Problematic preachers weave through the political life of Barack Obama like a coat of many colors, all the way up to and including his inauguration as the 44th U.S. president.
First, firebrand Rev. Jeremiah Wright nearly derailed Obama's fight for the Democratic nomination. The uproar over his remarks from the pulpit such as "God damn America" and the United States being to blame for 9/11, prompted Obama to turn away from his former pastor and give a key speech on race and religion.
Then, the president-elect, who is Christian, chose evangelical minister Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation. The choice touched off a firestorm of controversy, because Warren has chastised gays from the pulpit at his California Saddleback Church.
As if to open the big tent even more, Obama picked the Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay Anglican bishop from New Hampshire, to give the invocation at the start of inaugural events at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday. Robinson had previously called Obama's choice of Warren, a supporter of California's ban on gay marriage, a "slap in the face."
Gay rights protesters appeared Sunday at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta during Martin Luther King Day festivities to protest Warren's role as a keynote speaker. Over the weekend, about 100 gay rights supporters marched and waved rainbow flags outside Warren's church in Lake Forest, Calif.
"He's being attacked from the left and the right," said Thomas Reese, senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Seminary at Georgetown University. "He's in a tough spot, and I don't know what he'll do."
No advance copy of Warren's inaugural prayer has been made available, and people are wondering whether it will be inclusive or divisive.
"He wants it to be a surprise," said Reese, who will attend the inauguration and the day-after service at the National Cathedral.
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"There used to be a Protestant a Catholic and a Jew," he told ABCNews.com. "Now we get conservatives and liberals. "I think it shows how politicized the religious community has become."
Gay rights advocates are fuming over remarks Warren made to Beliefnet in December, which suggested that if gay marriage were legal, why not incest, polygamy or "an older guy marrying a child?"
Conservative evangelicals criticized Warren for accepting the invitation because of Obama's pro-abortion rights stance, just as they did when the president-elect joined a 2008 forum at Saddleback during the campaign.
But religious and gay leaders are guardedly hopeful that this drama is yet another signal that Obama intends to rely on Lincoln's "team of rivals" approach to hear all points of view.
Both preachers are already softening. When Robinson was named, Warren gushed to The New York Times that the president-elect had "again demonstrated his genuine commitment to bringing all Americans of goodwill together in search of common ground."