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?