The Times Finally Finds a "Furor" Around an Obama Pastor

Not the anti-American Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but the anti-gay marriage Rev. Rick Warren.

The headline over Jeff Zeleny and David Kirkpatrick's Saturday story intrigued: "Obama's Choice of Pastor Creates Furor." Was the Times belatedly digging into the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's anti-American conspiracies, a topic it had scrupulously glossed over during it's pro-Obama campaign coverage?

Nope. The pastor in question was the Rev. Rick Warren, California pastor, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life" and the president-elect's choice to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. The furor this time is coming from the gay left and is based on Warren's support for California's successful Proposition 8, which made gay marriage unconstitutional in the state.

The paper demonstrated its usual slant with an overload of Christian "conservative" labeling versus a single mention of "liberal and gay rights groups" outraged at the Warren pick. In a story ostensibly about liberal opposition to Warren, conservative labels still outpaced liberal ones 7-1.

With his choice of the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama has found himself enmeshed in a new controversy involving a pastor, facing criticism this time from liberal and gay rights groups outraged at the idea of including the evangelical pastor at a Democratic celebration.

Mr. Obama's forceful defense of Mr. Warren, the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," has signaled an intent to continue his campaign's effort to woo even theologically conservative Christians. As his advisers field scores of calls from Democrats angry because Mr. Warren is an outspoken opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, Mr. Obama has insisted that a range of viewpoints be expressed at the inauguration festivities next month in Washington.


Among Christian conservatives, reaction to Mr. Warren's acceptance of the invitation to deliver a marquee prayer at Mr. Obama's inauguration was subdued or supportive, perhaps in part because few Christian leaders are inclined to publicly criticize someone with enormous popularity among American Protestants of all stripes.

Some politically minded Christian conservatives took a cynical view of Mr. Obama's motivations.

"In my view, the new president is trying to exploit Warren," Gary L. Bauer, the Christian conservative organizer and former Republican presidential candidate, wrote on Friday in an e-mail newsletter. He urged supporters not to take Mr. Warren's role as an endorsement, calling attention to Mr. Obama's distance from the pastor on social issues.

The paper briefly mentioned Wright in an attempt to make a dueling pastors' parallel between the Wright and Warren controversies, but didn't describe Wright's inflammatory statements like "God damn America," benignly referring to Wright's "sermons on race and patriotism."

It is not Mr. Obama's first brush with trouble at the intersection of religion and politics. In his presidential campaign, he struggled with how to handle his longtime Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose sermons on race and patriotism stirred outrage.

The Times article also made no mention that Obama himself is against gay marriage (he does oppose a constitutional ban) and that his opposition to California's Proposition 8 was rather muted- or that it may well have been an influx of new black voters in California (who opposed Prop. 8 by a 70%-30% margin in some exit polls) that pushed the measure over the top in the first place.