This is the second in the series of discussions with my college students on the Ethics of Leadership. The first segment is here.
STUDENT 1: President Elect Obama has done a very good job selecting people to speak at his Inauguration. President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton both used Rev. Billy Graham. I don’t see a big deal that the Rev. Rick Warren or Bishop Gene Robinson is speaking. The Obama administration will be one that is diverse. Having people from all sides of the political spectrum will bring a change that is needed to move this country in the right direction.
STUDENT 2: I totally agree that the diversity that Obama is bringing to the Inauguration. I think he will provide that change that our government needs.
TEACHER: You seem to agree with Obama's definition of diversity, which involves race, gender and sexual orientation. Is he only interested in including people based on race, gender and sexual preference?
STUDENT 3: Well, I think that either Obama was trying to please people with the host of speakers or that he is really messed up. I really am praying that after the election that we see a different side and that he will be able to lead our country with morals and values that this country was founded on, the principles of GOD.
TEACHER: Why should we see a different side of Obama? He has been honest about his positions from the beginning. He is a social liberal. He is pro-choice and will push the Freedom of Choice (Abortion of Demand) Act through Congress, as he promised all along. He believes that with enough money and enough liberal education many of America's problems can be solved. He has made no religious commitment.
STUDENT 4: I agree that, as Americans, we should celebrate diversity. Our population is very diverse and that should be reflected in our government. We all don't have to agree, it's not even possible. We just have to respect each other.
TEACHER: Respect is good, of course, but as you've seen in our study of the History of Ethics, people become intolerant when they feel that something is being imposed on them that they don't believe is right. When you have competing worldviews and one group insists that its view alone is right and is the only view to be taught in public schools and represented at Inagurals, you don't have respect. You have something resembling fascism.
STUDENT 5: I think that Obama is just paying back political favors as most presidents have done. After the Inauguration he will just be another president.
TEACHER: The religious figures invited to offer prayers represent segments of Americans that supported Obama in his run for President, so yes, this does look like political payback.
STUDENT 6: I believe President Elect Obama is trying to establish a policy of inclusion in regards to his choice of speakers. Perhaps even letting Americans know we are all Americans even though we have different opinions, beliefs, and religious affiliations. We celebrate and embrace diversity even though we may not always agree with the other person's characteristics or moral values.
STUDENT 7: I agree with you. We should embrace diversity and accept people for who they are regardless of religion, gender, or even sexual perference. We have to come together again as a nation and set aside our differences. If we were all alike in this country it would be boring and everything would be the same, but were not. We are all different and unique in our our ways. We have to embrace our differences.
TEACHER: How do we embrace differences that are diametrically opposites? How do we reconcile conflicting worldviews? Trying to do so seems a recipe for national confusion or insanity.
My long experience with gay activists, for example, has led me to believe that they are not interesting in embracing differences. They wave the banner of toleration and inclusion, but their idea of tolerance cuts one way, in their favor.
I was an Episcopal priest until I opposed my bishop who insisted that I agree with him on same-sex ceremonies in the church. I resigned from ministry on the Sunday that Gene Robinson was consecrated a bishop in Nov. 2003 because that was the moment that the Episcopal Church broke with 2000 years of Christian teaching and practice. Just saying this has caused me to lose my career, my home, receive hate mail, be physically intimidated, etc. So, as I say, my experience tells me that many who profess tolerance aren't very tolerant of those who diagree with them. It is also duly noted that neither Gene Robinson or Rick Warren represent historic Christianity. Obama didn't pick any such religious figure to offer a prayer. That's why I find it difficult to believe that his choices of religious speakers are about unity and real diversity. He has purposely excluded conversative, Bible-affirming Christians. I know people say, "But what about Rick Warren?" But, Rev. Warren doesn't represent the majority of Christians worldwide. In fact, he is a uniquely American phenomena.