Saying that the nation needs to get beyond “shaking our fists” across a “jagged edge” of a divide, David Axelrod, President-elect Barack Obama's senior adviser, has defended the choice of Rev. Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation. But a new editorial in the New York Times arrives at an opposite conclusion.

Warren is the best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life and heads the prominent evangelical Saddleback church in Southern California. A rising leader in the evangelical movement, Warren supports the outlawing of abortion in all cases and is a staunch gay rights opponent. But his moderate tone on AIDS, poverty and climate change have made him controversial among social conservatives.

Gay rights activists say they are protesting the pick because Warren is homophobic. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian rights advocate, called it “disrespectful” to gays and lesbians.

Speaking on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday, Axelrod said: “The important point here is you have a conservative evangelical pastor coming to take part in the inauguration of a progressive president.”

“This is a healthy thing and a good thing for our country,” he told moderator David Gregory. “We have to find ways to work together on the things on which we do agree, even when we profoundly disagree on other things.”

“We gotta get beyond this sorta politics where ... we're each on the jagged edge of a great divide, shaking our fists at each other,” Axelrod said in response to comments made from televangelist Pat Robertson.

But after losing gay marriage rights in California on Election Day, frustrated gay activists have increasingly looked at the incoming administration as the silver lining in this year's election results. And the selection of Warren, a proponent of California's gay marriage ban, who likened gay marriage to an incestuous relationship and polygamy, leaves gays and lesbians, who happen to be major Obama supporters, questioning his commitment to gay rights.

The controversy over Warren to deliver the nation's prayer was also hashed out at the New York Times on Sunday, where columnist Frank Rich disagreed with the pick, saying it “adds an asterisk to the joyous inaugural of our first black president.”

Rich called the choice “a glib decision by Obama to spend political capital.”

Obama reasoned his choice of Warren at a December 17 press conference, saying: “I am a fierce advocate of equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on, and I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency. What I've also said is that it is important for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.”

Also against the pick is openly gay Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank. “I am very disappointed by President-elect Barack Obama's decision to honor Reverend Rick Warren with a prominent role in his inauguration,” Frank said in a press release.

“Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair,” Rep. Frank said on CNN's Late Edition.

“If he was inviting the Rev. Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing,” Frank said. “But being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally given a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect.”