Rev Irene Monroe

Obama pimp-slaps queer community by omitting Robinson's invocation

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | January 21, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Barack Obama, Donnie McClurkin, Gene Robinson, George W. Bush, inauguration, Kirbyjon Caldwell, LGBT, rick warren

As quietly as it would like to be kept by the Obama team and even by many in the LGBTQ community, Obama exploits the queer community for his political gains. And like pawns on his chess board, Obama checkmates us each time when our hopes to be included in his big tent are dashed.

Our most recent example is the accidental omission of Bishop Gene Robinson's invocation at the pre-inaugural kickoff event "We Are One" that was held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial January 19.

Due to technical difficulties, those who gathered near the stage or the jumbotrons to hear Robinson's invocation heard only the last few minutes of it.

But to add insult to injury, the televised portion of the event, for those of us at home hoping also to hear Robinson, was cut too. Robinson gave his prayer at 2:25 p.m. ET, and HBO went live at 2:30 p.m.

An inaugural committee aide said the glitch was a "simple mistake."

"I was at the concert...mind you, moments before Elmo was on the jumbotrons, there was no technical issue or immediately following when the concert kicked off, " wrote a blogger.

HBO and the Presidential Inaugural Committee stated that Robinson's invocation will be included in all future telecasts of "We Are One."

If so, we'll only hear the last few minutes of it.

But there is a bigger problem here. One that begs the following question:

What is it with Obama and his team when it comes to our inclusion in his transformational administration?

When the Presidential Inaugural Committee bestowed conservative homophobe Pastor Rick Warren the coveted honor of giving the inaugural prayer a collective gasp of disbelief was heard throughout the queer community. Robinson himself balked at Obama's selection of Warren calling it a "slap in the face" to the LGBTQ community.

But some in the LGBTQ community have argued that Obama and his team have "pimp- slap" us all during his presidential campaign.

For example, in marking the final days of Obama's "40 Days of Faith and Family" campaign in South Carolina in October 2007, the Obama's team announced they would host the "Embrace the Change! Gospel Series, " a gospel fest with gospel mega-star Pastor Donnie McClurkin as part of the concert line-up.

It appeared to be an innocuous announcement at the time showcasing some of gospel music's most successful artists. But it actually outed some of the black gospel chitlin' circuit's closeted gays ministers and biggest opponents of queer civil rights - Pastor Donnie McClurkin, the poster boy for African American ex-gay ministries, as one of them.

When it was disclosed that Barack Obama's inspirational gospel singer McClurkin could be a potential liability to his three-city gospel tour to capture South Carolina's black evangelical voters, Obama immediately distanced himself.

And as a last minute attempt to do damage control his campaign penned an open letter to the LGBTQ community with signatures from black and white religious and LGBTQ supporters. The Obama campaign also came back with an appeasement plan by inviting an openly white gay minister, the Rev. Andy Sidden pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ (formerly MCC Columbia).

Does the Warren/Robinson scenario strike a familiar chord?

In January 2008, was it mere happenstance that once again, and unbeknownst to, the Obama campaign they have allowed another anti-gay African American minister endorses the presidential hopeful?

This time it was the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, longtime spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush and senior pastor of one of Houston's black mega-churches, Windsor Village United Methodist Church.

His church ran an ex-gay ministry, giving instructions on how to free oneself from "homosexuality, lesbianism, prostitution, sex addiction and other habitual sins."

Along the campaign trail Obama courted and wooed anti-gay ministers as a sign he can reach across the aisle. Rick Warren is just another example of his extended arm to them.

Every time Obama has nodded or winked at our community we have taken his gestures and even his words at face value to tethered our hopes to.

Our hope was to see and hear Robinson's at this historic event.

Rick Warren's invocation was heard around the world. No technical difficulties. No glitches. No excuses. Nothing.

Robinson, who many felt was a last minute add-on, acquiesced to bless the President on our behalf.

But once again the sting of disappointment slaps us.

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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 21, 2009 9:16 PM

Just why should we give it a rest?

Seems like a string of events that points increasingly in one direction.

Part of living in a democracy is holding elected officials' feet to the fire of accountability.

Keep up the good work, Reverend!

The worst part is the broken promise. He didn't have to offer Robinson a spot. But he did, and then went back on his word. It's grotesue. Insult to injury. On the other hand, I'm trying to remember that it's not all about us. There are major issues to deal with, and if he needs to dump on us to get the fundy's support, I'm willing to overlook it. For now.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 21, 2009 11:50 PM

As a white guy who embraced what was right when I was about 11, I felt personally insulted.

I totally want God out of government, too, so I agree with you on that score. But I'm sorry, if you truly "got" racism as a white man in this country, the last thing you would have been is insulted by Lowery's invocation.

I didn't "get" racism as white man, I had it shoved down my throat as a child, and it was beyond my understanding.

I saw it up front and personal in 1961 as I traveled through the deep south in an integrated boy's choir. I saw the restrooms marked "Men", "Women" and "Colored". I helped sneak my pal Augie Johnson into a motel room in Memphis when we couldn't find a black family to put him up for the night. As we sat on a dusty road in Mississippi waiting for the Choirmaster to walk back from a store in front of which we dared not park, I saw an old black woman moved to tears by the mere sight of Augie and me playing together in the car.

I was 11, and my experiences during 3 years in that Catholic Boys Choir shaped my life in many ways, some more sick and twisted than I care to recall here.

Reverend Lowery's words ignored the transformational nature of what has happened in this country, hearkening back to those dark days of systemic and systematic hate, as embodied by the "white" and "colored" signs posted above the drinking fountains on every gas station wall in the Jim Crow south. Rev. Lowery was looking backward, as if nothing had been accomplished in the intervening years.

Had he been looking forward he might have added, "...when queer does not inspire fear".

I am never sure if it is a string of unfortunate events or a master plan.

The White House web site has LGBT issues listed for the very first time, an amazing event.

But the Robinson matter, and the networks cutting to commercial before the LGBT band...well, difficult to sort out....

And the President was not there when Robinson offered the unheard and unseen prayer.

Though he may well prove to champion our causes, we need to become visible to become mainstream...and we were denied visibility....or at the least our visibility was curtailed...

But then, perhaps he will, and I still hope that he will, do what he has promised to us on our behalf.

And now, to paraphrase Louis XV, after this post, the deluge......criticising Obama is a sore point on Bilerco and brings a firestorm upon the head attatched to the hand that writes critiques. Asbestos on, Irene...! Like, if you TIVOed it you wouldn't fast forward thru Bishop Gene to get to Mariah Carey or Wil.I.Am. There's no conspiracy here, nobody wants to sit through a bunch of religious jabber, just get me to the music, I don't care WHO the Bishop sleeps with.

OK, Since nobody else will say it, I will: Can we PLEASE get God OUT of Government? After we had to listen to the arch-bigot Rick Warren's prayer for a straight Christian (only) nation, President Obama's address mentioned God more than Ronald Reagan's, quoting scripture in the bargain. Then the whole shebang was followed by the benediction of Rev. Joseph Lowery, whose words, "Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back . . . when brown can stick around . . . when yellow will be mellow . . . when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right." couldn't help but rankle.

As a white guy who embraced what was right when I was about 11, I felt personally insulted. If a lot of white people hadn't figured out what was right and embraced it, John McCain would be president. Let's face it, no cleric, be he Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian or Wiccan can open his mouth in public utterance for 5 minutes without pissing one of the others off, and me, of course. One need look no farther than the middle east to learn a simple fact: Religion poisons everything and has no place in Government, period.

So I turned the tube on this morning.....well, actually there is no tube in the flat panel that Jesus bought me for Christmas....and there's the Obama family marching into the "National Cathedral" (it's YOUR Cathedral, too!) for a service that was interminable! I can say this with some authority, having logged more hours in Church (in churches of widely varied denominations) than anybody I know, and having done so before the age of 13. My God (lol)!! We have all these freakin' HUGE problems, and the guy we selected to drag us out of the mire spends HOURS on his first day in the job listening to even more preachers than the previous 2 days? Again I ask, WTF???

No arguments from me on getting God out of the Government....we wouldn't even have God in the Presidential Oath were it not for the slave holding Episcopalian(nominally) first President

Since anything that Washington did was considered holy by the masses (not necessarily by the press of his day or his political opponents) we got stuck with the addition.

Religious figures who like to cite the First Chief Justice John Jay's comments about America being a Christian country led by Christian men truncate his remarks, excluding the intent to remove the vote and the right to hold office from Catholics, which was in fact the intent of the remarks. They weren't Christians, in John Jay's eyes.....! Like, if you TIVOed it you wouldn't fast forward thru Bishop Gene to get to Mariah Carey or Wil.I.Am. There's no conspiracy here, nobody wants to sit through a bunch of religious jabber, just get me to the music, I don't care WHO the Bishop sleeps with.


Rev, we know you don't like Obama. But blaming him for sound system malfunctions is going a little too far... We're in conspiracy land now.

George Bush we could blame for the end of civilization as we knew it. Obama hasn't even had a chance to screw things up yet. :)

They should have switched places. Gene Robinson at the Inauguration and Rick Warren at the celeb party. It would have been more appropriate.

Rick Warren:Religion::Dr. Phil:Neurology

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 22, 2009 12:16 AM

This is as bad as the John Birch Society seeing commies behind every tree. The president elect (then)does not run the sound system or jumbotron at the Lincoln Memorial and to find conspiracy theories four to six months apart in time stretches the rubber band as far as she can go.

Lincoln is a role model to Obama and his choice of Robinson in response to our caterwalling demonstrates that he listens.

Irene, Dear, how very unlike you to be critical of Barack Obama !!

I have yet to here what Warren had to say during the inauguration. I used that time to use the bathroom and turned of my television set in the hopes that many others did so in protest. I hope that even for just the few minutes that he was speaking that there was a noticeable decline in ratings. It was the only way that I could think of to protest in my own home.

overandunder | January 22, 2009 1:50 AM

This may be a stupid question, but was Barack Obama controlling the sound system at the inauguration? It seems like you found a way to get one of your stories noticed. Unfortunate that you sold out and used a Black stereotype to do it. Oh well, hope you enjoy your 15 seconds, not minutes of fame. In the age of the web, not much ignorance slips by. You may be remembered, but not the way you'd like. Find a better way.

You might appreciate this: Here's To You, Bishop Robinson. From The Digital Cuttlefish, it's a piece about the Bishop Robinson fiasco... done in verse, as a song parody to the tune of "Mrs. Robinson."

And no, Robert, I don't think this is about conspiracy theories. I don't think this was planned. I think it's about tone-deafness. Nobody in the Inaugural committee got the message that getting Bishop Robinson heard was really, really important. Because it wasn't. We are clearly just not that important to the Obama administration... and we won't be unless we make a stink when we get screwed over.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 22, 2009 7:54 AM

In my TV days I remember one thing about sound. Excrement happens! A faulty circuit breaker can happen. Remember, real life is not "Mission Impossible." The next time you curse at your TV, Computer, Telephone, Cell, disc player you will remember this much. Now, multiply the complexity of that times 250 and you have just invented a jumbotron with sound. When it works it is great. When it screws up it screws up.

Gerri Ladene | January 22, 2009 6:09 AM

Before throwing our new President under the bus I would like to say that it's the JCCIC , Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies that has allot to do with how the Inauguration unfolds. As far as the choice of and Rick Warren's invocation, well the Saddleback Church can now be held accountable by their own leaderships words and that is something they cannot hide from! I can only wish my new President the best and hope that he succeeds in what is a monumental task to undertake in this part of our history!

And exactly what is wrong with attending church or believing in a higher power that offends some of you?

If you are ever gong to work effectively with African-Americans, better get it through your heads that many people like myself don't see it as a detriment that President Obama isn't 'scurred' of a church, much less is a Christian.

There are big 'C' Christians like Rev. Lowery and little 'c' christians such as Rick warren. Learn to tell the differece.

And there are big 'A' Atheists like me who resent having religion shoved down our throats at every single public and governmental event.

I don't care if people want to believe in a higher power and attend church, just keep your damned superstition out of government.

We have just endured 8 years of religion trumping reason in public policy. I say goodbye, and hopefully good riddance.

Rev. Lowery was great. I guess a lot of folks forget that much of the civil rights movement was firmly grounded in faith and the church.

I agree with the call for God out of gov't; however, one need only look at the text of Obama's inaugural address to see what the chances are of THAT happening.

For the rest, I respectfully refer you to +Gene's blog: