Barack Obama is a very intelligent man. Which is why his invitation of Rick Warren is such a confusing move. Its his latest fuck you note pinned to the hope that swept him into office (Jesus’ General has a short and brilliant synopsis). It would also appear to be a fundamentally naive misunderstanding of what Rick Warren represents. Rick Warren is an ultra conservative Christian who is actively working to put a mainstream spin on fundamentalist ideas. As Lindsey Beyerstein notes:
Giving Warren even more mainstream cred is not just a cost-free nod to evangelicals. It’s a boost for someone who actively opposes Obama’s agenda and who is eager to influence secular affairs.
That mainstream cred may be cost-free to the evangelicals, but it comes at a deadly cost to the LGBT community…
(Mikko Allane, emphasis mine):
The problem, as many commentators have noted, is that we’re not disagreeing about abstract ideas — we’re disagreeing about civil and human rights.
I would argue that we’re disagreeing about most basic human right of all — the right to live a life free of violence.
Because words are where violence begins. And in America, violence against gays, lesbians, and transgendered people most often begins in hateful and intolerant words spoken in right-wing churches like Rick Warren’s Saddleback. Warren has compared gay and lesbian people to pedophiles and perpetrators of incest (you can watch the CNN video of his remarks here). His words may often be cloaked more politely, but in his intolerance, Warren is really no different than James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Fred Phelps, or other peddlers of anti-gay hate.
And the seeds of that hate are growing faster than ever.
This year, the FBI reported a 1% decline in hate crimes in the United States. At the same time, they revealed a 6% increase in hate crimes against gay, lesbian, and transgendered people. In the past few months alone, shocking murders have been reported across the country from Oxnard, CA to Brooklyn, NY, and most recently, San Francisco.
That’s a powerful statistic. Hate crime on average has gone down while hate crimes against the LGBT community have gone up. Crimes including gang rape (Vanessa, Feministing):
Last Saturday in San Francisco, a lesbian was beaten and repeatedly raped by four men, while the perpetrators “made comments indicating they knew her sexual orientation.” They then left the 28-year old naked outside of an abandoned apartment building, who was helped by someone living nearby.
Its impossible to imagine Obama inviting the leader of a white supremacist group attempting to gain mainstream appeal. I can understand what Obama is going for by inviting an evangelical to the inauguration. The problem is that the cost outweights the benefits. He’s helping a wolf get his sheep costume on in the hope that they can work on common problems like fighting hoof and mouth disease and too much logging in the woods. To do this he’s ignoring the sheep who go missing.
Violence against gay/bi/trans people continues to burn and Obama is helping the man with the gasoline.
This post was written by Dan on December 27, 2008