Barack Obama has chosen evangelical pastor and author Rick Warren to deliver the convocation at his presidential inauguration next month. His choice is part of an overall effort by the left to reach out to evangelical Christians, which if successful would permanently worsen national electoral prospects for Republicans.
In offering him the honor of delivering the invocation, Obama flatters Warren by courting his favor. In Rev. Warren’s acceptance, Obama is gaining a kind of moral endorsement of his presidency from an iconic evangelical leader. This is a shrewd political decision by Obama.
It is remarkable that while Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, delivered George W. Bush‘s inaugural convocation in 2000, Rick Warren will deliver Barack Obama’s in 2008. If Rev. Billy Graham – and by extension Franklin Graham – symbolized evangelicalism in the last generation, Rick Warren represents the faith to many in this generation. Warren’s devotional book, The Purpose-Driven Life, is one of the most successful non-fiction books of all time with more than 30 million copies sold. His mega-church in Southern California is home to tens of thousands of weekly worshipers and Warren hosted one of the more widely acclaimed debates of this year’s presidential campaign.
While Warren strongly supports traditional marriage and the right to life, Obama and company no doubt feel their best bet to connect with Warren and his followers is on issues like poverty, AIDS and the environment. Those issues are of course typically associated with mainline Protestantism and political liberalism, but the left is working hard to put this on evangelicals’ list of priorities, and to make sure they see the issue their way (i.e. more government activism to solve these problems).
There is so much more to be said on this subject, but I’ll have to leave it at that. Hopefully, Warren has accepted Obama’s offer for all the right reasons. But you can be sure Obama’s were carefully calculated.