I am of two minds on this.
Emphatically speaking, I find Warren noxious and odious on many theological fronts. At the very least, his belief that homosexuality is analogous to pedophila, incest, and polygamy is shameful. He sadly misconstrues the life and ministry of Jesus, a ministry that was inclusive, inviting, loving, and embracing. To pick Warren to give the invocation provides unfortunate symbolic consequences, especially after the disappointing loss on Proposition 8. The prayer-giver is front and center to the entire nation and world, and, on this stage, to have a person who preaches exclusion and division is problematic. On this day, Warren's dehumanizing beliefs have a platform and a position of honor. The fact that disagreement over gay-rights is still vitriolic highlights that the pick was mishandled in and of itself. I empathize with the anger.
On the other hand, let's focus on the notion of inclusivity. In my mind, inclusion is a constitutional characteristic of progressivism, and inclusion was an important principle within the Obama campaign. Notably, Obama field organizers had a mantra: "Respect. Empower. Include." To cross-mix the ideas here, inclusion does not preclude respectful disagreement. That is self-evident to me. I thought of this as I watched Obama's press conference today. Obama:
... It is important for Americans to come together even if we have disagreements on social issues. ... We are not going to agree on every issue, but what we have to do is be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans. ... Part of the magic of this country is we are diverse, noisy, and opinionated. ... [my transcription]Sure, it is trasparent that Obama extended an olive branch to moderate and conservative evangelicals, perhaps even as a cheap policitical ploy. In terms of gay rights, America is bitterly divided. Remember, however, Obama is the President of the entire country, not just 52-53% of the electorate. Remember also, progress happens in dialogue. Obama in effect stated, "Sure, I ardently disagree with you, but, as a fellow American, I respect and value you and your opinion. Welcome." Respect. Empower. Include.
Interestingly, we applaud Obama for creating a bipartisan cabinet, one that both values the discussion of ideas and abhors group-think. We think it great that cabinet Democrats and cabinet Republicans can put solutions over partisanship. We applaud Obama for his willingness to dialogue with countries and regimes that hold anti-American sentiments. Dialogue is disarming, and high-level diplomacy can depress counter-productive and dangerous behavior. Yet, dialogue and inclusivity die when they cross certain Democratic ideals?
Which is more important to us: Being the inclusive, big tent party? Or being issue driven? The Rick Warren pick underscores the tension between the two. I would argue that inclusivity should, in many cases, trump issues, but there is a threshold in which, if crossed, a principled stand is necessary and non-negotiable. As my friend, Doug Williams mused, "How would we feel if David Duke were picked?" To his point, universal rebuke would naturally ensue. But, is this one of those threshold-crossing events? Yes. No. Perhaps. Throughout the course of the day, I have come down on either side of the question.
I guess, I am both annoyed and comfortable with the pick - annoyed because of the newfound prominence of dehumanizing beliefs on a historic day; comfortable because of the underlying notion of inclusivity.