Being in the Middle Sucks


Yeah, I’ve noticed that I’ve not really been gifted with great titles and tag lines, oh well.

This is for those that thought that I was actually going to let President-elect Barack Obama’s announcement of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren go unnoticed, then this post is for you.

Flat out, it was a bad decision on Obama’s part.  There’s no liberal way around this.  I think liberals and most Democrats have a right to be disturbed by such a pick.  This is yet another slap in the face to many people who elected him.  I said that I was going to reserve ultimate judgment until after the customary first one hundred days, but I’m not totally convinced that I will end up giving a stellar report for Obama.

For anyone that read this blog knows that I officially got off the Obama bandwagon back when he threw Jeremiah Wright under the bus in April.  I alleged that Obama had no backbone and that now we couldn’t really trust him to take a stand for anything.  I went on charging against his “personal responsibility” tour where he went to Apostolic Church of God on Father’s Day and did various NAACP venues telling a bunch of uppity Negroes preaching to the choir about taking responsibility for their actions.  

I went off, I really wasn’t pleased.

He subsequently sent Hillary Clinton packing by June and accepted the nomination in August, and won the presidency on November 4th, 2008 at about 11pm Eastern Daylight Time.

Well, in the midst of cabinet picks that most certainly did not make me happy, particularly in light of Dark Ages of the last eight years where conservatism reigned supreme and we saw the birth of right wing media dominating thought in America, it really should not have been a surprise with the pick of Rick Warren as the pick for the inauguration.  I had one strong headed friend of mine say that “this is America’s inauguration, not Obama’s” when I said, due to Obama being religiously homeless more or less, Warren was a clergy member who entered into a conversation with him so it would stand to reason that Warren would be his pick.  I think my friend also forgot that liberals and conservatives alike, at their core, agree with most of Warren’s social issues.

rickI think ultimately what scares me about Rick Warren is the background that shaped his theology.  Primary among that is his Southern Baptist upbringing and the fact that he got his Master’s of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary down in Texas.  I mean, they are so conservative it would make James Dobson proud.  Another reason I get off the train with someone like Warren is because he appears to have bought into conservatism lock stock and barrel.  What I mean by that is his inability to question certain things and allow religion to inform too many of his decisions.  The cornerstone of conservative thought is the ability to have assured answers with no wiggle room, as opposed to the uncomfortability of liberalism that leads one to questions after questions.  Let us not forget that it was the Southern Baptists that opposed the magazine Gospel Today being sold in their Christian bookstores because the cover for the month of September featured women pastors, and they are still against women being fully ordained in the ministry.

Truth be told, most of us are for the idea of gay and lesbian marriage in theory, but when it comes to practice, it’s another story forcing many parents to have a conversation with their children that their parents were never forced to have.  Many of us say that we’re pro-choice, but if we as individuals were in that situation, then it’s another story.  Most of us say that we’re for this idea of wealth redistribution, but what if it’s us that the government began to levy taxes against.

Well, I think I’m skewed far enough to the left to say go ahead with all of that, some would even say that I have no boundaries.  I do, they’re probably just to far away for you to see just what my limit really is.  Suffice it to say, I’m quite sure that theologically and even socially Rick Warren and Atlanta pastor Rev. Joseph Lowery who is scheduled to give the invocation at the inauguration probably fall squarely in the same category.  So, Obama has placed himself squarely in the middle.

I like the middle–sometimes.

I like buffet style life–truly I do.  Cafeteria style, like at Picaddily’s doesn’t work for me because, I can’t go back and get something that I like, or put something to the side if I don’t like it.  Ryan’s or Golden Corral works fine because penultimately I can get a lot of what I like, and above all, I can choose whatever I like.  Now most Christians would think that’s one step removed from blasphemy.  Me and uppity Negress almost fell out in the movie theater the other day when I told her just how much we pick and choose biblical passages that we agree with and don’t (for those interested please see 1 Corinthians 14:34, Ephesians 6:5 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 and get back to me).  Usually when I pick a biblical passage I agree with, I usually preface it by saying that I “agree with the message being put forth in the ideas asserted by the author” in such a particular unit or pericope.  But picking and choosing somehow places one in the middle.

But, I was reminded that when it comes time to fight, the middle isn’t necessarily the best place to be.  Sometimes one has to take a stand.  No one wants to err on the side of the loser–as in the case with the King Committee chosing Rick Warren to be the keynote speaker for the Martin Luther King Day Event at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church on January 19, 2009 one day prior to inauguration on that Tuesday.

Yes, you read correctly, Rick Warren is speaking in the pulpit formerly co-pastored by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his annual birthday observance.

Well, again, I’m sure Warren and King and also Lowery probably agree for the most part on all of those social flashpoint issues, but a question I’d raise is would Rick Warren have marched with King or would he have taken a J. H. Jackson approach and say let it take its course.  Also, as I just got off the phone with a friend to tell him such disheartening news, honestly, why in the world would the King Committee allow for Warren of all people to speak in the face of such an historic day and such an historic day to follow–he said this year it should have been all black folk on the dais.  Not to say white folk wouldn’t have been able to give a good speech, but to top it all off, Warren isn’t even that great of a speaker.

I called up my friend to tell him the depressing news and he said that they have an interesting method of picking speakers.  He said they seem to go more for name recognition–especially the year they picked Bishop Eddie “I love muscle shirts” Long to deliver the keynote speech–rather than picking someone who would uphold the King legacy.  Last year I thought worked well because Obama was there on the Sunday, the day before King Day for regular Sunday service and the next day on King day, it worked with a mostly black dais, save Bill Clinton, especially with Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin bringing the crowd to their feet when she remarked that Obama’s presidency wasn’t a fairy tale.  And of course Bill looked like he wanted to slip out the side exit.

Clinton 2008


King Day

King Holiday

Obama 2008

[Yes, I’ve had these photos for a whole year and have been looking for an excuse to use them.]

But still, even personally, I would be willing to give Bill the pass if for no other reason than that he’s a good speaker and when he came down to Clark Atlanta University to campaign for former U.S. Senate candidate Jim Martin, and all the black folk in the West End were trying to go hear him speak following the election.   But, still after this election and in this cultural climate, what was the King Center and their committee thinking?!?!?!  What were they smoking?  I mean, they haven’t even asked the current pastor of Ebenezer to be the speaker.

Hopefully Warren gets no amens.

Or, one hopes to come up on the side of the winners as espoused in revelation to John and his letter to the Laodicean church that being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, you will be spat out.  

Honestly, I’m deathly afraid of Obama’s inability to pick sides.  It would have been nice if he had picked just one completely left wing nut seeing as how Bush went through Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft and still didn’t get it right with Alberto Gonzales, but he still kept Dick Cheney and Karl Rove close, there’s no one that promises to be the polar opposites of those fools.

Oh well.

It seems that now being in the middle sucks.  The picking and choosing doesn’t seem to work best now.  It seems as though many of us are trying to play poker while in fact we’re playing spades.  In poker one has the option to draw again or even fold and count you’re losses, but in spades, you’re forced to play the hand you’re dealt until the end of the game.  By in large it seems that far too many of us lack the discernment to recognise the difference between the two.  I hope that those that come after us don’t make the same mistake.

Any comments, particularly on the King Center choosing Rick Warren for the keynote speaker, just leave down in the comment section.  Thanks!

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

7 thoughts on “Being in the Middle Sucks

  1. Hi there!

    Thanks for sharing your positions on the Rick Warren situation! I took an entirely different stance at my blog with the post “Obama Holds The Door While Rick Warren Pours The Wine”.

    Rick Warren has roots in the Southern Baptist construct but EVERY SINGLE black denomination has had mechanisms in place to impede the elevation of black clergywomen for many, many years… there are A FEW who have been permitted to have influential positions…JUST A FEW. Just ask the old black clergywomen in EVERY black denomination and they will assure you that there has been purposeful exclusion of women that has taken place in the ranks of power.

    There is not ONE black denomination that is led by a women. Not one.

    It is so amazing to me that I hear black folks mentioniing that the Southern Baptists have historically been against the validation and elevation of women in ministry when EVERY SINGLE black denomination has had that same issue.

    Rick Warren is against gay marriage. The black church (as a whole) has always been and continues to be valiantly homophobic and anti-gay and anti-lesbian. Just ask the gay and lesbian Christians who are part of the black community what their experiences have been in every single black church they have been in and what the climate was towards gays and lesbians.

    Rick Warren is anti-abortion. The black church won’t even create recovery programs for black women who have HAD abortions, it is so anti-abortion. There is no conversation in the church ABOUT abortion, it is so repugnant in the minds of most who are in that setting. The black women who have had abortions have NO WHERE to turn within the church even while persons who have destroyed their lives with drugs and alcohol are welcomed into counseling and deliverance programs.

    The black church leadership from all parts of the country came to Washington two years ago to stand AGAINST the redefinition of marriage and it was covered by Charisma Magazine. How soon we forget…

    I think that whatever accusations that I hear black people launching against Rick Warren, they are not accepting that those same accusations are unaddressed in relation to the black church.

    The black church has not used appropriate or loving language in regards to gays and lesbians and NOT ONE black denomination has issued a written policy outlining their formal acceptance of ordained ministers performing marriage services for gays and lesbians OR ordaining gays and lesbians in the ministry. NOT ONE!

    I believe we need to recognize the positions that the black church has taken while holding the magnifying lens towards Saddleback Church and its leader.

    Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

    P.S. Just a reminder, the voting for The Weblog Awards starts at midnight and you are invited to vote for my blog! (smiles)

  2. I like this article. I personally feel like I am in the middle myself… I hail from a staunchly Christian family, so my political and social views are somewhat conservative. Since I choose to base my opinions solely on what the Bible says, I guess I’m right wing, but I have often wondered how some people can pick and choose which bible verses they’ll live by. Hence the lukewarm phenomenon that you mentioned.

    Matters become even more complicated once questionable clergy become involved (e.g. Eddie Long). It makes it difficult to discern who is really for the truth and who is for sifting the Gospel to make it more profitable… Anyhoo. I’m all for fairness, but I guess that if I had to choose a side, it’s whatever side that most correlates with my religious beliefs. I feel that ultimately it becomes an issue of whether or not I have to compromise my faith in order to appease a social group, and I’m just not there yet… I’m receiving advice from all kinds of people with all kinds of political views, but I have yet to be swayed.

  3. You are from the “CHI” you had to have known Obama was going to rule from the middle. He is not the rock the boat kinda guy. Even his picks show that. He picked people that are essentially going to be Project Managers. They are not going to D.C. to shake things up. But lets be honest, no real politician is…..

  4. @co

    Therein lies my SEVERE and UTTER disappointment. Hell, if he doesn’t do something different, forget uppity Negro, I’m about to be Disillusioned Negro.

  5. Great post. Thanks for the information about Rick Warren and his King Day invitation to key-note speak. Is Warren is old enough to have at least considered being on the right side of history during the turbulent late 1960s, 1970s? Has his thoughts on liberation theology softened?

    Being uppity has its own built in disillusionment. Be not dismayed, God is not mocked.

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