are really going to remember what Rev. Warren says at this event...the focus is not on him anyway.

    December 18, 2008 at 6:28 pm |
  5. EJ (USA)

    Pastor Warren’s comments on gays do violence, and in such, promote violence in our world against gays and lesbians

    What does that mean – that his comments "do violence?" And which comments?

    December 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm |
  6. LJRoy

    Even though this preacher is evangelist and not Catholic, I agree with him as I am also anti-abortion. I am against same sex "marriage" for religious reasons. Jerry Falwell must be spinning in his grave.

    I can't stand Obama because of his political views.

    Personally, I wouldn't go to the inauguration if it was being held in my backyard!!!

    December 18, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  7. Arachnae

    Why is there even a religious component to this secular event?

    December 18, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  8. Thomas

    Pastor Warren's comments on gays do violence, and in such, promote violence in our world against gays and lesbians. There are physical attacks and killings daily against gays. Don't people get that gays and lesbians do not receive equal protection under our laws? Debating whether gays deserve the right to exist is outrageous, and yet that is what religious conservatives and many others do all the time. Homosexuality is within the range of normal sexuality. Period. Wake up, people, and look at your prejudices and discomforts. Quit telling gays to get over being kicked (and killed) over and over. Wasn't this country founded on liberty and justice for all?

    December 18, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  9. Melissa, Los Angeles

    I agree with Fay and I am an atheist.

    December 18, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  10. Laura Conti

    Anyone who objects to Rich Warren as Obama's choice is still stuck in the old thinking. Obama's message is UNITY and that means everyone.

    December 18, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  11. Carol

    I don't buy the "inclusionary" argument regarding Pastor Warren.

    I am straight and find the man's positions, cloaked under the guise of religion, to be divisive and bigoted. President-elect Obama obviously does not realize how offensive this man is to many people. Would he invite the Grand Dragon of the KKK to speak? Heck no – he'd find that morally offensive. Well, that's how a lot of us feel about Pastor Warren.

    December 18, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  12. Rich B - Knoxville

    Well, golly-gee, after listening to all the miniscule "I'm gonna just stomp my feet and hold my breath til you give in" fru-fraw blown way out of proportion by our "We-gotta-make-some-copy-somehow" mindset media, you'd think that millions and millions of people are ready to throw Obama out of office before he even gets in - In reality it is what - 1,000,000 people, or maybe 100,000, or 1,000, or maybe it is just a half a dozen (on both sides) very vocal individuals who have an inside track and penchenent for getting their names "out-there" with the media ???

    Gee whillikers folks, what'd think it would be like if Obama had tried to apease the who-evers by finding and selecting a openly gay cross-dressing orthodox rabbi training to become a muslum southern baptist minister (or catholic priest) and who is half way through their sex change operation - Man-Oh-Man - just think of the milage the media could have gotten out of that one !!! - Maybe a FOX News "reporter" will claim they have proof the Mr. Waren is just such a person - Except they'd never try to make something up – Now would they?? - You Betcha

    December 18, 2008 at 4:26 pm |
  13. EJ (USA)

    And don't all of you work and/or go to school with "anti-gay" (or anti-gay rights) people every day? You can't just avoid them – just like you cannot avoid racist people. If you really believe in the gay rights movement, you have to be willing to talk to everyone (or at least those who can stay civil and moderately lucid). You cannot try to silence the opposition – as then you would be resorting to much of the same tactics that they have used over the years.

    December 18, 2008 at 4:08 pm |
  14. Mike, Syracuse NY

    I've marked today on my calendar as the first time I've EVER agreed with Roland Martin. I'm sick to death of liberals claiming they support diversity and inclusion and at the same time condemning in the strongest terms anyone who is not pro abortion, pro gay rights, etc. Just like freedom of speech demands that you allow everyone that freedom (including Nazi's, the KKK etc.) ; inclusion and diversity means that all opinions are represented, not just those you agree with.

    December 18, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  15. EJ (USA)

    I was 14 when the evangelicals around me began to suspect I was gay. What happened to me *WAS* violence whether you choose to call it so or not.

    I am in no way trying to downplay your experiences. If you say that what happened to you was violent, then I'll take you at your word.

    Has Rick Warren advocated any type of violence against you or anyone else? Why is it so wrong to have Rick Warren give a prayer at the Inauguration? Why should Obama have to surround himself with only people who agree with him on gay rights or any other issue?

    If Obama wanted to appoint Rick Warren to Secretrary of Health & Human Services – then I would strongly object, but he is not doing this.

    December 18, 2008 at 4:03 pm |
  16. Michelle

    Did not Jesus have conversations with those which who he
    disagreed? Christians vary on the issues just like everyone
    else. What's the fuss all about.PE Obama's polices is what
    will effect the lives of Americans. Come on people.

    December 18, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  17. Fred - Santa Fe, NM

    There is no way to keep everyone happy. No matter who is picked, someone will be offended so let him pick the people he wants.

    December 18, 2008 at 3:45 pm |
  18. tina

    Come on people! Do you REALLY believe that one person has the ability to please all of the people all of the time? Get serious! PE Obama NEVER said that he could. However he did promise change which includes diversity, equality, etc. This includes diversity from the "far left," and equality with those on the "right." I remember it well, do you?

    This is not a black America or a white America...its the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

    This is not a liberal America or a conservative America...its the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.


    December 18, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  19. adamblast

    I was 14 when the evangelicals around me began to suspect I was gay. What happened to me *WAS* violence whether you choose to call it so or not.

    December 18, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  20. EJ (USA)

    Who would you rather Obama have picked?

    It's not possible for Obama to exclude the evangelical 'crowd' of this country. Nor should he.

    I do not agree with Warren's views on gays (and neither does Obama) but you can't only include those who agree with everything you believe. It is not possible, It is not practical, and It is not even Christian.

    It would be one thing if Warren had condoned some sort of violence against gays or any other group but from what I have seen and heard, he has not done this.

    December 18, 2008 at 3:23 pm |
  21. Stacy

    Yes, he believes in civil unions and gay adoption, but he is on the same page as Rick Warren on this one.

    Is Obama on record as comparing homosexuality to incest and pedophilia?

    This is where the two sides are constantly at odds, and will forever be at odds.

    I disagree. This conflict will be resolved with the passage of time and supporters of gay rights will win. People used to point to the bible to argue their opposition of interracial marriage. Now it seems absurd that there was ever a ban in the first place. In the future, Rick Warren will look back and realize he was on the wrong side of history.

    December 18, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  22. Fay, CA

    While I don't consider myself to be an atheist, I would prefer that religion played no role whatsoever in the inauguration and wish that politicians such as Obama wouldn't feel so obligated to cater to divisive religious figures such as Warren, even though they may have similar views. Rick Warren has made alarming and frankly despicable remarks about gays–and for that alone Obama's decision to allow him to give the invocation was a really bad call.

    December 18, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  23. adamblast

    Roland is dead wrong, as are many of you. Warren preaches shame, stigma and inequality. It's only remotely tolerable to some because it's against gays. He's no better than another Jerry Falwell, and Obama has courted those who would keep us out of his supposed "big tent" far too often. People like Warren will never believe that gay love is real love, or that gay families are real families, If your family was still hounded or denied legal rights due to religious oppression maybe you'd give a damn too.,

    December 18, 2008 at 3:08 pm |
  24. Gina - Missouri

    I think that there is more to Rick Warren than support of Prop 8; what about his work on poverty and AIDS? I agree with you Roland, there is a pastor of the opposite view giving the benediction so what is all of the fuss about Pastor Warren being there?

    December 18, 2008 at 3:06 pm |
  25. Mimi in St. Pete

    Since when does everyone have to agree 100 percent with you? And by you, I mean each and every one of us.

    December 18, 2008 at 3:04 pm |
  26. M

    Focus, people. We are in a deep recession and a nation at war, both literally and figuratively. If this is who Obama wants to talk on his big day, good for him. We need to worry about what Obama does AFTER he takes office, not who he invites to his coming out party.

    December 18, 2008 at 2:54 pm |
  27. Teresa

    No offense, but sometimes, I think gays and lesbians take every thing too D*** personal.

    Everyone knew when they voted for Obama how he felt about civil unions and gay marraige. I know I knew and I didn't vote him.

    Rick Warren is just the flavor of the day, probably checked out good on a background check, and is a recognizable face to many many people.
    Get over it already.

    December 18, 2008 at 2:45 pm |
  28. Joanne, Solvay, NY

    Not to minimize the struggle of the gay and lesbian communities across this nation, but we do have more important issues to enrage us, I.E. the economy and, CEO crooks, stock brokerage firms, and lending institutionfraud.... and the perpetrators are not in jail, in fact, they may receive a monetary Christmas bonus!

    December 18, 2008 at 2:35 pm |