What he is showing is that he can not pinned down with easy labels. Not a socialist, not a liberal, not a moderate, what he is showing is that he is practical, pragmatic, unusual.
Now comes word of his choice of a preacher to lead prayer at his inauguration: Rick Warren, a conservative, outspoken opponent of gay marriage. Of course, gays and liberals are generally and loudly expressing outrage, disappointment, and everything in between. They're missing the point: Obama is not carrying out their agenda, any one's agenda other than his own.
CNN has a story: The irony of the furor over Warren's selection to deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inaugural ceremony is that the California minister first drew notice for his determination to expand the evangelical agenda beyond hot-button social issues like opposition to same-sex marriage.
Of course, every one has a story about it. The Wall Street Journal's story:
Rev. Rick Warren is discovering that it's hard to be both America's Pastor and a Leader of Religious Conservatives. Barack Obama's selection of Mr. Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration has infuriated many Obama supporters -- especially advocates of gay marriage -- in part because of comments Mr. Warren made in a recent interview with me for Beliefnet and The Wall Street Journal.
So on the one hand you have Mr. Warren, in effect, equating gay marriage to marriages based on incest, pedophilia and polygamy. But if you look at the whole exchange on gay issues -- and, indeed, the entire interview -- you see Mr. Warren trying in other ways to chart a moderate path.
Pretty explosive stuff. But that is not all there is to Warren. Of course, gay advocates can't see past that.
He started by acknowledging that divorce is a much bigger threat to the American family than gay marriage -- and chiding fellow conservatives for focusing on gay marriage more. He also said he supported civil partnership laws, a position which just got a top official fired from the National Association of Evangelicals. And later in the interview he said that Christianity has been harmed by religious conservatives focusing too much on politics.
Mr. Warren does have legitimate claim to being a powerfully influential spiritual leader. His "The Purpose Driven Life" is the best-selling non-fiction book in history. His decision to reverse-tithe -- he keeps 10% and gives away 90% -- is inspiring to many, forcing all of us to ask: Am I doing enough?
He spends much of his time cradling the most destitute children in the world and trying to convince American Christians -- especially conservatives -- to do more. He speaks about his faith with a sense of joy that is infectious and he acknowledges his own spiritual doubts in a way that gives permission to followers to cultivate an intellectually-honest spiritual journey.
An interesting person, to say the least. And quite an interesting choice.