No, this isn't the beginning of a joke. It's a serious question, one I've been thinking about since earlier when a lot of people I respect got wound up about the exclusion of Reverend Gene Robinson's prayer from the broadcast of the pre-inaugural festivities today.

Rev. Robinson's inclusion has been an issue with some people because they felt it was an awkward attempt to mollify LGBT activists who were pissed about the big stage given Pastor Rick Warren. Many flat out disbelieved the Obama Inaugural Committee's claim that Robinson had been part of the plans from the beginning, and given the way the news came out, that's a fair position to take. It's not one I share, but I'm not basing my opinion on anything other than my willingness to trust.

So when either the OIC or HBO--depending on who you ask--dropped the technical ball earlier today, some people got upset. Over at Shakesville, Melissa posted a thread that noted that the ability to point fingers and assign blame is one that all political persuasions share. When I noted in a comment that there is indeed a gay-friendly pastor, Reverend Lowery, on the ticket for tomorrow, the Portly Dyke responded, in part, by writing:

And you know, Incertus, a gay-friendly pastor just is not the same as a gay pastor. Know what I mean? Would you say the same to a person of color who was concerned about their inclusion? "Well, he does still have a black-friendly pastor on tap! Cheer up!"
I've been thinking about that a lot for most of the day, trying to figure out a way to respond without simply saying "we shouldn't have pastors up there in the first place." I mean, I do believe that, but it's hardly conducive to good discourse.

Portly Dyke does have a point--a gay-friendly pastor isn't the same as a gay one, but let's remember that a gay one did take the stage today (and his invocation will be rebroadcast tomorrow), even if he didn't get the coverage he deserved and that the Obama team say they had asked for. But you know who didn't get on the stage today in that capacity, at least as far as I saw, and won't tomorrow, unless there's something I missed in the program? A Rabbi. An Imam. An atheist. A Catholic. A Buddhist monk. A woman who holds a place of authority in any faith*. A Latino/a. An Asian. A Native American Shaman. I could go on, but I trust I've made my point. Even if President-elect Obama wanted to be as inclusive as possible, where does it stop? Somebody--a lot of somebodies--are going to be left out, and there are Americans who are represented by all of those groups. This is supposed to be a day for all Americans--not just the ones represented by the preachers who ascend the podium and offer their platitudes on the day.

At least you got someone. Lots of people were left out.

But that's sort of the point, or the problem, with going down the inclusion road. How wide do you cast the net before you realize that it's logistically impossible to cover everyone? And then where do you draw the lines? What groups are offendable, and which groups aren't? And do we really want to get into drawing those lines? I sure as hell don't.

I didn't like the Warren choice, but if it gives Obama enough political capital that it'll make a couple of Republican Senators twitchy enough about re-election that they'll vote to pass ENDA (with transgender protections), I'll listen to him pray, well, not everyday, but I won't boo loudly when he does. If that choice makes it easier for Obama to allow gays to serve openly in the military, then let Warren pray his fool head off. There are bigger issues at play here. And sometimes, including people we're not the fondest of is the only way to get those problems solved.

* Of course, if you consider poetry a matter of faith, then Elizabeth Alexander qualifies. I look at it as an attempt to divine the transcendent in the universe, but I'm not sure that counts.

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