Rick Warren: An Open Letter to Progressives

Progressives, you’re missing the point and the boat. Didn’t you hear anything Barack Obama said during his campaign?

In the Bush years, all was dogma, rigid, unbending (among other things). Barack Obama spent 11 months telling us that change is coming, change we can believe in, change we NEED.

Change isn’t something that happens with the stroke of a pen. It emerges out of need, dialogue, and consensus.

I understand the anger over Rick Warren’s selection to give the invocation at the inaugural. But what you aren’t getting is that Warren represents a large chunk of our country — evangelical Christians who believe that the Bible prohibits gay marriage.

I disagree with them. You disagree with them. I wrote extensively about how hurt I was to see the hateful speech coming from them during the Proposition 8 campaign. That hurt hasn’t gone anywhere, but it seems unproductive and useless to shout Warren down, call for him to be disinvited, and in the process, alienate that segment of the population YOU all need to move the agenda forward.

I want you to consider Lee Stranahan’s viewpoint here. It’s worth thinking about.

Rick Warren has laid out arguments and views that you may not agree with but they are actually shared by millions of people. The majority of people, really. They’ve been quoted all over the place and that’s part of the gift.

There are weeks to listen to his arguments and not just quote them but actually refute them in an organized way. You could try out your counter-arguements on people who disagree with you, rather than just nodding in agreement at the people who you already agree with. You can try to answer the arguments with civil discourse and without the use of any broad generalizations meant to obscure the other side’s position. You could answer without insults. I mean – without a single one.

It’s harder, no doubt. It’s easy to wave your own team’s flag while sitting comfortably in your own team’s bleachers. But Barack Obama has been argued for doing the easy thing. The challenge is to do the right thing and that means actually trying to win by fighting well and fairly in the marketplace of ideas.

Barack Obama is handing the country the gift of civil discourse on difficult and emotional subjects. Happy holidays.

If you want change, start by changing the tone of discourse. I agree with Lee. We’re not used to it, but Barack Obama is offering an opportunity for an exchange of ideas in a civil tone. We don’t have to shout at each other anymore. That’s a hallmark of the past. We don’t have to suffer rallies shouting down opposing views, but can come together and try to get a clear understanding of what exactly the issues are.

It takes one voice in a room. Are we going to use that voice to try to persuade, or alienate?

As an aside, I have met Rick Warren and talked with him. He is not a raving homophobe nor is he a dogmatic type who has to be right. He is thoughtful, bases his beliefs on what he understands the Bible to say, but is open to discussion and debate. Further, he is a man with heart for all people, gay, straight, rich, poor, and otherwise. He is not a hellfire and brimstone preacher and has angered the diehards on the side of the Religious Right far more than he has you.

The man is saying a prayer. He is not shaping policy, nor is he running for office. Let him pray. And listen. And talk. But do it with the goal of persuasion and openness, not exclusion and anger. Please. Let’s be the change we believe in and voted for.

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