Sign From God? Rick Warren Shouted Down at MLK Service

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that protesters interrupted pastor Rick Warren's speech to a packed house for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta today--one day before the leader of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest is to deliver a controversy-seeped invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration in D.C.

Several dozen gay activists critical of Warren's opposition to same-sex marriage had gathered outside Ebenezer before the service. Some hoisted signs declaring, "We still have a dream. Equality" and chanted, "Gay, straight, black or white, we demand our civil rights."

At least two protesters made their way inside and rose to shout as Warren began speaking 2 1/2 hours into the service. They were promptly escorted out to applause from many in the crowd.

Warren had already received a less-than warm send-off from folks back home in Lake Forest. The King Center invited the purpose-driven preacher to Ebenezer in May, long before his inauguration gig sparked outcry. Trading his Hawaiian shirt for a yellow tie and blue shirt beneath a dark suit, Warren told the crowd that King was a model preacher and civil rights leader and urged everyone to allow God to use them just as King did.

"How did Dr. Martin Luther King manage to not shout back at the segregationists that called him every name in the book? It was the love of God," Warren said.

Meanwhile, Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, tells the Boston Globe that Warren's national ascendancy has been ultimately hurt by accepting Obama's invitation. "He was on a clear path to be the compassionate conservative evangelical," Wolfe says, "but what he may not have realized is that once you get the exposure, they're going to start picking up everything you've said, and some of the things he's said are not all that pleasant."

David L. Kirp, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, writes in the San Francisco Chronicle that it is time for gays to get over Warren, that Obama "gets it" when it comes to gay issues, and that the inauguration rancor has already been defused by the inclusion of openly gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson.  

And read my colleague Gustavo Arellano's "A Prayer for Rick Warren" in the LA Times.


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