While the contraversy continues over Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, I find myself continually disappointed with much of the commentary and actions of some LGBT civil rights activists. Whether it’s Geoff Kors turning down his invitation to the event or John Cloud calling Obama a bigot, these are missteps that do not help our struggle.
I think its possible to respectfully voice our concerns and objections about the choice while remaining respectful. There is no doubt that I believe that disappointment and even anger over the choice is justified. What kind of message does it send that Obama has selected someone to bless his historic presidency who supports the ex-gay movement and who has publicly equated homosexuality with incest and pedophilia? Privilege is once again getting in the way of liberal straight people having a clear understanding of just how offensive and hurtful this is to us. Unfortunately, Obama’s choice makes it appear that he condones Warren’s perspective.
While I would urge my queer sisters and brothers speak up and be heard, I would also urge them to think carefully, strategically, and lovingly before doing so. As much as the choice of Warren hurts, we have an opportunity to engage in constructive dialog and make real strides towards civil rights. We can do so effectively by acting with forgiveness, compassion, and love. I am sad to see that some people are fanning the flames of hate and anger by calling people names and shutting people out with a futile all-or-nothing strategy. Indeed this amounts to us shutting our own selves out and setting our movement back.
It is not wrong to ask Obama to reconsider is choice in Rick Warren as Angela Clements did. But we need to have no expectation that he will. It is right to voice objection to giving a national stage to someone whose church’s membership is closed to anyone who lives an openly gay life. And it is right to identify bigotry where it is and call it into the light, but it is important not to conflate bigotry with ignorance.
Ignorance without love leads to bigotry, no doubt, but Warren has said that he intends to act with love. I accept this at face value. While Warren now denies ever saying those ugly things about homosexuality instead of repenting for the sin, to me his denial shows some movement on his part towards recognizing that some of the teachings of his theology are hurtful to people that he claims to love.
For my part, I hope that Warren continues down the path toward repentance for his sins and appologize to the LGBT community for what he has said and taught his flock to believe about us. Meanwhile, the LGBT community needs to keep to the high road of forgiveness and openness, even as we express our anger and hurt. Melissa Etheridge is a role model in how she has reached out to Pastor Warren. The healing is going to be a process, not a conversion experience.