Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Bigoted Pastor Warren: Obama's Got A Nice Smile, But That's a Spotlight Behind Him, Not A Halo.

The Obama campaign brought together millions of people around the country who, for the first time in years, got mobilized, got involved. Obama now is in the position of trying to control those same people and prevent them from continuing to act as a grassroots organization. So I keep getting e-mails from the Obama folks asking me to join them in doing something -- contributing to food banks, for example. Well that's good, but it actually would be better to get out and demand jobs and an end to the war, which is what the Obama team does not want us to do.

And now we learn that Obama has chosen the Bigoted Pastor Warren from Orange County California, or "the Reichland" as most people call it, the territory "Behind the Orange Curtain," to preach to the world at Obama's inauguration. Obama decided to honor this man by giving him an international audience with the apparent approval of Obama to preach to the world, lead by example, tell it like it is.

Except that for the Bigoted Pastor Warren, what it is is this: he's a bigot. He does not believe in equal rights or civil rights or constitutional rights for women or gays. Couldn't Obama have found some other preacher, maybe one who wasn't quite so rich? Since when were Christians supposed to act like CEOs, always out soliciting money, building bigger temples in which to be worshipped, buying TV time to convince poor people that if they only send the Bigoted Pastor Warren some money, everything in their lives will be okay. God will make it so.

These mega-preachers live more like rock stars than like people concerned with morality. Tell me the difference between a religious book tour and a rock-n-roll tour? Big stadiums, big bucks, some dude up on stage while thousands worship at his feet, screaming. Usually white, middle-aged men on stage getting all the adoration and taking all the money. Probably they just couldn't sing, but would not give up their dream of living like a rock star. So they picked up a Bible instead of a guitar.

There is no question that there are priests, rabbis, mullahs, ministers, preachers all over this country who are decent honest people, preaching whatever their religious views are in small congregations with working class people. So why pick a guy who is the symbol of the most ostentatious county in the country, the most right-wing segregated Republican county, the mega-church dude, someone whose views of religion involve lots of attention to himself, lots of fundraising. It's all about money. Whatever happened to vows of poverty?

And where are the women religious speakers? Does "change" begin and end with Obama, but everything else will be the same, everyone other than white men will continue to be excluded from -- everything?

If Bush had chosen a pastor who had a segregated church and promoted segregation, there would have been an uproar, and there should be one around this guy Warren. The fact that much of the country may agree with him does not mean it's okay to deny an unpopular segment of the population their basic constitutional and civil rights. I think Obama's real message is that he's a politician, he wants to keep some support from some conservative groups, and he's willing to throw over gays in order to get it.

Of course the bigger problem here is the dangerous alliance between our federal government and the big business of religion which has gotten much bigger and richer thanks to George W. Bush giving taxpayer money to the churches. In a way, religion has usually aligned itself with the powerful forces in society as one more institution that can keep people in line. The government can arrest and imprison people, employers can fire them or work them to death, and the church can scare them into obedience by tales of the horrors of hell. So it should not be surprising to see most religions closely aligned with the federal government.

However, the new policy of actually giving taxpayer money to churches is a dangerous violation of our constitution. Go to the federal Department of Labor website and see their prominent promotion of "faith-based" labor programs: You Too Can Become A Rich Minister And Preach In Mega-Temples Or At Important Inaugurations.

By Obama bringing a mega-church leader into his inauguration, this signals that he plans to continue to give my money to religions despite constitutional prohibitions on doing so. Remember, these religions can receive millions or even hundreds of millions of dollar in income, but they pay no taxes. They have more in common with hedge and private equity funds, and the Wall Street Criminals, than with poor Jesus. What change?

Obama's got a nice smile, but that's a spotlight behind him, not a halo.

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