In January of 2009, there was a furor over President-Elect Barack Obama’s selection of California mega-church pastor Rick Warren to pray at his first inauguration. Four years later, another mega-church pastor, Louie Giglio from Atlanta, was awkwardly uninvited to pray at Mr. Obama’s second inaugural.
Four years turned out to be a long, long time.
On the surface, playing the Warren card back then appeared to be a masterstroke by Obama – one that further demonstrated impressive political skills, the kind that took him from a backbencher in the United States Senate, to the highest office in the land.
A day or so after the election in November 2008, I was asked by someone about what Mr. Obama would do to prepare for his administration. I replied that I thought he would demonstrate significant savvy by – at least for a time – ignoring the clamorous pleas from core constituencies, the kind of people who will support and vote for him no matter what. And I suggested he would reach out to those who view him with fear – or at least mild suspicion.
That’s pretty much what number 44 did—at first. He confounded those who voted for “real change” by putting together a third Clinton term on most things, and a third Bush term on issues relating to the war in Iraq.
Evangelicals – especially younger ones – played a key role in Barack Obama’s ability to counter clear problems with his own church and pastor (remember Jeremiah Wright?). They also, in many cases, overtly campaigned for him, his decidedly non-evangelical views on abortion and other traditional values issues notwithstanding.
Mr. Obama was viewed by many evangelicals as a new kind of politician—someone who could bridge the gap, or reach out, or maybe begin a dialogue. Pick your warm fuzzy mantra.
Then the President’s position “evolved,” to use an interestingly pregnant term.
Evangelicals, those who take the Bible and their faith seriously, need to be reminded that when it comes to issues like gay marriage – even abortion – there is not really any middle ground with those on the left, even the so-called Christian left.
Rick Warren spent a great deal of time and money, investing his ministry in initiatives that are outside of the normal evangelical box. He worked tirelessly in Africa and elsewhere on the issue of AIDS – and cultivated a compassionate and understanding persona when it came to dealing with issues and ministry challenges stemming from same-sex attraction.
What Warren has not done, nor will he ever do, is to reach the point where he declares that homosexual behavior is not sinful. He will not do this because he is a Biblicist.