In the Arena

The Not-So-Right Reverend Rick

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I am not a big fan of Rick Warren’s. He thinks I’m going to hell. He said so in mixed company, at an Aspen Institute forum. He was asked if Jews were going to hell. He said yes. He can go ahead and feed every poor child in Africa and I’m still going to think he’s a fool for believing that. Reverend Rick is also not too big on gay or women’s rights. (Indeed, if Jews–and all other non born-again Christians–homosexuals, feminists, and anyone who has either had an abortion, performed an abortion or reluctantly agrees that it’s none of our business who has abortions…if all those people are going to hell, then heaven’s got to be about as interesting as linoleum.)

I am not a fanatic about the so-called social issues. I spend most of my time worrying about other things. I think gay people are people and should have all the requisite rights that people have. Period. I have qualms about abortion and I don’t think it should be allowed in the second half of a pregnancy, unless the life of the mother is at stake, but I may be wrong about that–in any case, I would never demonize those who disagree with me. Finally, it is a matter of unalloyed joy to me that people who don’t believe in evolution will no longer have even the teensiest sway over the federal government.


I have no problem with Barack Obama asking Reverend Rick to deliver a prayer at the Inauguration. It will have zero–repeat, zero–impact on the policies of the Obama Administration. And it may do some good, especially if it gives pause to all those people who think that I–and the crypto-Muslim Barack Obama–are going to hell…If it causes those folks to give the new President just the slightest credit for appreciating their worldview, if it causes them to give him the benefit of the doubt on controversial stuff like talking to the Iranians or universal health insurance, then it’s worth it. If it causes evangelicals to say, “Well, he’s not demonizing us, maybe we shouldn’t demonize him,” it’s worth it. If it makes Rush Limbaugh’s toxic blather about our next President seem even the slightest bit ridiculous and over-the-top to his idiot legion of ditto heads, it’s worth it. 

The thing is, Obama is trying to change the nature of public discourse from the raw blast it has been for the past 20 years to something more civil and tolerable. You sense that every time he opens his mouth. He’s all for opening doors. I don’t know how many of ultra-conservative evangelicals will walk through the door he is opening by having one of their most popular leaders join the inaugural celebration, but I appreciate his inclusive intent.  Even if I think there is an insurmountable roadblock to heaven–I’d guess it’s about like the relationship between a camel and the eye of a needle–for those who make blanket judgments about which of us is going to hell.