The whole world is watching ...
There are so many valid points and approaches in this discussion ... and lots of diverse opinion as there should be. I hope the Obama team is listening to your various concerns and suggestions as you're sending them in. For myself, I especially appreciate Zerbie's comments above ... really excellent points!
Of course I feel that inviting Warren was a huge mistake, and I would strongly prefer that he would not be on the stage during the Inaugural Ceremony.
I'm assuming for now that it is unlikely that Warren will be un-invited now that he's officially on board -- but that shouldn't stop any of us from protesting or suggesting whatever we feel would be appropriate as a response.
Meanwhile, I thought I'd suggest an alternative option to the Obama team. Just FYI, I wrote this letter below prior to reading the discussion here.
Here is a letter that I sent today to the Obama Transition Team via their change.gov website
Subject Heading: An Inaugural Ceremony we could ALL believe in
Hello Obama Team!
I'm guessing you've been swamped with comments in connection with your decision to invite Rick Warren to give the Invocation at the Inaugural Ceremony. I have a suggestion that I hope can help with what has now become a significant controversy.
While I would have strongly preferred a different choice of minister, I understand your positive intent to invite everyone to the table. And I'm all for making inroads with evangelicals on issues that conservatives and progressives can share and work on together.
For now, you've got the conservative religious guy and the liberal religious guy on each end of the ceremony ... and on the surface that would sound like a very reasonable and inclusive-sounding plan.
However, Rick Warren in particular is especially polarizing due to his extreme views on LGBT issues. And I really want ALL Americans to feel respected during the ceremonies, as I'm very sure you all do too.
As I understand it, the current plan is to include some LGBT visibility among the various groups participating in the general inaugural events. That's a positive step but it's clearly not enough under the current circumstances. To restore faith and counter the fallout from the Warren invitation, I feel that we now need something of similar proportion and impact -- and a new gesture in direct response to the controversy.
So here's a suggestion that I think could be a way to defuse the explosive and damaging impact of "the Warren controversy" -- and that would also further demonstrate your positive spirit of inclusiveness.
How about adding a third religious leader to share the stage with the two you have already invited? How about including an openly gay minister in the mix? Perhaps a lesbian minister or rabbi? Or maybe an evangelical leader from the LGBT community?
Such a gesture could go a long way to defuse the offense that has been taken by LGBT Americans and their families and friends and supporters. In addition, depending on the specific leader, it could also expand representation of women and/or another religious community. This gesture would also reinforce your excellent track record of responsiveness and adapting when troubles arise, and as additional feedback comes in. And of course, including an LGBT leader on the Inaugural Ceremony stage would also be a significant demonstration of very positive change.
I'm imagining something like having the LGBT religious leader give a brief reading immediately following the Invocation, perhaps reading a quote from Martin Luther King, maybe a poem or a Bible passage ... something simple and classy that wouldn't take much time but would be very significant in it's impact in showing that everybody in America can now share the stage and come together as one nation.
Many Americans might consider the LGBT community to be relatively marginal, or as representing only the farthest left extreme of Obama's base. And some might think that inviting representation from any group that protests or disagrees with any given decision would set an unrealistic precedent.
However, the LGBT community is probably close to 30 million Americans ... and when you consider that most would have family and friends in support, this multiplies into many more millions ... and when you remember that most Democrats and some Republicans are also in support ... this represents quite a significant percentage of Americans that are probably offended by Warren's extremist views toward the LGBT community.
It is also important to remember that just as there are some progressive evangelicals, and many who are supportive of the LGBT community ... so are there LGBT persons of all political and religious persuasions, including some with conservative affiliations. With this in mind, a strong new gesture of support for LGBT persons in response to the Warren controversy would go well beyond the narrow framework of a culture war between the extreme right and the extreme left ... and would most likely be welcomed by many more Americans than one might guess at first glance.
I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate the intelligence and compassion that Obama, Biden, and you as team members have displayed since the initial announcement of Obama's run. I volunteered and donated and cheered you on, and many of my friends and my family have also been very enthusiastic supporters.
I very much want for my LGBT friends -- and their supporters, like myself -- to be able to maintain the excitement and hope that we all have felt toward all of you too. Many of your strongest supporters are very uneasy now and some are very upset and concerned about this controversy and about what it might indicate about their hopes for the future.
Of course there will never be complete agreement from every American to every decision you make, and we will always have controversies, and groups within our nation that don't agree with each other. I haven't agreed with every decision at every turn, but I've been impressed with your responsiveness and willingness to be open and to adapt to changing circumstances.
And there will always be protests, as there very well should be ... and there will probably be many protesters at the Inauguration. But it would be especially discouraging to have so many of your strongest supporters be the ones protesting -- and feeling disappointed and angry instead of cheering as they would much prefer to be doing -- especially during what should be a very special time of celebration for all of us.
Your response to this particular high profile controversy could be an opportunity to inspire America with a new approach. The gesture suggested above or something similar could potentially transform what is now seen by many as a mistake into an opportunity to demonstrate an even fuller and more expansive spirit of inclusiveness. And it could go a very long way to reassure and inspire your most enthusiastic and hopeful supporters.
Hoping the controversy will blow over, or that it won't be too much of a distraction, or that the current plans will be sufficient -- would not take seriously enough the loss of faith and enthusiasm and participation that could be lost from Americans who would otherwise happily continue to work with you to bring about the changes that our country urgently needs.
I have very much appreciated your strong support for the LGBT community. I very much hope that you will use this wonderful historic occasion to reinforce that support -- while the whole world is watching.
Thank you so much for your consideration.
Sherrie Z [last name deleted]
San Francisco, CA
[NOTE: I included my last name for the Obama team version, but deleted it here for this online post.]
"I'm as pure as the driven slush." ~ Tallulah Bankhead