Screw Rick Warren. Seriously. Who needs another greed-headed Christian minister spewing nonsense all over another inaugural pageant? Can’t we retire this nonsense with Billy Graham? Why do we have to legitimize the worst of the sky-god charlatans every four years? Why can’t they stay in their churches or stadiums where they belong?
Warren - the king (or whatever) of the Saddleback church (why Saddleback? Why not the Ponderosa, fer cryin' out loud) is only the latest of the self-styled snake-oil salesmen that have managed to capture the imagination of enough suckers to make a nice living for themselves by doing an entertaining dance while spouting their version of some gospel or other. From strangely respected bible-thumper Graham to Jim Bakker to Pat Robertson to Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a.: Pope Benedict XVI), no one with a loud enough megaphone ever lost any money screeching about Christ and passing the hat. No less so Warren, who apparently can’t even be bothered to don a tie or a miter, dressing Friday-casual as he spouts the recycled glittering generalities of Robert Shuller for the gullible thousands who fill his megachurch.
As with anyone whose basic reason for existing on the public stage is a fraud, there are problems with large parts of Warren’s mostly vague, warmed-over messages (he seeks Christian "self-sufficiency, scalability and reproducibility" for "the Purpose-Driven Life". Whatever.) His ambitions are nothing less than global, suggesting that churches around the world do the work that government can’t or won’t – of course, with a large dose of faith-propagating nonsense thrown in with your health care. However, while pretending to draw us together with one hand, he smites with the other; actively advocating an end to reproductive choice, comparing homosexuality to pedophilia while actively campaigning against gay marriage, opposing embryonic stem cell research and taking other similarly loopy positions.
For reasons known only to him but easy to surmise, Barack Obama has invited the homophobic, anti-choice Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, thereby offending many supporters. I don’t necessarily think we should single-issue these kind of speakers in what I assume will be an inoffensive ceremonial role. You take what you can get with religious figures – by nature, they are bound to be wrong about many things and some are wrong about everything. Obama is also trying to take the partisan edge off of the national discourse by reaching out to the right-wing evangelical community, something for which that group will neither recognize or give him credit.
But rewarding Warren, essentially, for his notoriety, despite his offensive rhetoric and inclinations, is unnecessary. Whatever happened to the humble Irish Catholic priest who would mouth some quick gibberish and get out of the way? No, we have to have the grand statement from the grandstanding evangelical who didn’t vote or support Obama and who will be there with his lemming-like congregation and his hoard of fellow-traveling ministers to try to get in the way of some of the president’s attempts to return the government to sanity and normalcy. It’s like John McCain inviting Jeremiah Wright to his swearing-in. Audacious, sure, but what’s the point?
Aretha Franklin is also in the inaugural program, probably delivering something from her gospel tradition rather than one of her Top-40 classics. If she chose to, I suppose, she could take the edge off of Warren’s unseemly presence with some timely selections. How about some "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" for a woman’s right to choose? Maybe she could serenade some of the so-inclined women in the audience with "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman." Maybe she should just get in the new president’s face like she did with Matt Guitar Murphy in the Blues Brothers movie: "You better THINK".