Effort to surmount polarizing debates backfires on pastor

Rick Warren arrives in Washington this week in the midst of the culture war he has spent years trying to transcend.

The California pastor, who wrote the best-selling hardcover book in US history and built up from scratch one of the largest churches in the nation, is widely considered the most visible and successful champion of a new form of political engagement for evangelicals, one that is less partisan, and concerned about more issues, than the abortion-and-gays-focused religious right associated with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson.

But in the weeks since he was tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to deliver the invocation at tomorrow’s inaugural ceremony, Warren has become a lightning rod for criticism because of his opposition to same-sex marriage. This genial, Hawaiian-shirt wearing preacher, whose website describes him as America’s Pastor and whose utterances have appeared on Starbucks cups, finds himself for the first time being scrutinized and attacked.

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