Editorial: Pastor Rick Warren and President Elect Obama’s Inaugural Invocation

 

Deacon Keith Fournier

 
  12/19/2008
  WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - President Barack Obama has selected Rev. Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, to give the invocation at the Inauguration. The reaction to this choice filled every media source, both pro and con, on Thursday. It has been in the news cycle ever since. There is no question that Pastor Warren is a well known figure in the evangelical world. He is also well respected among Catholics, and even more so since his excellent handling of the Saddleback Civil Forum which hosted both major party candidates during the Primary Campaign for the U.S. Presidency.

I was impressed with the Pastors understanding of the social implications of our shared Christian faith during that forum. He is one of a growing number of evangelical Protestant leaders who are addressing the full spectrum of issues associated with an informed Christian worldview, including our commitment to respecting life from the womb to the tomb, protecting, supporting and promoting marriage and family, exhibiting a love of preference for the poor, promoting true and responsible freedom, being responsible stewards of our environment and practicing Peace in our relationships on the local, national and international level.

Pastor Rick Warren presided over the forum with excellence. His comfortable demeanor and charitable manner evoked candor from both candidates. He showed courage by directly asking the candidates the foundational question in any sincere analysis of inalienable human rights, when those rights attach to the human being. His efforts to provide a forum where we can learn to disagree “without demonizing the other” and to “restore civility” were a breath of fresh air. It is the Christian Church which has been at the forefront of so many of the great social crusades in our shared history, such as ending slavery and eradicating institutional racism. Today, the President elect was out defending his choice of Pastor Warren for the invocation. Three groups seemed most upset and angry.

The Homosexual Equivalency Movement

The President of the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, led the opposition from one front. He wrote to the President Elect on Wednesday, “Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered) Americans…[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination.”

The Human Rights Campaign is the leading advocate of what I call the “Homosexual Equivalency Movement” which insists that all Americans recognize a legal equivalency between true marriages and cohabitating practicing homosexuals. They use the Courts and the legislature to force this to happen. They want the Police Power of the State behind their social restructuring. Pastor Warren holds to the position which the Christian church has held for over two millennia that marriage is between a man and a woman, intended for life and open to the bearing and rearing of children. Support of any other definition in any Christian community or by individual Christians is a relatively modern aberration. Pastor Warren will not support efforts to change what is written in the Natural Law and confirmed by Revelation. He is in no way discriminating against those who profess to be homosexuals by taking that position. As a Catholic Christian I applaud his courage on this vital truth.

The Strident Secularists

Next among those decrying the selection of Pastor Warren are the strident secularists. These are people like Rev. Barry Lynn of “(Protestant) Americans United for the Separation of Church and State” who wrongly interpret the Establishment clause to preclude the right role of people of faith in the public square. Rather than following the founders that there should be no National Church but that religious people have a right to fully participate and even seek to inform the public conversation, they want to make religious people retreat behind their church walls. In an interview on Public radio following the Saddleback Forum, Rev. Lynn called Rev. Warren a member of the “Far Right”. He accused him of having only a “veneer” of concern for issues other than abortion. He consigned him to what Lynn considers the narrow “right wing” and he ridiculed him. He dismissed the commendable concerns for the poor demonstrated by Rev. Warren and his congregation and his teaching on other issues such as environmental stewardship as some kind of subterfuge on his part.

Pastor Warren got it exactly right when he began the Saddleback Forum with these words "We believe in the separation of church and state but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics." He went on throughout the night to underscore the fact that, in his words “faith is a worldview”. I might say it a bit differently, “faith informs a worldview”, but we arrive at the same place.

The Advocates of Abortion on Demand as a ‘Right’

Finally there are those who advocate the unchecked and unlimited “right” to take the lives of children in the first home of the whole human race for any reason and at any time. They do not recognize the true right, the right to life of every person at every age and every stage throughout the timeline of human life. They had thought that their day had finally come with this election. They have even sent in their agenda to the new administration including calling for the new President to sign the evil “Freedom of Choice Act” which would remove any restrictions on abortion, fund it with tax dollars and compel hospitals and health care providers to participate in the killing under penalty of sanction.

They do not like Pastor Rick Warren because he recognizes the Right to life as the foundational right, the one which must be given a primacy of place or else the entire infrastructure of human rights is threatened. They did not like his questions concerning this matter at the Saddleback Forum. They were surprised and profoundly upset that the President Elect has invited him to pray for his administration and for our nation. Again, as a Catholic Christian, I applaud his integrity and conviction.

Conclusion

Pastor Warren made the proper decision to accept the invitation as a leader of the Christian community in America. He should ask the Lord to guide our new President to the truth concerning the dignity of every human life and pray for God’s grace and protection on our Nation. I sincerely hope that he prays "from the heart” as he led that forum from “the heart”. Pastor, hold nothing back. We all know there is danger on the horizon if the President Elect succumbs to the kind of bullying asserted by groups such as the representatives of these interest groups.

The next four years will be a contest over what constitutes true human progress. We cannot be silent when some seek to argue that a return to barbaric practices such as the reaching into the birth canal or into the womb in order to kill our first neighbors is “progressive”. We cannot be silent when some undermine the first society of marriage and the family founded upon it and say that is “progressive”. Such an assault on the first government in the home never serves the common good. We cannot be silent when new censors try to prevent us from sharing the very ideas out of which the Western vision of the dignity of the human person and the nature of true and authentic freedom was birthed. Such a denial of free speech, because these new censors deem it to be "religious", is certainly not “progressive”.

We need to pray for Pastor Rick Warren. We need to pray for the President Elect. We need to pray for America.