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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thoughts about Rick Warren

Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration has sparked a lot of controversy, and rightly so. Warren comes from a religious tradition and culture that has some pretty bizarre views about the right to life and gay rights. In fact, he's remarkably off-base about those things. There are, though, ways in which he has broken with right-wing orthodoxy and promoted a more complex relationship with politics than "the left is always wrong." That's important. He's a doorway into a less divided America, and I think Obama knows that.

I think that the Times They Are A-Changin' when it comes to the voice of gay activism in this country. After Proposition-8, I think the world woke up to the last great civil rights battle in America... the battle for same-sex couples to not only have the same rights as others, but to be protected from hate.

Growing up Episcopalian, and working every day in the Episcopal Church (I work in an office that serves the Episcopal Church's finances, etc), I've seen just how terrifying that "out" gay people are to certain sectors of the population. But I've also seen just how fruitless their efforts really are. A handful of Episcopal Dioceses have broken from the great American Episcopal Church, primarily because of Gene Robinson. But the number of true believers in this cause is far smaller than the news coverage would show: compared to the number of self-identified Episcopalians, the number of now "Anglicans" is tiny. In fact, aging is a far greater threat to the Episcopal Church's future existence than is bigotry.

I see a similar problem of perspective here. Warren is a popular and populist priest, but he's there to support Obama. And Obama has publically stated his support for gay rights. Isn't it a larger concession of Warren's to attend, than it is for Obama to invite him? Could it not be considered a coup for gay activists that Warren is publically supporting a candidate that publically supports them?

What this is about, in the short term, is fear. We're afraid that this shows that Obama isn't as committed to the rights of same sex couples as he's said in the past. I don't think that's the case. I think he is, by publically stating his own support for same-sex couples, and then bringing Rick Warren to the table, winning the argument. If anything, Warren is conceding to Obama here, not the other way around.

Obama's message seems to be "Stop fighting the culture war and start having a cultural conversation." If we do this, in the long term, we may see the change we want. If we don't, we'll wind up propping up the dying far-right, just because we want someone to fight.


Joshua James said...

Again ... I don't think Warren is there, necessarily, to support Obama ... he's there to represent his POV, which is decidedly different ... and he's there to add to his political power, which is already considerable.

Nor has Warren demonstrated (from what I've read thus far) an interest in a conversation ... his interest is in, primarily, realizing his goals, not making concessions ... he's not there for anything other than his own interests, that I can tell ... Obama's job is to mediate the cultural conversation in America, I get that ... but as I pointed out on Issac's blog ... he's not inviting everyone who disagrees with him.

I do think this Prop 8 thing has woke up a sleeping giant, and it's gonna be a huge issue from here on out ... while I appreciate what Obama has said on the subject, I again think this is the wrong move ... he could have just as easily let a gay pastor give the invocation or anyone ... he disagrees with Rev Wright, why not let him do it (imagine the howling if Wright were there) ... I think Warren is the wrong choice, myself.

I don't think it's a slap in the face, just a wrong choice.

Personally, I wish there were no invocation, I think it's wrong (the whole separation of church and state thingie) but one thing at a time.

Freeman said...

I think you make a good point Josh. I don't think Warren views it the way I just described: I'm sure he sees this as an confirmation of his own influence.

But, instead of thinking about Warren's own goals, what are Obama's? What are ours?

Warren, who wrote Purpose Driven Life, also spoke at the TED conference. I don't know if that means the TED conference has come out against Prop-8.

Joshua James said...

Ted is representative of something far different than the next President and his administration, Matt ... TED is about ideas and actions, and it's up to the audience to make up their own minds ... I'm sure there's many people there who we may disagree with there ...

The inaugaration is something a wee bit different, so it's kinda an apples and oranges thing ...

I agree that comparing Warren to the KKK was probably too far out ... like many, he believes in his own will and goodness ... and certainly there are WORSE choices that Obama could have made.

But allowing Warren to do this is a political choice, too ... Obama's sending a message to evangelicals, I get that.

I simply think, and this is just my opinion, that evangelicals aren't necessarily the kind of group we should allow our government to cozy up to, and I think overall it's the wrong political message. That's just me, though.

Scott Walters said...

Hear hear, Matt. I agree 100% with your post.

Dan Freeman said...

Bring me the head of Anita Bryant!!!