Friday, December 19, 2008

People For the American Way President on Rick Warren

Kathryn Kolbert, president of People for the American Way, disapproves of President-Elect Obama's decision to ask Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the January 20 inauguration.

Her statement reflects the sentiments of People For and other hard Left groups about their fellow citizens who disagree with them about human sexuality and the definition of marriage. In her email, Ms. Kolbert calls Rev. Warren a "divisive Religious Right demagogue." The dictionary defines "demagogue" as someone "who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people."

Does this word accurately describe Rick Warren? I think that a fair-minded person who has heard Rev. Warren or read his writings would be hard pressed to call him a demagogue. I fear that, in the eyes of Ms. Kolbert and her allies, any well-known person with a platform who disagrees with them is a "demagogue."

Ms. Kolbert also declares that Rick Warren is a "powerful leader who marginalizes and dehumanizes those who disagree with him." Really? The hard Left seems to believe that those who are not willing to affirm the morality of homosexual conduct (a group that includes millions of theologically orthodox Christians) think that those who engage in such conduct are not human beings. To be sure, in a big country like America, there are some number of unfortunate souls who hold such a view. But it is wrong and unfair to suggest that the tens of millions of individuals who share Rick Warren's traditional views about marriage and sexuality don't believe that homosexuals are human beings.

I have personally encountered this. In the oral argument in the Seventh Circuit in Christian Legal Society v. Walker, Judge Diane Wood expressed her view that Christian Legal Society members believe those who engage in homosexual conduct are "less than human." [Judge Wood ended up dissenting from the judgment of her two colleagues that Southern Illinois University violated the Constitution by withholding recognition from the CLS chapter on the ground that it allegedly "discriminated" on the basis of religion and "sexual orientation."]

Ms. Kolbert's email concludes as follows: "[Rev. Warren's] views on basic equality, human rights and core constitutional values cannot be legitimized as reasonable." Talk about "marginalizing." As Ms. Kolbert sees its, Rick Warren's views on marriage, abortion, and destructive embryonic stem cell research are so beyond the pale that he is not a fit participant in the public discussion. Indeed, he is not fit to perform a function (deliver the inaugural invocation) that almost certainly will have nothing to any of those issues.

As a matter of public argumentation, it is probably easier to slap unfair labels on your opponents than it is to take seriously and engage their arguments. And I realize that Ms. Kolbert's email is "preaching to the choir." Nonetheless, her over-the-top characterizations of those that disagree with her is not without social cost. It increases the polarization of our country and debases our national conversation about important issues. It's probably too much to ask that she tone it down a bit.

1 Comment:

J Lee said...

During the election, people said they wanted a more civil political system. That's why they chose Obama. So Obama is living up to his promises to bridge the gap, in his Cabinet appointments and his choice of Rick Warren for invocation at the inauguration. The shrill cries are coming from both the far right and far left, but it was the left who voted for Obama and talked so much about a new, more civilized politics.
Warren is a reasonable person. There is no excuse for such outcry. The fact that he disagrees with Obama on some things does not mean he should not be chosen to participate in politics with him. This is nuts. How can we ever hope to heal the rift in this nation with attitudes like that?