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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Pray-ers

It's hard to miss the dustup about Pastor Rick Warren's inaugural invocation. There is much critiquing going on in blogs and listservs across the land; most of it coming from folks who were disturbed by the lack of "inclusivity," especially when he concluded by leading into the Lord's prayer.

To be honest, I don't see what the fuss is about.

I would not be offended if a Muslim cleric prayed as a Muslim; I would expect nothing less than a spiritual leader being true to the tenets of his/her faith. If one invites somebody to pray, one probably ought to expect that person to speak to God the way s/he knows best. Why then be offended if a Christian prays as a Christian?

(If the organizers were trying to be visibly "inclusive," they might have invited pray-ers from different traditions. But I digress.)

Yes, I was startled by Warren's lead into the Lord's prayer. I had not expected it. But then I thought about it-- really thought about the words and their meanings, what it says as well as what it represents. Truthfully, it is a specifically Christian prayer only because it is contained (in slightly different versions in Matthew and Luke) in the New Testament. We as Christians believe that Jesus first taught it, so most Christians know it (though we have our variations as well). But the words, taken at face value... I hear nothing that would be off-putting to anyone coming from most faith traditions-- the monotheistic ones, at least. Perhaps, in teaching his (Jewish) disciples to pray, that's why Jesus started there?

Rick Warren is not my pastor, nor do he and I agree on some significant issues. However, given his theological bent, I thought his prayer authentic, gently reaching out to God and in God's name the best way he knows how. Seems to me that we who do not share the same doctrinal leanings might take a deep breath and back up.

If I am to live in the light of the universal (as in, offered to all) invitation of the Gospel that I say I believe, then, as the saying goes, I need to put up or shut up. Goodness-- if Melissa Etheridge can work to find common ground with him, how can I as a fellow disciple do less?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. There was some discussion of this around the chapel, but the bottom line is that he's not a chaplain. And, in fact, while chaplains are asked to pray inclusively (i.e. without mentioning a specific deity by name) at ceremonies, we can chose not to do so based on our faith group's requirements.

January 21, 2009 7:09 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane, While I don't disagree with your reflections on Warren's prayer, I thought that for me the most prayerful "moment" was Rev. Lowery's struggle to the podium and his initial address: "O God of our weary years, O God of our silent tears, thou who hast brought us thus far on the way . . ." For me, it captured the essence of what was going on more pointedly than anything Warren prayed. Setting the closing of the ceremony in it's historical context of all those years and tears of the African Americans' struggle for true recognition and the long overdue attainment of significant power at the highest level of government. Marty

January 22, 2009 2:39 PM  

Blogger Jane Ellen+ said...

Marty: Yes. Rev. Lowery's prayer, anchored in that beautiful hymn, just sang. I can only imagine how those for whom that song is a "Negro National Anthem" felt as they heard and joined in that prayer.

I know that one of the things for which I am grateful in all this is that my son can see in the face of our president something I've often taken for granted: that his heritage need not limit his aspirations.

January 22, 2009 3:08 PM  

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