Warrenology: A science?
Until he actually stood to deliver at the inauguration, a great many of us thought Warren was a contender for the “America’s Pastor” role created by the Rev. Billy Graham. As Beliefnet’s Steven Waldman explained:
[Graham] pulled it off by using broadly inclusive language. In 1989 he referred just to “God” and in 1993 he declared: “I pray this in the name of the one that’s called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.” Note, too, that he used the word “I” rather than “we,” which would have assumed all in the audience were Christian.
Warren, says Mark Silk, “wanted to have it both ways–gesturing at inclusivity while sacrificing nothing to exclusivity.”
It didn’t really work, and one scholar and friend of Warren’s has flatly called it “a mistake,” although Warren’s core audience on the evangelical right seems to have been well-pleased.
What were we to expect of a man given to inspirational references to Hitler youth, confusion of gays with pedophiles (and later denying that), support of condom-burning African regimes and other, similarly interesting views and involvements? All mined from his recent past, where it lay fresh and unfossilized.
Whatever Warrenologists may conclude about the big guy’s intentions and effects, he was never asked to audition for the role as “America’s pastor.” Not by a president who not only pulled an unprecedented range of American faith traditions into his inaugural festivities, but was also the first to acknowledge nonbelievers.
Ours is a more complex, democratic era than the one the elder Rev. Graham handled so well. Even if he is later invited to audition for the role, it may be beyond Warren to preside now as Graham did over his era.
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