John M. Crisp teaches English at Del Mar College, in Corpus Christi, Texas.  In an op-ed piece, entitled "A Purpose-Driven Mistake for Obama," published by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, on January 2, 2009, Crisp argues that Obama's choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the upcoming presidential inauguration is a mistake.  It appears to the English professor that "prominent proponents of Warren's brand of evangelicalism have their eyes on the reins of power and harbor a desire to reshape our society according [to] their intolerant lights.  It's a mistake to encourage them."

Crisp leaves no doubt about how he conceives the relationship between "religion and governance."  Religious language, when used in the context of "government-sanctioned activities," suggests for him only so many "ceremonial rituals [that] have lost most of their original religious meaning."  The authority he cites for this proposition is none other than former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, who was one who desired to strip American public life of every vestige of faith.

Contrary to Justice Brennan's problematic pronouncements on the subject, there is indeed a public faith which pervades America.  Apparently, Prof. Crisp knows little about it, or is indifferent to it.  It comprises the heart and soul of American culture.  John Winthrop, in a sermon preached onboard the Arbella, emphasized God's grace and judgment to those who were getting ready to settle the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  The Declaration of Independence refers to deity four different times and does so in the most solemn tones. The same is true of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. Franklin Roosevelt's expression of public faith was hardly separable from his political governance.  The same may be said of a host of other American presidents, ranging from Washington to Bush. Are their religious expressions simply hollow "ceremonial" gestures? To advance such a contention amounts to a spiritual devaluation of American culture. Thankfully, Justice Brennan's pronouncements are hardly the last word on the subject; they comprise one opinion among many.  I would happily recommend to Prof. Crisp that he take a look at the writings of other Supreme Court justices, like Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, and especially Goldberg's concurrence in the Schempp case, but my impression is that it would all be for naught. The man seems quite sure of himself.

While uncritically genuflecting to Brennan's perspective, Crisp directs his readers to consider why the gay-lesbian community is upset with Obama for inviting Rev. Warren to deliver the invocation, (as if most Americans care what this "community" thinks). Homosexuals' concern with Rick Warren seems to boil down to the fact that he, as a Christian clergyman, believes that salvation is achieved only through Christ and, moreover, that the gay-lesbian community is misguided.  Horrors!  How dare a clergyman preach Christ as the way to salvation and "queer thought" as less than enlightened!  What a paragon of intolerance and a threat to our social welfare Warren is!  Give us a break, Professor!

Although I read The Purpose Driven Life and was not favorably impressed by it, I do not feel the least threatened by the prospect of Rev. Warren's praying at Mr. Obama's Inaugural.  Let me tell you why.  We live in a culture, in which Anglo-Protestantism has, always, until the advent of institutionalized multiculturalism, pervaded every nook and cranny of our identity as a people.  Certainly, there are Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians, and Sikhs among us, just as there are those from other races and ethnicities, but their cultural understandings were not instrumental to the founding and fundamental development of America.  It is incumbent upon all immigrants to assimilate to the basic values of American culture as they were established by those who gave birth to the culture and settled the country.  Have immigrants added richness to American culture?  Sure they have.  Should the culture be fundamentally altered to suit them?  No.  The Bible has a long and illustrious career in this country, and it still has.  Mr. Warren's invocation will, I believe, serve to underscore this fact and be a salutary event for the state of Americana.

The good professor needs to do some homework.  I would encourage him, first, to look closely at the relationship between religion and politics.  If and when he does so, he will see that it is not the same subject matter as church and state.  He may even begin to ascertain that a people's politics is a distinct reflection of their culture. Since religious themes invariably frame a culture, religion and politics always intersect with each other.  Secondly, he may want to read Rousseau's The Social Contract and, after doing that, point out to me a single instance of a political state which has failed to embody religious ideology of some sort.  I certainly haven't found one. Thirdly, Crisp may take an introspective journey deep inside and ask himself what it is about Rev. Warren that he (Crisp) finds so disturbing. I will bet a dollar to a donut that his response, if candid, will be that the problem is Warren's socially conservative brand of Christianity. That, you see, is the ultimate sin in academic circles.  A belief system not accepting of every cultural practice and ideology is not sufficiently broad-minded. The only exception to the professor's religious and cultural relativism is, of course, Rev. Warren's point of view.  "It's a mistake," the professor insists, "to encourage" that.  Oh, sure, just what we need, more of his and his colleagues' political correctness and thought police. 

Prof. Crisp's commentary demonstrates just how illiberal and retrograde a university liberal and progressive can be.  Welcome to the new fascism, folks, brought to you, in part, by courtesy of half-witted academics!

January 3, 2009