When I first heard that Pastor Rick Warren will issue the invocation at Obama's inauguration, I felt the slap that many of those in my LGBT community felt. However, I didn't respond right away. I didn't sign the petition demanding Obama withdraw that choice. Instead, I chose to delay my reaction until I'd had time to cool off and give it some thought. I'm glad I did, because Rev. Joseph Lowery is giving the benediction. Here's where my thoughts took me:
From the Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
"Invocation: a prayer of entreaty (as at the beginning of a service of worship)."
"Benediction: the invocation of a blessing ; especially
: the short blessing with which public worship is concluded."
So Pastor Rick, the gay-hater, will offer a prayer of entreaty at the beginning, and Dr. Lowery, the civil-rights icon, will offer the blessing on this administration.
Frankly, I think there's more power in blessing than in entreaty, so these folks were set in the right order.
I am also impressed with the courage that this choice demonstrates. I believe Mr. Obama knew what he was doing, and the reaction he would get, by choosing Warren. The LGBT community gave him significant support during the election, and I like to think we made a difference. I think Obama thinks we did, too.
Yet he is making a conscious choice to risk offending us, by welcoming the "other half" of America to his inauguration.
Contrast this to his predecessor, who never gave so much as a nod to those he doesn't like.
It seems to me that many in my community are calling for a simple changing of sides. We've been marginalized for the last eight years by the presidential administration, and now we want to marginalize the other side while getting some progress on our own issues. We want business as usual, just switching roles.
Obama is sending a clear signal that he wants to change the game. He is actually going beyond words to actions that show he is serious when he talks of uniting, rather than dividing. That he does see one America.
And the truth is, he needs both sides to have a truly successful administration. The crises this nation faces are a lot more serious than ENDA and marriage equality. Obama has reached out to the other side, and shown a willingness to listen to them.
I don't have to like it. I don't have to listen. If I were going to the Inauguration, I could stand and turn my back when Mr. Warren takes the microphone. I would seriously consider doing so, and I support anyone who does. But my situation is far different from that of the President of the United States.
And thank God, it looks like we're finally going to get an adult in the White House.