Back during the Rick Warren brouhaha--doesn't that seem like a long time ago?--John McWhorter posed an interesting counterfactual:

Do Warren's un-PC views really merit so much agita over his participation in the inaugural? Let's try a thought experiment: Suppose Obama had invited black megastar preacher T.D. Jakes instead. Jakes heads a 30,000 member Dallas church, reaches millions more with the television show The Potter's Touch, and was designated "perhaps the most influential black leader in America" by The Atlantic. His church runs outreach programs as well as anti-poverty efforts in Africa. Yet like Warren, Jakes dissociates himself from those who "support abortion, homosexuality and other things I see as unscriptural."

Still, I suspect that progressives' reaction to Jakes' inclusion would be vastly less indignant. Surely the justification for that view would not be that black people, shall we say, "cling to" religion because of the exigencies of their past and present. No--there would be a sense that for a black preacher, views like Jakes's were something to let pass as "diverse," unsurprising in a pastor of any color, with his presence as an articulate and inspiring figure in black America more important than ideological details at such a momentous event. Why must Warren be fumigated against, then? Because as a white person, he's supposed to know better? What other difference between Warren and Jakes is so crucial?

Looks like McWhorter's thought experiment is going to actually be tested by reality. I see from the pool report that Jakes was the keynote speaker at this morning's Inauguration Day Prayer Service at St. John's Church:

Jakes turned from the crowd and looked directly at Obama.


“The problems are mighty and the solutions are not simple,” Jakes said, “and everywhere you turn there will be a critic waiting to attack every decision that you make. But you are all fired up, Sir, and you are ready to go. And this nation goes with you. God goes with you.


“I say to you as my son who is here today, my 14-year-old son – he probably would not quote scripture. He probably would use Star Trek instead, and so I say, ‘May the force be with you.”

Well, there's one other potential difference between Warren and Jakes: I assume Warren knows the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek.

--Jason Zengerle