Tuesday, January 20, 2009

God and the Inauguration

I was glad to see that the prayers some people tried to prevent from happening, were able to be said at Barack Obama's inauguration. I've been wondering about this all day. While I was successfully able to follow the event just by keeping my eye on twitter, the issue of prayer, much discussed and argued over in the weeks before the inauguration, wasn't brought up once. After I got home, I scanned the online news again and discovered that Yahoo.com had covered the story (I haven't taken a look at CNN yet). At one point, the somewhat controversial Reverend Rick Warren (by virtue of the fact that he supported Proposition 8 in California), seemed to have "knuckled under" slightly, not referring to Jesus by name but "in the name of the one who changed my life". He also quoted from the Shema, Judaism's holiest prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4) "Hear O' Israel, the Lord our God; the Lord is One". He also referenced what commentators referred to as "a phrase from Muslim devotion", "the compassionate and merciful one", but this phrase is also common in Jewish prayers (I checked) and probably predates the Islamic usage. Later in the news article, it stated that Warren invoked the name of Jesus in English, Spanish, Hebrew, and Arabic, so he didn't become so "politically correct" for the occasion (pardon the obvious pun) that he withheld the name of Jesus in order to accommodate the sense of inclusiveness promoted by the event. Actually, the only unhappy comment regarding Warren's prayer came from Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, interreligious outreach leader of the American Jewish Committee, who said, "inclusive even as it was slightly exclusive", referring to the mention of Jesus and ending the prayer with The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13, Luke 11:2–4). That's rather a faint criticism, though. Of course, if Warren is to be true to his faith and his beliefs as an Evangelical Pastor, it's unreasonable to expect that he'll pray any other way, publicly or privately. The news story also mentions some of the other religious leaders present who offered prayers, and Obama was true to his mission of offering inclusion to the faithful and the secular alike. During his campaign, Obama has mentioned his own faith more than once, but the expressions of his faith seem to include issues that those people referred to as "the religious right" would not find in their Bibles. The article made a point of mentioning that "the religious right" did seem to play a significant role in the Bush Presidency, which may be yet another reason why so many people were anxious to see Bush get out and Obama go into the White House. Is God inclusive of all things and all people? He certainly wants all people to come to Him. The problem arises when people decide how they want to define God, and go church (synagogue, mosque, whatever) hopping to find a place of faith that will be tolerant of (which these days means "wholeheartedly accept") their particular lifestyle and habits. I know from my studies of the Bible that God is not tolerant of sin (well, he's more tolerant than we deserve, but there will be an ultimate reckoning), so people tend to go "God-hopping" looking for a faith, or a faction of a faith, where "God" includes whatever they want Him to include, and often where the concept of "sin" is never mentioned. Many Christians refer to America as a "Christian Nation". Personally, the way America is going, I don't see it and haven't for quite sometime. While Obama states that his faith is Christian, his desire to include all other faiths plus non-faith (unless one has faith in Science or Society) will likely, officially define America as "not" a Christian nation for the first time in our country's history. I'm glad to see the prayers were said at this historic event. Matthew 18:20 says, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." I take heart that He was there in the midst of those who have faith in God and attended Barack Obama's inauguration. May He continue to have a presence in this nation, especially at a time when so many are demanding that He leave.

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