19 December, 2008

Not a Good Start on That 'Change'

The talking heads seem to only reference "anger in the gay community" in regards to the invitation from P.E. Obama to Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration and yes, there is plenty. However, I am not gay and I am plenty angry and very disappointed. I agree with Pastor Warren that it is commendable for Obama to invite someone who doesn't share his views to take part. However, it's this guy and these views that gall. Gays may not be members of Saddleback Church, Warren's massive congregation. His church runs a group that tries to "cure" gays. He has compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia. He said on NBC just today that while he is naturally inclined to sleep with every beautiful woman he sees, he is able to control himself and went on to insinuate that gays should just exercise that same sort of control and maturity, the extrapolation being that they would eventually be able to overcome their homosexuality.

I am reminded of my mother telling me why she began turning away from her Southern Baptist upbringing as a child. On one hand, she was being taught in Sunday school that Jesus loved all the little children. On the other, she was growing up in the segregated south and remembers being scolded for playing with the children of the one Jewish family in town. Children can smell a hypocrite at a thousand paces; it's one of the things I love about them. My mother was no different.

I know there are many people who do not understand, accept or condone homosexuality; many who do not see homosexuals as human. Having gay friends and loved ones, it's a tough one to try to understand. And the Warren invitation is tough for those of us so energized by Obama's election and the end of the Bush administration. One the one hand, many of us worked and voted for an attempt at unity, an effort to overcome our differences and work together. On the other, we were promised change and this doesn't feel like the right kind.

I've had plenty of experience with judgemental people. My own grandmother insinuated that I was bound for hell for not sharing her beliefs when I was 17 and I have heard plenty of preaching from amateurs and professionals alike on how things are to be done. I often respond that I'd not seen the help wanted ad indicating that The Almighty had resigned the judicial position.

I doubt the invitation will be withdrawn. What I hope, but doubt, is that this will help spur a substantive discussion about the role of religion in our government - why, with the separation of church and state is there any need for an invocation or pastors at the inauguration? - the basic human rights too often denied gays and their place within their respective faith communities.
One roommate, herself gay, has taken to speaking of Obama like she had been double crossed by her best friend. This is not the way this was supposed to begin.

Salaam.

2 comments:

catstone said...

Several organizations, including Americans for the Separation of Church and State and the American Humanist Association, sued to try to prevent any invocation. The suit was dismissed. But I'm afriad that people having been seeing what they wanted to see in Obama, and perhaps projecting their beliefs onto him. It's important to see him as he is, not as we wish he would be. Please remember that before the election, Obama announced that he would expand financing for Bush's faith-based initiatives. That made his stance on the influence of religion very clear. I couldn't vote for McCain, but that act made me very unethusiastic about supporting Obama.

Aicha Qandisha said...

Yes, I saw that in the news. I agree that, given the diversity of faiths in this country, you either invite everybody to offer a prayer - which is what this is - or you don't have one. I am a firm and absolute believer in the separation of church and state. Religion needs to go back to the personal sphere as the founders intended.

I never thought Obama could walk on water, turn water to wine, solve all our problems or magically make the U.S. a progressive fantasyland.

I think one thing that upset me about the invitation to Warren was that while I truly believe that so much radical work has to be done to bridge the ever-widening gap between factions in this country, including evangelicals such as Warren and extreme elements of all stripes, this is a trite move towards that end. If you want to throw Warren a bone, ask him be a part of something concrete and long-term towards coalition building and viewpoint changing. But, what would that be?

Watching the crowd in Grant Park erupt when the election results were announced, I felt it was not a celebration solely for Obama but for all of us and for our hopes. This inauguration, likewise, should be about all of us and having someone seeking a blessing from God for this administration who does not accept a large part of us has no place. I am a big believer in symbolism, gesture and theater in politics, or at least the power of those on the public. This is not the kind of symbol to open this supposed new era.

The bottom line - as with all politicians, we'll have to hold him to things. I am hoping that all those who were recruited and felt they played a part in his election will feel as though he really is THEIR president and will hold him to those things they believed in when supporting and voting for him. Unfortunately, our society has a very short attention span and if it doesn't directly effect them daily they let it go far to easily.

Thanks for the comment.