Sitting Down (Or Praying) with Enemies

Let's be clear: Warren's views on gays are wrong. Indefensibly wrong, as a matter of fact. I'm as sure of that as I am of any moral claim. But I think Obama's reaching out to him by having him at the inauguration is defensible.

Plenty of people think abortion is wrong. Plenty are quite certain it isn't. Plenty on each side think it is immoral to hold the other side's view. (For my part, I think it should be legal, and is probably immoral, so I'm sympathetic to both sides). No argument in our lifetime is going to convince the entirety of one of these groups that the other side has been right all along. We are not going to achieve unity on the issue of abortion. If we refuse to stand with, talk with, try to understand everyone with whose moral views we disagree with, we will have (in the case of abortion) two permanently irreconcilable sides. And we will get nowhere.

Let's ask another quesiton: should Rick Warren appear with Obama? Let's say that Rich Warren's denigration of gays is wrong. Let's say, too, that abortion is wrong -- that it's murder, as Warren believes it to be (and this is by no means an indefensible view). If both of those are right, then Obama's endorsement of abortion is worse than Warren's endorsement of Prop 8. While both are wrong, murder is surely worse than preventing marriages. Warren has more reason not to stand with Obama than Obama has not to stand with Warren. Warren is reaching out. So should we.

It may well be true that abortion is not immoral, in which case Obama has more reason to refuse to stand with Warren. By refusing though to reach out, though, he loses a chance to find any common ground and to work together to bring about common goals (and they do have some common goals).

Obama was elected on the premise that he would reach out to red states, and that he'd negotiate with our enemies abroad. We have tried not speaking to those whom we find morally in error, and we have ended up with a divided country and angry world. Granted, Obama probably should not have Ahmadinejad pray with him at his inaugural. But I think we can safely say that most of us in the U.S. have a lot more moral common ground with Warren and his followers than with Ahmedinejad. (Warren, presumably, has never suggested a country be wiped off the map, for one.) But by reaching out in different ways to those with whom he (and we) disagree, we're at least trying something new.

Abortion, as I said, will likely remain a divisive issue. I don't think gay marriage will. It is my hope and expectation that in 20 years, opposition to gay marriage will be as marginal as opposition to interracial marriage is today. We might be able to speed that process if our opponents at least feel as if they are being listened to, even if not agreed with.


  1. Somewhat OT, but the Duggans of Arkansas just had baby #18, a girl. I'm sure they're pleased with Obama's choice.


  2. I have no idea who the Duggans of Arkansas are.

  3. They are fundamentalist homeschoolers who belong to the "Quiverful Movement" that believes that parents should have as many children as God blesses them with. They have a program on TLC that I have never seen and their own website. I read the following on the Internet regarding Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar: "Your uterus is not a clown car." They are real estate agents, and he is a former state legislator. And every child's name begins with "j".