US President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Rick Warren, a controversial anti-abortion priest Rick Warren to deliver invocation at his inaugural on Jan.20.
Liberals are dismayed by the move. They charge the incoming president with bending backwards to please the conservative lobby.
The choice of Warren is not only a slap in the face to progressive ministers toiling on the front lines of advocacy and service, but a bow to the continuing influence of the religious right in American politics, says Sarah Posner, writing in The Nation.
Warren vocally opposes gay marriage, does not believe in evolution, has compared abortion to the Holocaust and backed the assassination of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Warren has done a masterful job at marketing himself as ''new'' kind of evangelical with a ''broader agenda'' than just fighting abortion rights and gay marriage. He dispatches members of his congregation to Africa to perform AIDS relief and has positioned himself as a great crusader for bringing his ''purpose-driven'' pabulum to the world.
And that earned him an opportunity to host a discussion with Obama during the election campaign, when he sought to pin Obama on abortion issues and challenged him to ruminate on the nature of evil.
Later Warren went to great lengths to assert that the only difference between him and James Dobson, a rabid conservative preacher, was that of ''tone.''
He had also called upon his followers to vote for Proposition 8 banning gay marriages in California.
''There are about 2 percent of Americans are homosexual, gay, lesbian people. We should not let 2 percent of the population change a definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture and every single religion for 5,000 years, '' Warren said and called opposition to gay marriage a ''humanitarian issue'' because ''God created marriage for the purpose of family, love and procreation.''
Warren, a creationist, believes that homosexuality disproves evolution; he told CNN's Larry King in 2005, ''If Darwin was right, which is survival of the fittest then homosexuality would be a recessive gene because it doesn't reproduce and you would think that over thousands of years that homosexuality would work itself out of the gene pool.''
He says gay marriages are indistinguishable from an adult marrying a child, a brother marrying his sister, or polygamy. He thinks his AIDS relief efforts represent an elevated form of Christianity over those non-evangelical do-gooders whom he compares to ''Marxists'' because they're more interested in good works than salvation.
The rejection of the ''social justice'' gospel in favor of the salvation-focused evangelicalism that has come to dominate the definition of ''Christian'' lies at the heart of the religious right agenda to marginalize liberalism and harness its political power.
Warren represents the absolute worst of the Democrats' religious outreach, slams Sarah Posner.
But by nominating Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa and who has longstanding ties to agribusiness interests, as agriculture secretary, Obama has already raised concerns among his liberal supporters.
At the end of the day then, We Can could remain mere election rhetoric.