Posts Tagged ‘inauguration’

In my last post, I posed the question about the appropriateness of the content of Rick Warren’s invocation. Now we come to the benediction of Joseph Lowery, United Methodist pastor. You can read the entire text here.

I found myself laughing through my tears at this lovely prayer. The tears came the minute I recognized his first words as the lyrics of the great hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song that is especially dear to those who lived through the Civil Rights Era.  More tears flowed as I thought of what this one man has seen in his life – marches, assassinations of friends and colleagues, imprisonment, police dogs. And the laughter of joy came when I realized what Lowery must have seen right at that moment, looking out over the mall filled with people come to see a fellow African-American, seated at his right,  invested with the power of the highest office in the land.

Here is my favorite part:

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, first lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

What do you think? Did you – as I did – like that he named the houses of worship of several faiths? Did you hope he would pray in Jesus’ name, or did you approve of the fact that he called only on “the Lord”? Was his quotation from a Christian hymn okay for you?

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I was holding my breath when Rev. Rick Warren took the podium at Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremony today. I was waiting to see if the sometimes divisive evangelical Southern Baptist pastor of Saddleback Church would pray in the name of one religion or all religions.

As a religion reporter, I officially have no opinion on Warren. But as a person of faith, I feel rather on the fence about him. On the one hand, I deeply admire the work he has done in Africa on AIDS and poverty and the way he has fearlessly (for the most part) called on his fellow evangelicals to put down the banner of morality in favor of social justice. On the other hand, there’s his whole stance on homosexuals and gay marriage. I just cannot get on board with that.

For the first two-thirds of his prayer, I will admit that I was utterly enthralled. I suppose my expectations of his prayer were quite low. But I was struck by his depth of feeling and the way he called on God to care for and strengthen Mr. Obama, his family and the entire American people.

But would he say, “In Jesus’ name, we pray”? If he did, I was worried all of our non-Christian fellow Americans would feel excluded or marginalized – not something I feel should happen at a state-sponsored event. One of the virtues of this republic is its foundation on a separation of church and state.

I was partcularly moved by the following:

Now, today, we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time. We celebrate a hingepoint of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.Give to our new President, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, O 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. 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.

I thought he was gonna make it. And then he said:

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus, who taught us to pray: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

Was his use of “I ask” instead of “we ask” okay? Was this exclusionary and offensive? Or was this the only way a man who believes himself to have been saved by Jesus Christ could pray? WHAT DO YOU THINK?

And how about his inclusion of the Lord’s Prayer? By using this prayer taken from the New Testament and the words of Jesus, was he excluding our non-Christian fellow Americans? If you are a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist or anything else, I want to hear what you thought. How did you feel about Rick Warren’s invocation?

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