Wow, the media has really enjoyed this particular debacle. The gay rights movement is up in arms over Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to pray the invocation at his inauguration in January. This results primarily from Rick’s endorsement of Proposition 8, which is essentially a protection of the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman for the state of California.
I don’t envy Rick for being thrown into such a firestorm. He’s been been accused of spreading hate and of being a homophobe. I see it as kind of a defining moment in American culture over the issues of homosexuality and tolerance. If any American Pastor has made an attempt to nurture fair and balanced discussion on social and political issues, it’s Rick Warren. Call him what you will, he desires to dialog with people on both sides of the aisle. He released this statement regarding the whole affair:
“I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony.
Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.
The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God’s blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America’s leaders during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
Many evangelical leaders have debated the question of whether or not a Pastor who embraces the inerrancy of Scripture and its views on homosexuality and abortion should be willing to accept such an invitation. Al Mohler, for instance, has said he would not accept the invitation on the grounds of President-elect Obama’s stance on abortion.
It’s caused me to ask, what would I do? But before answering, I have to imagine that on Barack Obama’s list of potential prayer warriors for the event, I’m probably ranking at about 681,000 (a few more churches than exist in this nation). Nonetheless, in a fantasy world, what would I do? I’d have to agree with Rick on this one. We’re commanded to pray for our leaders, plain and simple.
Back to the primary issue – where is our culture headed at the moment? Further division. I don’t believe true unity and peace is really possible on earth without God’s intervention, primarily because of the perpetual self-interest of sinful human beings. Nonetheless, to be commended are those who strive for this goal. Possible or not, it’s always commendable when someone wants greater harmony for humanity at large.
Rick Warren and much of modern evangelicalism has the goal of continuing dialogue with people on opposite sides of various issues, the hottest of which are abortion and homosexual rights. The modern missional emphasis in evangelicalism promotes the engagement of culture rather than the abandonment and simple condemnation of it. This thought appeals to me. What bothers me, however, is that when Christians determine to engage in the dialogue, to have a compassionate awareness of differences, it’s never enough.
Rick Warren is one of the most loving and compassionate Christian leaders that America has ever seen. He’s sensible as well as sensitive. He hopes for life change in people who are lost and ruined. He has worked tirelessly to minister to people suffering with AIDS in various parts of the world. He’s been a friend to politicians on both sides of the ailse without ever cruelly ridiculing those who oppose his own conservative views. Yet, it isn’t enough.
I’m committed to examining my heart at all times to remain non-judgmental toward people with views or lifestyles with which I have a moral objection. I make every attempt not to assess the heart of any person. What’s so bothersome, however, is that we’ve reached a day in America when to believe that homosexuality is a sin, or that abortion shouldn’t be a choice, is unacceptable to many. What is often misunderstood is that these beliefs result not from personal feelings of prejudice or hate, but rather an embrace of Scripture as the inerrant, infallible Word of God.
A few decades ago, evangelicalism fought a vital battle over the issue of the inerrance of the Bible. Is it God’s perfect Word or not? I’m passionate about the fact that the Bible is a perfect representation of God’s thoughts on every issue it addresses. It’s often misunderstood and misinterpreted, but my own moral convictions are formed from its pages. If you disagree, I still love you and we can still have coffee at Starbuck’s together to discuss the issue, but that’s where I stand.
American culture will continue to ostracize such leaders as Rick Warren, who simply stand for a belief in the validity of the Bible. I do think Barack Obama is working for greater unity and discussion. I think Rick Warren hopes for the same. I would simply urge the majority of Americans to listen to the dialogue, allow for differences to be expressed in the marketplace of ideas, and be willing to grant that many Christians can love homosexuals while embracing the Bible as an inerrant source of information about moral issues.
I don’t have all the answers. I simply wanted to commend Barack Obama for inviting Rick Warren, and to commend Rick for accepting the invitation. I too will be praying for this president daily – that’s my commitment.