Rick Warren's acceptance of Barack Obama is far more significant than Obama's selection of Warren, Alan Wolfe argues in a piece for TNR. Though much of the reaction to Obama's choice of Warren for the Inaugural prayer has focused on whether Obama made the right pick, Wolfe says that Warren's decision to agree is a much bigger deal.
There are two facets of American evangelicalism that ought to be worrisome to conservatives. One is that evangelicals are breaking out of the comfortable counter-culture they have established for themselves over the years. Historically, they tended to live in their own communities, listen to their own music, shop in their own book stores, and send their children to Christian schools. But now, in part because living amongst people much like themselves helped them gain confidence and connections, a considerable number of evangelicals find themselves holding high-paying jobs and wanting the best for their children. Warren's Saddleback Church, located in the exurban reaches of Orange County, is emblematic of this change; its members include large numbers of upwardly-mobile professionals fully engaged with the world. It is not easy to turn down Harvard for Wheaton College, let alone Biola (formerly the Bible College of Los Angeles).
Warren's decision to accept an invitation from a liberal president is as clear a symbol of the entry of evangelicals into mainstream culture as one can imagine. In the conservative Christian subculture, liberals are treated with scorn. In the real world, they control the White House and Congress. How many evangelical preachers will be able to demonize Obama once Mr. Evangelical himself has blessed him? By opposing Warren's choice with such vehemence, the left seems determined to drive evangelicals back to the world of victimology and conspiracy-mongering. This is not wise.