Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rick Warren and the Challenge of The Other

I startled myself with my response to the whole Rick Warren invocation business.  Much to my surprise, I didn't mind that he was doing it.  Partly because I trust Obama and I'm interested to watch his decision-making for a while before I start criticizing it.  So, if there's something in the man, Rick Warren, that Obama supports, then I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But also because I don't think that the issue here is really about gay marriage or the separation of Church and State, or any of the other hot buttons being pressed. I think it's even bigger than that.

I think the most revolutionary part of the whole Warren moment is that we have lost the ability to disagree with each other in a civil and respectful manner - much less maintain a sense of The Other's humanity. We don't believe anymore that those with whom we fundamentally disagree are worthy of our respect, much less our ability to empathize with their position.

I think what Obama is trying to do is model something incredibly powerful. He's saying we can rise above identifying with even our most fundamentally held beliefs for the sake of the greater good. We don't have to cast aside our beliefs, but there is a also a common place beyond them, and it's only in working from that place - all of us together - that we're going to be able to successfully address all the gigantic challenges we're facing.

He's provoking us to think in hard, painful, revolutionary and ultimately exciting ways.  The first question for each of us is: Am I up to the task?  


  1. Hi Kathryn,
    Well said, as usual. You put your finger on it. Rabbi Michael Lerner says that the left can't concede spirituality to the right wing. And Rick Warren is in so many ways a reformist on the evangelical scene. Part of being connected to the sense of awe and joy for life itself, is being able to transcend ENORMOUS differences. Good for you.

  2. Well said, as usual, Kathryn. Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun notes that the Left cannot concede spirituality to the right wing. Rick Warren, moreover is a reformist in the evangelical scene- he does not believe the bible ought to be used to block off all free thought.Lerner talk about how even atheists( or especially, as the case may be) acknowledge feeling, at moments an awe and wonder for life itself, for nature, for all of creation. What is this sense of wonder for if not to help us transcend ENORMOUS, GAPING differences?