12/20/2008

Susan Russell's Open Letter to President-elect Obama.

My PhotoSusan Russell has published an open letter to the President-elect concerning the choice of Rick Warren as the person to offer the invocation at the inauguration.  It is a fine letter, well crafted and to the point. 
Pastor Rick Warren was a bad choice, but there it is. We remember that candidate Obama listened to many religious voices, including Bishop Robinson. Bishop Robinson endorsed Senator Obama. Senator Obama was also interviewed by Rick Warren. I thought at the time that we live in strange times when candidates for a secular job that is deliberately separated from religious affiliation or organization are brought in for interview by religious leaders.  The difference between the two visits seems to be that the visits with Bishop Robinson were personal and hopefully spiritual and the visit with Rick Warren was considered a political necessity. So Rick Warren may be a bad choice, but it seems to have come from political need.
It is quite appropriate then to criticize that choice as a political act, quite independent of its spiritual or religious meaning. 

 We ougth also to pray for Rick Warren, that we live in hope that God will so guide his prayers that they speak for all of us, include all of us, and voice our desire that God's blessings be upon our new President and upon the people of this Country, all of them, and all the peoples of the world. 
Here is Susan Russell's letter. It came from HERE.
Dear President-elect Obama,

I'm sure you're hearing from a great many voices around the country this week about your choice of Rick Warren to offer the invocation at the upcoming inauguration. I am writing today to add my voice to those expressing regret at the choice and concern that the message being sent by the elevation of someone with Pastor Warren's values of narrow exclusionism to the "bully pulpit" of Inauguration Day.
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I believe that reaching across the divide to include a strong, evangelical voice in the opening moments of your presidency is not just a good political move, it is a considered policy choice that helps bind up the wounds of a divisive campaign and eight years of polarization, preparing us as a nation to move forward together to solve the many problems that challenge us. This effort to begin your administration by representing differences of opinion in the selection of a pastor whose theological perspectives are different than your own is something I enthusiastically applaud.
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The choice of Rick Warren is not. I agree with my Episcopal brother Bishop Gene Robinson, who said yesterday, "I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table, but we’re not talking about a discussion, we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history."

Rick Warren is a not only a vocal opponent of LGBT equality who does not believe in evolution, he has compared abortion to the Holocaust and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His views are far outside the religious mainstream and his credentials are steeped in an “Old Time Religion” of narrow exclusionism that ill prepares us for the challenges of the 21st century.

There are many fine, strong, evangelical voices in this country who do not carry Warren's baggage of having been one of the generals in the culture wars. Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren and Jim Wallis are names that come immediately to mind -- pastors who have balanced the challenge of bridging differences while standing firmly in their evangelical tradition.
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It is true that the unfortunate choice of Rick Warren is particularly painful to LGBT Americans who have experienced first-hand the destructive impact of pastors like Warren who preach “family values” while practicing discrimination against gay and lesbian families. But it should also be a cause for concern to any American concerned that the exclusionism represented by Rick Warren is antithetical to the core values of inclusion, tolerance and the celebration of difference that so historically mark your embryonic administration.
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I'm still setting my Pacific Standard Time alarm early on January 20th to make sure I don't miss a moment of Inauguration Day. I'm still profoundly hopeful at the new beginning we will celebrate together as Americans on that day as we work together to become a nation where “liberty and justice for all” is not just a pledge but a practice.
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But I pray that as we make that journey forward together, as you make the considered choices you will make about who prays God's blessing on America you will consider ALL Americans as you make those choices -- and you will consider that we can do better than Rick Warren. Yes we can. Yes we can.

Faithfully,
The Reverend Susan Russell
President, Integrity USA

26 comments:

  1. Susan Russell's letter is calmer and more reasoned than I might have been able to manage. I am horrified by the choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation.

    By the way, Obama is in favor of science education - Rick Warren preaches against evolution - literally, that people and dinosaurs were on the earth at the same time. (Just check the Saddleback website.)What can be gained by giving this backward thinker such a stage?

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  2. I've been reading the varying opinions on the choice of Warren. So far I have seen Obama upset people on both sides because of his "across the board" approach to appointments.

    Warren, while very conservative theologically, is also a radical among Protestants. He gives 90% of his income and lives on 10%. He focuses on those who Jesus served.

    Okay, okay. His living on 10% would look VASTLY different that this pastor's family of seven in rural Oklahoma living on 10%. I do understand that you can't compare it across the board.

    I guess what I'm saying is that I understand both sides. I'm not defending the decision, but someone was going to be hurt no matter who was chosen.

    Granted, I'm tired of the LGBT being the brunt of that hurt. Maybe I DO have an opinion?

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  3. "...we work together to become a nation where “liberty and justice for all” is not just a pledge but a practice."

    Amen!

    If it was up to me, there would be a number of people representing a variety of faith traditions, Christian and not, offering invocations for the leadership of this most cosmopolitan of all nations.
    How about a minister, a pastor, a priest, a rabbi, a mullah, and maybe even some representatives from the growing Hindu and Buddhist populations, and from the Native American tribes? They all live here, pay taxes, and their members who made the ultimate sacrifice rest in our military cemeteries.

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  4. Since I can't remember the name of anyone who delivered the invocation at any presidential inauguration, I'm thinking that, in the long term, this may not matter either.

    Not that I'm happy about it. . .

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  5. I think Susan has written a superb letter. I also think, however, that now that the invitation has been made and accepted, it would be ungracious (to say the least) for that invitation to be rescinded. We've had enough experience of that in our own denomination, have we not?

    So the question I have is how do we extend hospitality and love in a way that changes hearts and minds, if not of Rick Warren, then of the many, many people who agree with him? I think being consumed by anger is not going to help. I can understand it, but it's going to work against our best interests -- everyone's best interests. I hope that as this invitation settles in, we can all take a deep breath and figure out how to turn this to our advantage.

    -Laura

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  6. How about this for a REALLY radical idea-keep church and state separate and don't invite ANYBODY to give ANY 'invocation'?
    Could I get an amen?

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  7. Isn't Susan Russell herself just as guilty of narrow exclusionism by deeming someone unfit to take part in the inauguration if they do not share her views on gay rights?

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  8. "...don't invite ANYBODY to give ANY 'invocation'?"

    Won't work. That's favoring secularism. A better idea is EVERYBODY, including the secularists.

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  9. Brian,

    Uh...yeah. Because being intolerant of intolerance is, uh... intolerant. Yeah, that's it.*

    I now expect you to invite a white supremacist as a guest preacher at your church. 'Cause if you don't, then you're intolerant.

    *(sarcasm aside, what it really represents is an example of a Straw Man fallacy)

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  10. Naturally one hates to be abrupt but no, that's not 'secularism', that's the constitution.
    There is no clause 'so help me God.' in the Presidential oath/affirmation. If someone chooses not to say the words "so help me God", he/she's only reading the Constitution; she/he's not eliminating anything, promoting secularism or insulting American values. That's the way the writers of the constitution wrote it, doubtless hoping to avoid the idiocies they'd seen or heard of in the rest of the world with heads of state "God's annointed", "The Son of Heaven" or "The Shadow of Allah on Earth".
    Likewise if a President/Governor/Dog Catcher chooses not to have an invocation, that's his/her business. If believers want to pray for him/her, that's their business.
    You'd think Roger Williams and Thomas Jefferson had never existed.

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  11. Having "everybody" give an invocation would take up most of his first term.
    The country is so deep in debt, we're about to solve our energy problem by reaching the Earth's core. Keep it simple, quick-and cheap. It's not a coronation. He's not being annointed or invested. There's no laying on of hands involved or apostolic succession. One of the
    great things about our constitution is that it's republican, not monarchical (although with Princess Caroline saying she'll think about a Senate seat, this may need reinforcing).

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  12. Touching on Padre Micky's comment, I still recall that right after Mr Bush's first inauguration a priest commenting that he really liked and agreed with Franklin Graham's invocation in which he indicated that Mr Bush was president because God wanted him to be president. So it does have effect!

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  13. So Susan Russell objects to Rick Warren because of his heinous sins of boldly opposing the GLBT's agenda on same sex unions, of preaching creation instead of evolution, and of comparing the national disgrace of abortion to the Holocaust (just how many babies have been executed in the womb so far?, the number is probably beginning to be of a similar scale to the number of Jews slaughtered during WWII).

    All of these reasons would be good enough for me to applaud PE Barack Obama's choice.

    She claims that he is outside mainstream religion? As if PECUSA still represents mainstream religion - she needs to get a reality check.

    And Vicki Gene Robinson seems to welcome Rick Warren to the table, but doesn't want him to have a voice - how inclusive and loving is that? Not!

    And Susan includes Brian McLaren among the many fine evangelicals she would have proposed give the invocation. From what I've read of McLaren's writings he is not what I (and I'm sure many others including Packer, Stott, Carson or Jensen for that matter) understand a true evangelical to be. Perhaps the term means something different in the US to what it means in the UK and Australia

    It just goes to show that one's view of whether this man is a good choice or not is determined by your views on same sex relationships - and there is no happy via media on that issue.

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  14. I'm sure there were a few bishops out there ready with the holy oil just in case the current President Bush wanted to take his claims to divine commission to the next step.

    Indeed, I also remember more than a few evangelicals claiming that Bush was appointed by God and that not-quite-win in 2000 was the proof that his mandate was Divine, not merely popular.

    I still think a blessing from an imam, a Buddhist monk, a Hindu priest, and a shaman would be appropriate in addition to the usual evangelical preacher augmented (maybe) by a rabbi and an RC priest. Not convenient or efficient, but appropriate.

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  15. What about a Native American invocation? It can be rotated from tribe to tribe to include all tribes through the course of the years. After all they were here first and TEC issued an apology of sorts to them. I'm sure my Cherokee ancestors would think that it was an honor or that at least justice was being done.
    Brian M.

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  16. So Susan Russell objects to Rick Warren because of his heinous sins of boldly opposing the GLBT's agenda on same sex unions. . .

    Yes, by golly, boldly proclaiming the status quo, the prophet of human beings as reproduction machines!

    . . of preaching creation instead of evolution . .

    The eighth sacrament: Ignorance! Yay!

    . . and of comparing the national disgrace of abortion to the Holocaust (just how many babies have been executed in the womb so far?, the number is probably beginning to be of a similar scale to the number of Jews slaughtered during WWII).

    And, of course, we know that because you good orthodox "christians" never, ever let yourselves, shall we say, inflate numbers, or engage in a little hysteria-inducing propaganda?


    You neither get, nor care, how offensive and hurtful he - and you - are to us.

    That's not a Christian, no matter how much you say "Lord! Lord!."

    Feh.

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  17. MarkBrunson - thankyou for your response to my criticisms of Susan Russells letter.

    How do you substantiate your claim that Rick Warren is the prophet of human beings as reproduction machines? Human beings are complex creatures made in the image of God, and our relationships are for more than reproduction alone.

    I am only aware of two sacraments - Baptism and Holy Communion, ignorance is certainly not to be desired nor is blessed by God, but blindly following an atheistic evolutionist ideology is certainly an indication of ignorance.

    What statistics on abortion do you have that back up your claim that I am exagerating? From abortionfacts.com, I find that the average number of legal abortions conducted in the USA since 1980 1,326,000 per year. johnstonarchives.net shows that the number has reduced slightly to average 903,000 per year since 1998 but this is still a shameful number of executions. So during the last 28 years there have been over 33,000,000 people executed in the womb. This is actually far more than I had first imagined, and is more than 5 times the number of Jews executed in the concentration camps during WWII. How can the matter of abortion not be considered to be worse than the Holocaust?

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  18. Brian,

    Whether you like it or not, your minimalist approach to marriage reduces humans to breeding machines. Cattle.

    It's what you're saying, regardless of intent.

    Second, why should I trust any statistics you present? What reason should we have to trust you, when you tell us how much you care about and love us, how you're not damaging us and we see that you lie about something that basic? It's a fact, not open for debate.

    I'm done treating you people as if you were coming from a rational, defensible position. Your behavior is damaging and dangerously delusional.

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  19. I'm always struck by the fact thatwe only ever refer to one f the groups of victms of Hitler's evil.

    Certainly the Jews were the largest class of victims of the Holocaust. But it always seems wrong to me that we should forget the Romany (Gypsies), the mentally challenged, the political dissenters.

    Oh, and the homosexuals. References to Hitler's death camps shouldn't leave out the homosexuals.

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  20. Dear MarkBrunson - in the interests of arriving at the truth of the matter, I am keen for you to post the statistics you have on abortion in the USA over the last 30 years. It is not sufficient for you to claim that the stats I've presented from two different websites are wrong if you are unable to provide alternative figures. If you are unable to do so, then it is you who has an indefensible irrational position.

    Malcolm+ - I agree with you, but the problem is that it's only the 6m figure that sticks in the public mind, and the Jews seem to be better organised at holding the memory of their holocaust in the public memory. Could you enlighten us how many of the others were also slaughtered? Or are they included in the total of 6m but the Jews have appropriated that total number of deaths to themselves entirely?

    I wish everyone here a very blessed Christmas and New Year, growing in your knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus Christ

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  21. Finally had time to look at the sites you pulled your "statistics" from, there, Brian - one an anti-abortion website run by a couple of men named Monahan, the other - johnstonarchives.net - says there's no domain by that name.

    Ignorance. Willful ignorance on your part, Brian. Worse, you spread that misinformation as some warped "ministry."

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  22. BrianF,

    Not even a good try.

    You're talking fantasy, a bad dream pulled from people in the same delusion.

    Join us in reality and stop being a danger to self and others.

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  23. Brian,

    I did finally find Johnston's Archive (after putting in the "s" you ommitted).

    Do you really think I should accept the validity of statistics by a doctoral student whose areas are in physics and astronomy and whose bias is clear?

    Of course not.

    More participatory delusion.

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  24. Mark Brunson - you haven't even begun to answer the question but only made ad hominen attacks - good one sir!, I repeat the question - what statistics do you have on abortions in the United States over the last 30 years? Any thing substantial from you? ...... zzz .... zzz...

    no, i thought not.

    The only ones being destroyed here are the babies in the womb while society including ECUSA sits back not merely silently, but actually assisting the organisations which counsel abortion for unexpectedly pregnant young mums

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  25. The best figure I've seen for the Gypsies is about 450,000.

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  26. Well, you're right, Brian, I'm not giving you a rational answer because you're simply not inhabiting a rational or real world. I won't treat you as if you are. You've presented no real statistics or answers, yourself, just propaganda, then insist others prove themselves in a delusional paranoid world you and your fellow right-wingers have created.

    Nonsense, Brian. I think that this is just a sort of ego self-stroking for you, since you know you have no real input over what goes on over here. I doubt you see that, but you're simply spinning projections here.

    You're simply dwelling in fantasy and paranoia. When you actually operate from something approaching reality, you'll be able to converse.

    Until then, I will simply tell you that you are dwelling in fantasy.

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