Barack Obama, the battered wife

by twit

Obama recently responded to the outrage over Rick Warren with the statement that “what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable.”   This reminds me of the millions of abused spouses and children who try to do this, with the hope that if they are just nicer to their abusive family member, maybe the abuse will stop.

This is why it hurts so badly for Obama to have chosen Rick Warren for the inaugural invocation.  We know it won’t stop the abuse.  We know that it will only empower and enable the abusers.

A commentary at CNN describes some of the positions held by Rick Warren:

He adamantly opposes a woman’s legal right to abortion and dismisses common-ground efforts to reduce the need for abortion by comparing them to accommodating the Holocaust. He is disrespectful of progressive people of faith, suggesting that they are tools of the Democratic Party or more Marxist than Christian.

… Warren, in an interview with, has since equated allowing loving same-sex couples to get married with redefining marriage to permit incest and pedophilia.

Via Salon, another commentary offers this:

He doesn’t believe in evolution. He has won plaudits from some journalists for his honesty in forthrightly admitting that he believes that Jews are going to hell…

and as it turns out, despite the various recent mentions of Warren’s work in Africa as a reason for Obama to embrace Warren with the honor of an inaugural invocation, Rick Warren is an active facilitator of the ongoing AIDS crisis in Africa:

… Warren’s role in Africa, where a very conservative kind of evangelical Christianity is exploding, bringing with it virulently anti-gay politics. “What I have heard is that it will help Warren overseas,” Schultz says of Warren’s role in the inauguration. “He’s big into work in Africa. This will give him a lot of clout over there. Part of the reason this is kind of insulting for me is that Warren has supported some pretty awful people in Africa, including people who think homosexuals should be jailed.”

the key is this:

… Warren has done a lot of work on AIDS in Africa, but he supports the same types of destructive, abstinence-only policies as the Bush administration. One of his protegés, Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, has been a major force in moving that country away from its lifesaving safer-sex programs.

Rick Warren is empowered and enabled by Obama’s attempt to be nice and hope the abuse stops.

And people will die because of it.

update:   It isn’t Warren’s religious beliefs that are the issue here.  It is his political activities, such as his support for politicians and policies that devastate the fight against AIDS.   The Sacramento Bee notes:

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, endorsed Proposition 8, the November ballot measure that ended same-sex marriage in California.

There is no separating Rick Warren from the political movements that he has been involved in.  As a politician, Warren is opposed to basic civil rights and backs global policies that verge on genocide.

This country has clamored for a change from the Bush Administration and its use of its interpretation of the Bible to guide its policy decisions.  And now an agent of Bush Administration policy is being honored by the Obama Administration.

update:  here’s another way to put it:

… the man he has chosen to deliver his inaugural invocation is a relentless clerical businessman who raises money on the proposition that certain Americans—non-Christians, the wrong kind of Christians, homosexuals, nonbelievers—are of less worth and littler virtue than his own lovely flock of redeemed and salvaged and paid-up donors.

… A president may by all means use his office to gain re-election, to shore up his existing base, or to attract a new one. But the day of his inauguration is not one of the days on which he should be doing that.

The day of Obama’s inauguration could have been a celebration.  It has instead become an ugly, political thing that strengthens the prominence and power of a political movement dedicated to the destruction of our constitutional form of government.

I suppose this is Obama’s first clear act of hubris.   It seems like a reasonable explanation for why Obama could think that his ardent supporters (who were always supposed to be enthralled with the political movement, not the politician) would accept that they should embrace a political figure who has campaigned against civil rights and helped foster a disaster in Africa.   It also seems like a reasonable explanation for why Obama could think that alienating his supporters is worthwhile – just like the “battered wife” who thinks she has the power to stop the abuse in her own home, if she could just placate and appease her abuser.

It is hubris to tell the children to stop being so disagreeable, that this is the only way to stop the abuse of their rights and their lives.  It assumes a power over the situation that does not exist.

update:  from Dan Savage:

Rick Warren importuning people to “disagree without being disagreeable” now is like a bully saying “violence is never the answer!” right after he’s bloodied some other kid’s nose. Listening to people give the bully credit for having his heart in the right place isn’t much comfort for the kid with the blood running down his face.

update:   Especially when Rick Warren will be remembered by history as an avid supporter of needless suffering and death in Africa:

…  an investigation into Warren’s involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education.

More disturbingly, Warren’s allies have rolled back key elements of one of the continent’s most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations’ special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is “resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred.”

if growing up near Pennsylvania Avenue taught me anything, it taught me this:


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