Friday, December 19, 2008

Crazy Like a Fox? 

Like many people, I was put in a difficult position when I learned of Barack Obama's choice of Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration in January. The man was an Evangelical douchebag, a homophobic right wing asshole. And here he was, being welcomed onto the podium by a man I believed in and saw as the savior of America, the Abraham Lincoln of the 21st Century. It felt like a stab in the back, a betrayal, a big "Fuck you" to the GLBT community. I even fired off a strongly worded negative email to the Change website -- a place to which I'd previously sent missives of ass-kissing joy and sunshine. I was disapointed and disillusioned. Had President Obama failed before even taking office?

In the morning, cooler heads prevailed as a non-partisan political source I trust, Electoral Vote, analyzed Obama's choice of Warren and pointed out the shrewd politics behind it. A taste:
By picking Warren, he is giving Warren (and his expanded agenda) a huge amount of credibility in the evangelical community. If Obama can get the evangelical leadership to stop focusing entirely on abortion and gay marriage and start addressing AIDS and poverty as issues, he will ultimately benefit immensely from giving Warren valuable exposure.
In other words, far from giving an Evangelical douchebag, homophobic right wing asshole a bigger platform, he is taking a less homophobic right wing asshole and waving him at the rest of the Fundies as a signal. He is taking control of the conversation with the idea of changing it. Reverend Warren may have spoken his objections to same-sex marriage, but he has also been adamant about doing that Jesus bit of helping the sick and poor. A little reminder to keep him from talking about the gay thing, and suddenly the focus of Evangelical pastors across the nation will change, because they only know how to parrot the big names. Or, to put it bluntly: for the first time in eight years, a President is smarter than his constituents and is looking out for them.

What happens? Warren becomes the official media face of Evangelical Christianity. Obama, meanwhile, has promised Warren more exposure as America's Protestant Pope if he will focus on AIDS and poverty and shut up about same-sex marriage. The power being offered being catnip to any religious sort, Warren agrees. The focus on AIDS exposes charitable Evangelicals to gay people. The focus on poverty exposes them to non-white people, or those who must resort to prostiution, selling drugs or being addicted to them. In other words, it shoves everything that the Jesus they allege to preach did right in their faces. (In my experience, even the most born-again of Christians tends to be somewhat open-minded when they have gone on a charitable mission for their Church. I even know several born agains who not only tolerate gay people, but have them as their closest friends -- and both have been to third world nations to directly help the people.)

Meanwhile, while helping the poor and sick, they aren't being urged by their pastors to run out and vote against same-sex marriage. It's another example of Obama using the philosophy of "Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer." What better way to win them over? Put a previously not well-known Evangelical in your pocket, make him change his ways by showing him the error, control an entire block of people who were your mortal enemy before the election. Billy Graham is history. Obama is going to make the next Billy Graham in his image, then let him have influence over presidents for the next fifty years.

As a side effect, this could remove the last barrier to the last minority group being socially accepted as equals. The GLBT community cannot afford to be alienated from Blacks or the Left right now. All minorities must unite, with the understanding that each group will get its due in time. Blacks won with the election, women and Latinos are winning with the Cabinet selection, and Gays and Lesbians, traditionally the last group to get the same rights as others, are just around the corner. Turn the fundie churches into giant charitable organizations, turn their attention away from GLBT issues, and change might just start happening.

He might just be crazy -- crazy like a fox. But perhaps President Obama really will pull off the biggest change of all. Rather than being a divider, like W., maybe he really will be a uniter.


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