Obama’s Choice of Pastor Creates Furor
Posted on December 21, 2008
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With his choice of the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama has found himself enmeshed in a new controversy involving a pastor, facing criticism this time from liberal and gay rights groups outraged at the idea of including the evangelical pastor at a Democratic celebration.
Mr. Obama’s forceful defense of Mr. Warren, the author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” has signaled an intent to continue his campaign’s effort to woo even theologically conservative Christians. As his advisers field scores of calls from Democrats angry because Mr. Warren is an outspoken opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, Mr. Obama has insisted that a range of viewpoints be expressed at the inauguration festivities next month in Washington.
“That’s part of the magic of this country, is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated,” Mr. Obama said, speaking to reporters here this week. He added, “That’s hopefully going to be a spirit that carries over into my administration.”
The growing alliance of Mr. Obama and Mr. Warren — each of the two publicly refers to the other as “friend” — suggests that Mr. Obama hopes to capitalize on the signs of potential generational and political divisions within the evangelical Christian flock. For his part, Mr. Warren is increasingly being spoken of as a kind of minister to the nation, a status previously occupied by the Rev. Billy Graham.
V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, whose consecration caused a painful divide in his church because he is openly gay, said that when he heard about the selection of Mr. Warren, “it was like a slap in the face.”
Bishop Robinson had been an early public endorser of Mr. Obama’s candidacy, and said he had helped serve as a liaison between the campaign and the gay community. He said he had called officials who work for Mr. Obama to share his dismay, and been told that Mr. Obama was trying to reach out to conservatives and give everybody a seat at the table.
“I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” Bishop Robinson said, “but we’re not talking about a discussion, we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.”
It is not Mr. Obama’s first brush with trouble at the intersection of religion and politics. In his presidential campaign, he struggled with how to handle his longtime Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose sermons on race and patriotism stirred outrage. After initially defending him, Mr. Obama ultimately broke ties with Mr. Wright and the church.
See Obama’s Choice of Pastor Creates Furor
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