Obama had a chance to set a non-sectarian, progressive tone at this event, and he has chosen to kow-tow to the wretched evangelical movement.
Alas, that wretched evangelical movement represents a lot of voters and the alternative candidate, John McCain, had been paling around with far less savory evangelicals, like Rev. John Hagee.
I'm no fan of Rick Warren, as is apparent in my past posts on him, but I do think he represents an evolution away from the more destructive insanities of the fundagelicals. Even Dan Dennett had some compliments for Warren (see my post "Dealing with religion in a respectful manner" for Dennett's TED talk video on Warren and religion).
There was a Beliefnet interview where Warren equated gay marriage to incest, pedophilia and polygamy and he thought that without Prop 8, conservative preachers could be prosecuted for hate crimes. Rick Warren is not a liberal or even a moderate. He doesn't believe in evolution and he can say really dumb things:
SAM HARRIS: Then God also likes smallpox and tuberculosis.
RICK WARREN: I would attribute a lot of the sins in the world to myself.
SAM HARRIS: Are you responsible for smallpox?
However, unlike many big evangelical names, he doesn't exploit the hot-botton culture war issues in his books. He doesn't refuse communion to people who vote Democratic. He is apolitical in the pulpit. He has his views on those issues but he is more concerned with his message about "getting right with God," not with the Republican party. As such the choice helps to depoliticize those hot-button issues. Also, Warren never endorsed Obama. He just didn't endorse McCain either. He is consciously apolitical and tries to be non-divisive. Thus it is shrewd of Obama to choose him for inaugural invocation.
But I wonder if Obama will regret that choice once he hears Warren's actual inaugural invocation?
I still hope and believe Obama will bring some needed change, but I admit it's not going to be as much as I'd really like to see. That kind of change will require a big change in the American voters.
Christopher Hitchens echos PZ's opinion here, "Three Questions About Rick Warren's Role in the Inauguration."
Yet, so far it looks like Obama will force more change on Warren than Warren will on Obama. Consider, one thing that happened as a result of picking Warren is that we all found out how much of a bigot Warren was and how quickly he tried to hide it.
Before the pick Rick Warren explicitly banned "unrepentant" gays from membership in his church on his website. After the media controversy, that statement on his website went away. The Saddleback website posting that: "Someone unwilling to repent for their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted as a member at Saddleback" was removed.
Maybe Obama knows what he's doing -- he seems to have picked up a right-wing theocrat he can easily manipulate.
I was wrong.
Some time after Warren removed the comments about gays not being accepted in his church, he put up a video at his Saddleback website claiming the media were lying about his past statements. He claimed that he never equated gay relationships with incest or pedophilia. Except, he did. I'm not sure what Warren's malfunction is, but he is also on video saying gay relationships were like a brother and sister marrying, or a an adult marrying a child. So, either he doesn't know that those are incest and pedophilia or he has forgotten saying them. What he didn't do was use the words incest and pedophilia, just examples of them.
In an additional segment, he says that "evil" gays who complained about him (and who couldn't possibly be Christian themselves?) are afraid of Christians and have Christ-o-phobia. I wonder how Andrew Sullivan feels about that?
I was okay with Warren before this, but now he's just gotten too stupid. Obama does have to throw this guy under the bus. I knew Warren would crash and burn eventually, but I had no idea it would be so soon.
Apparently you just can't trust any religious leaders to be either sane or intelligent.
Here, thanks to Ed Brayton, is Rachel Maddow doing a nice take down on Warren: