Rick Warren’s Inaugural Invocation

In Politics, Religion on January 21, 2009 at 11:49 am

I was more interested in Pastor Rick Warren’s invocation than in President Barack Obama’s speech. (Read the text here.) I’m sure it didn’t satisfy everyone–how could any prayer do that in this multi-religious (and anti-religious) world? There was so much controversy about his selection, I was a little surprised that there hasn’t been more reaction to it. It’s still early, though; there undoubtedly will be.

What did I think of the prayer? I thought it was outstanding. Unlike some, I was not put off by his references to Jesus (in several languages) because he prefaced them with the phrase, “I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life,” making it not a point of doctrine, but a personal testimony. Surely he is allowed that much.

I was impressed by his use of the Hebrew phrase: “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one.” It’s hard to imagine how he could have been more inclusive, without turning the prayer into a travesty. (As an aside, the phrase in Hebrew is “Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam”–I don’t know what the name Barack is supposed to mean but it bears a passing resemblance to “blessed” in this prayer. Interesting.)

I was glad that Warren didn’t make any political references in his prayer–to abortion or homosexuality, for instance. But I didn’t really expect him to. That’s why I wasn’t riled up by his selection the way a lot of pro-choice and gay activists were. From what I know of the man (which, I admit, is second-hand at best), I never expected him to divert attention from his central message: “Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.”

I particularly like the passage that followed:

“When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the Earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.

“And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.”



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