It is interesting to see the fire-storm of rhetoric that has ensued over Obama’s pick of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Please see the well written posts by Al Mohler and Ben Witherington.
It is ironic because I have lone admired Warren for one thing, despite the many theological differences we have. Warren has steered away from politics in his pulpit, and he has urged other pastors to do the same through his Purpose Driven Church Conferences. He now finds himself in politics up to his neck after hosting the presidential debate in his political forum. (Note the lack of political posturing here and the article here.)
Some comments on the separation of church and state. I am for it. So are many Baptists throughout history. Warren has positively influenced me to keep out of politics on this blog except where matters of ethics are involved.
I am for letting any candidate and / or elected public official pick whichever religious leader he / she wishes to give speeches or prayers at any ceremony he / she has authority over. The right to free expression of religious ideas does not end just because one has a government job or becomes an elected official. That goes for Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, etc.
This freedom of expression is a requirement of separation of church and state, not a violation of it. The free expression of religious ideas is protected, and it leads to much needed, civil discussion of theology (or lack thereof), ethics and morals. Forceful arguments and debates are the stuff from which good thinking results.
Separation of church and state as a principle is violated when someone uses physical force or other forms of persecution or coercion to force someone to convert. Putting a gun to someone’s head and telling them to convert or die is a violation of separation of church and state. So is banning him or her from the free expression of his / her ideas just because he / she is in the public square.