From The Department of Dubious Complaints

I’ll concede that those who are upset about Rick Warren giving the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration have a point when it comes to his views about homosexuality, but this complaint seems a bit beyond sanity:

I’ll grant that appointing a creationist to give the invocation is not exactly the same as appointing him science adviser, but if it represents the “spirit” of Mr. Obama’s administration, then I am not, shall we say, optimistic that Mr. Obama is truly the agent for change that he purports to be.

I dare say virtually all Christian (Catholic, Orthodox, mainline or evangelical), Jewish, and Muslim spiritual leaders of any repute are–pretty much by definition–creationists of various stripes. Now, if the compliant is that Warren is a young-earth creationist who believes the biblical account of creation is inerrant, that might be a reasonable complaint, but the idea that any creationist shouldn’t speak at Obama’s inauguration strikes me as borderline nutty.

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Chris Lawrence
About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (with concentrations in American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi. He began writing for OTB in June 2006. Follow him on Twitter @lordsutch.


  1. steve s says:

    While I agree with you that the complaint is a bit strained, I have to correct you on this line:

    I dare say virtually all Christian (Catholic, Orthodox, mainline or evangelical), Jewish, and Muslim spiritual leaders of any repute are—pretty much by definition—creationists of various stripes.

    Scientists–of which I used to be an extremely minor one–generally distinguish three broad cases: 1 evolutionist 2 theistic evolutionist 3 creationist. Most of the intelligent spiritual leaders fall into the ‘theistic evolutionist’ category. T.E.’s believe that evolution happened, but was guided in some vague and unspecified way by god. A rough description of the terms would be something like

    evolutionist: life evolved.
    theistic evolutionist: life evolved with nudges and guidance from god.
    creationist: life didn’t evolve, god poofed everything into existence more or less as we see it today.

    Most intelligent religious people accept that evolution is happening / has happened, and about 40-50% of American biologists, of whom about 99% support evolution, are christians. You could say that technically T.E’s are creationists, and I understand the argument, but since they generally don’t try to disrupt science education we don’t put them in the creationist category. It’s a functional definition. We generally reserve the word ‘creationist’ for people who would throw biology textbooks into a bonfire and just tell students “god did it.” Sarah Palin, Pat Buchanan, Sam Brownback types.

    Even though Rick Warren is pretty odious, it doesn’t bother me that Obama’s giving him a symbolic position, because Obama’s incredibly pragmatic and throughout his life he has bent over backwards to unite people, even when he didn’t have to. Obama’s much nicer than I would be. I’d tell Warren where to stick it, and go with a Unitarian pastor who doesn’t hate so many of his fellow citizens.

    PS if you’re interested in creationism/evolution, click on the link on my name. I help run a website where a hundred or so science types hang out and talk about (make fun of) the latest creationist babblings.

  2. Bithead says:

    but the idea that any creationist shouldn’t speak at Obama’s inauguration strikes me as borderline nutty.

    And can you imagine, Chris, what the reason behind that objection might be… and thereby what their purposes are in that vocal objection?

  3. Franklin says:

    As a self-described left-leaning moderate who is probably closer to agnostic than anything else, I will apologize for this complaining idiot Matt Young.

    It’s an invocation, for God’s (or gods’, or Pete’s) sake. What, does this guy want an atheist to perform it?

  4. Mithras says:

    Was this supposed to be clever? It failed. Plenty of religious leaders believe in evolution; Warren doesn’t. He thinks all life on the planet was created just as it exists now by virtue of a wave of the Invisible Cloud Buddy’s magic wand, or staff, or whatever. That’s a really stupid, retrograde thing for him to believe. We just finally shucked off 8 years of rule by a chief executive who was dumber than dirt and who embraced this sort of idiotic anti-scientific thinking. It kind of sucks to have a proponent of it kick off the new era. But whatever, you’re a political science prof, did you ever even take a biology course?

  5. My point is that “creationism” is an awfully broad term; as I said in the post, if Young wants to complain that Warren is a young-earth creationist who believes that the account in Genesis is exactly how human life came to exist on Earth, that’s a legitimate complaint, but the word “creationist” encompasses a broad variety of views from “young-earth creationism” to “old-earth creationism” to Deism, some of which are compatible (at least) with the observed fossil record and microevolution.

    In other words, Young could have complained that Warren doesn’t accept evolution and I’d have no problem with the idea that Obama should invite a mainstream Protestant or Catholic (or whatever) who does accept evolution (or “theistic evolution” as Steve put it, since presumably evolution narrowly defined doesn’t admit any role for God before at least the formation of Earth ca. 4.5-5 billion years ago) to give the invocation. But that’s not Young’s complaint as articulated.

    And I dare say I know more about biology and evolution than the typical nitwit pseudonymous commenter.

  6. anjin-san says:

    I am not sure what the fuss is about. While I don’t agree with Warren’s veiews, I am encouraged that Obama does not seem to want to play the traditional game of exiling everyone not marching in lockstep with him to political Siberia.

    There is also the point that Warren and the members of his church are entitled to their views. I may regard some of them as misguided, and I may work to prevent them from enacting their political agenda, but the fact that I disagree with them does not mean they should be excluded.