Friday, January 16, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama, the Rev. Rick Warren, and the Mythical 'Middle Ground'

by Steven Jonas, MD

Right-wing commentators such as the sometimes hard-to-categorize Pat Buchanan, the comedian Bill Kristol, the still-trying-to-shake-her "Reagan Hagiographer" label Peggy Noonan, and so-called "even-handed" cable news personalities such as "Morning Joe and Mika" of MSNBC were all het-up about why the "left" (these folks wouldn't know a real LEFT if they saw one) is so het up about Pres.-elect Obama's choice of Rick Warren to deliver the Inauguration Invocation. "It's a free country," they say. "There's a wide range of views on gay marriage" (which happens to be Rick Warren's least odious on-the-gay-question position) they say. "Obama is showing himself to be tolerant," they say. Obama is looking for "common ground," they say.

"You'se guys" (which is what they would say to us lefties if they spoke Noo Yawk) are just a bunch of whiners. Or worse, you are just as bad as the Christian Fundamentalists, except I cannot remember when any of the above listed "authorities" ever criticized the latter group for anything. For example, when Gov. Huckabee, the funny man, was riding high for a bit during the Republican primaries last winter, he was on the cable news shows a lot.  And thus I saw him a lot.  I don't remember one question ever being asked him about the fact that he is not just a run-of-the-mill Right-Wing Christian Fundamentalist (which fact itself never came up in questions), but that he had major Dominionist backing.  (Dominionists believe that Constitutional government in the United States should be replaced by the "Dominion of God," based upon their particular so-called "literal" reading of a particular translation [usually the King James Version] of the Bible, in other words institution of a theocracy).  No questions there.  But that's another story.

These folks then proceed, not surprisingly, to talk about Warren only in the context of his opposition to gay marriage.  They trot out all of the traditional arguments in defense of the position (whether it is theirs or not is often left unclear) that "traditional marriage" is "between a man and a woman" and thus should not be/cannot be changed. There are two problems here, folks. First, if that were the only way that Warren demonstrated his antipathy towards gays and equal civil rights for them, one could have a rational argument with him and the people he represents, using one or more of the usual arguments in favor of the gay-marriage-is-just-fine position.

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