This may at first seem like a rather odd reaction for an atheist to take, but I am personally livid about the snubbing of Bishop Gene Robinson by HBO during Sunday’s inaugural pre-game warm-up. I was already offended by the decision to have Rick Warren brought to the inaugural dinner table, but now I am flat out incensed.
Now, a secular country should not have a state-sponsored prayer to begin with. The First Amendment is pretty clear on the point that the government has no business promoting religion, and most definitely has no business promoting one religion over another. But there is a new administration coming in, an administration that has trumpeted its message of inclusiveness. The new President has bent over backwards to tap the shoulders of people across a wide spectrum of political philosophies, bent over to the point that he has left many of us scratching our heads.
But if the new administration is going to claim it is inclusive, claim to be a government of all people, then why is Rick Warren invited? Warren is inherently antithetical to the notion of inclusion.
Warren is a divisive, mean-spirited fomenter of hate and intolerance. The fact that he wears a nice suit and is very popular does not in any way alter the fact that his message is intrinsically the same message promoted by the likes of Fred Phelps. Warren has no business on the inaugural platform of a President who takes on the mantle of inclusion.
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Warren makes it very clear that denial of marriage rights to GLBT couples is entirely based on religious opinion, something explicitly in violation of the first amendment. He also explicitly declares that might makes right, and that he supports the tyranny of the majority. These are absolutely as unAmerican as ideas can be. Of course, his loyalty does not lie with the Constitution, but rather with his cherry-picked selections from the Old Testament.
In its defense, the Obama team without question heard the outcry from a portion of those Americans just dumped on by this selection. To quiet and placate them, they were thrown a (very small) bone. Gene Robinson, bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire for the Episcopal Church, was asked to give a prayer at a warm-up event on Sunday. Robinson is openly gay and not celibate.
Robinson actually delivered a rhetorically moving prayer, something much more reminiscent of a very good political speech of inclusion than a prayer. It’s a shame that most of us didn’t get to hear it. It was not broadcast along with the other events at Sunday’s celebrations.
Fortunately, someone in the crowd that day shot some video of the prayer, and passed it along to Christianity Today.
Of course neither HBO nor the Obama team is accepting responsibility for this snub. HBO has said that it will rebroadcast Sunday’s events and will be sure to include the Bishop’s invocation. It seems more than a little cynically self-serving at this point however, given the volume of the outcry. It should have been broadcast the first time.
Nevertheless, you can bet that Warren’s prayer, the prayer of an exclusionary, hate-filled, divisive bigot, will be well covered and most certainly broadcast.
We voted for you, Mr. Obama. We voted for inclusion and hope. We voted for change.
This is not change.