Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is a Southern Baptist who runs the 10,000 member "Saddleback Church" in benighted Orange County, California. He is the author of pop-Christian books like "The purpose driven life." He is popular with many fundamentalists and evangelicals (these two words have distinct meanings, but are frequently conflated by the press, so I see no reason to explain the difference here). Barack Obama asked him to give the invocation at the inauguration. A long-time civil rights pastor will give the benediction later. I am not sure what the difference is between a benediction and an invocation in this context. Both are public prayers that seem, to me, to be somewhat out of place in a secular inauguration. But tradition matters a great deal in such things. As anyone knows who is not hiding under a rock, liberals and gay rights groups are up in arms over the choice.

I am glad they are giving Obama flak for it. Obama must not ever believe that the base of his party may be taken for granted. On the other hand, it's a 2 minute prayer he's offering Warren, not any substantive role in anything. The more gay rights groups complain, oddly, the more "successful" the gesture will be in making evangelicals who voted for Obama feel good. The fact that evangelicals will get symbolic gestures of unity, but not real policy input, is my takeaway from this.

I wish Barack Obama had, instead, invited a more progressive minister to give this invocation. Fundamentalist preachers like Rick Warren probably do more to keep people from the good news of the gospel than any other force save. Here is his advice on how to conclude a sermon (from "The Christian Post")":

• Use an argument. Anticipate the objections the audience might have and logically refute them.
• Use a warning. Warn them of the consequences of disobedience.
• Use indirect conviction. Arouse moral indignation and then turn it on them. A good example is the story of Nathan and David (2 Samuel 12).
• Use pleading. Express God’s love and concern for them and others.
• Use vision. Paint a picture of what is possible if they obey God. Help them to have faith.
• Use encouragement. Tell them they can do this with God’s power.

Here's what's wrong. Power and obedience. Calling the congregation the "audience." Pushing emotional levers in "the audience." Using God's love as some sort of rhetorical device. It's all some sort of public theater and salesmanship.

In most Christian traditions, the liturgy (meaning "public work or service") is a collective work of the congregants, not a show. They read, sing, and pray together as a community. In my tradition, the gospel is symbolically moved from the altar to the midst of the congregation for reading (many Protestants don't have altars in their churches, however, just pulpits). Then the pastor seeks to explicate the gospel reading. The sermon is not really the focus of worship. The real liturgical high point comes later, the closer communion in terms of bread and wine. The object of the sermon or the worship is not to elicit a commitment from the "audience" to obey, but to invite the congregation to a deeper contemplation of themselves and of God.

An invocation is meant generally to invite the audience (this is an audience) to contemplate the larger meaning of the events unfolding on the stage. I am afraid that Rick Warren and other fundamentalists may be singularly unsuited to this task. He will instead see how much proselytizing he can get away with.


Anonymous said...

The church has 20,000 members.

Raised By Republicans said...

My first reaction was anger at hearing this. Then I was confused. Now I think I get what Obama is going for. It started when I asked myself "So you think Obama should be willing to talk to Iran and Hamas but that he should shun American social conservatives?"

I suspect he sees this as a way to show people he just whipped in an election that he wants to be their President too. I doubt that he thinks he's endorsing this guy's views. Indeed, I heard that Obama had spoken at this guy's mega-church even though Warren knew that Obama disagreed with a lot of his positions.

I think this is about Obama giving a big reward to a social conservative who is at least open minded enough to talk to those who oppose him.

Of course I'd be much happier if we followed the Constitutional prohibition on this crap and just had speeches on TV and declared Obama to be President.

The Law Talking Guy said...

They are both using each other. This is more despicable for a pastor than a politician, but does neither credit.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The bigger fuss is made about this, the happier the right wing will be. It makes them think Obama is dissing the left, when he is actually just repaying a political favor with two minutes of free airtime. So I am happy that the official groups are protesting. Because really, it doesn't matter a bit.