A Method to Obama’s Madness?

I think I get it now. There’s a method to what many believe to be President Elect Barack Obama’s madness in inviting conservative pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.

On the heels of this revelation comes a little-noticed note in the New York Times that Obama’s administration is reaching out to both liberal and conservative groups to help it promote its National Day of Service for the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. holiday:

The Presidential Inaugural Committee is putting the wheels for the project in motion with calls and e-mails to national service organizations. The committee is reaching out to organizations of all sizes and ideologies, including faith-based groups, unions and businesses as well as political groups—from Moveon.org on the left to Focus on the Family on the right—to motivate their members to participate.

I understand now. What Obama is doing is exactly what George W. Bush and others like him would never, ever do – reach out to those who would otherwise reject them. But, here’s the genius to the madness – if Focus on the Family and other right-wing groups refuse to accept Obama’s invitation to promote and participate in a day of service – who looks like the chump – the guy reaching out to a perceived “enemy” or the organization passing up a chance to do good work because of who the invitation came from?

All the screaming from liberals and progressives about Warren’s pending prayer on January 20 only serves to make our community look petty and intractable. It’s been said that if you fight something long enough, there is a danger of becoming what you hate. I think we’re getting dangerously close to that with this controversy. What we hate about the religious right is their inability to put their dogma aside and come together on important issues. Pitching a fit over Obama’s invitation to Warren makes our community look just as mean and graceless as Warren’s community looks to us. In fact, our hysterical objections give the religious right a chance to play concern troll and tsk, tsk, at all those liberals who talk about inclusiveness, but get upset when they actually have to practice it.

However, just because the media is all about Obama’s alleged betrayal of progressives, don’t think that the religious right is pleased to have Warren standing shoulder to shoulder with Obama. Over at CBN, the Brody File has been inundated with those upset that Warren has accepted the invite:

This is terrible; this man call’s himself a Christian????Barack H. Obama is the most PRO-DEATH president America has ever elected!!!!! He has said that as president he is going to pass the “Freedom of Choice Act” how can our country get any better with this type of MURDER?????? Mr. Warren school be ashamed of himself, protection of the unborn is the MOST IMPERATIVE issue as a Christian!!!!! For without life do we continue to have a society at all??? I think not!!!!!

Perhaps it really is Obama’s intention to reach across the chasm that has divided this country for so long and was fostered so carefully over the past eight years by Bush and his administration. That’s certainly a noble and honorable goal that we, as progressives, ought to get behind wholeheartedly. But, maybe, just maybe, there’s another agenda at work here – to reveal the right for the graceless monster it’s always been. It’s a double-edged sword though, as the outcry from the left, religious and otherwise, is making us look a whole lot like them.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)