Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why I didn't like the Lord's Prayer at the Inauguration

I've had a number of conversations about this, and I know they're ongoing elsewhere, but I just wanted to add my two cents, if that.

I felt at the time and still, 24 hours later, feel that Rick Warren's prayer overall was nowhere near as awful as I'd expected (in fact I was actually sort of impressed by it), until he started in on the Lord's Prayer.  

I don't feel the inauguration, or any other civic event in this country, is the place for that prayer for one simple reason:

Though Warren was invited to pray as a Christian and from his Christian faith, he was praying on behalf of all those gathered (just as any person who prays in public is praying on behalf of the congregation, not just him/herself).  In this case, all those gathered included the 2 million who were present as well as many millions more who gathered via television all around the world.  And when he began to pray a prayer that only a portion of us could pray along with, he crossed the line.  He was no longer praying the prayer of the people, he was praying the prayer of the Christian.  And, though I am a Christian, I still found that to not be okay, because now my brothers and sisters around the world who were gathered to pray (or not, if that's not what they do) had to stop praying with us because it was clear that it was OUR prayer, not theirs.

Whether it's a part of his tradition to end every prayer, even invocations, with the Lord's Prayer (which I highly doubt--every prayer? really?), is up for debate.  And even if it is, I'm not sure it would have been okay in this situation--every tradition is fluid, every tradition rises to the occasion it finds itself in, and this occasion required praying on behalf of millions of people, many of whom couldn't pray along with him anymore at the end.  

And that's why I'm saddened that he chose to use one of the highlights of our faith in a venue that excluded rather than included.  The end.

In other news:  when are we going to insist on calling it an "opening prayer" rather than an invocation (the purpose of which is to invoke, to call in, the presence of God) when that's not really what's going on?


  1. Amen. I haven't had the time to have many conversations about it, what with the being looped on narcotics, then having to work triple-time today, but I agree with you.

    I have been invited to pray the invoca...(you know what I mean) at a civic gathering next week. I asked if the crowd will be an interfaith one and the person replying didn't really understand and said "there might be a few Catholics there".

    You can bet there will be no 'blood of Jesus' or Lord's Prayer at that event.

  2. I totally agree. And I think someone is suggesting I'm not a true Christian because of it.

  3. SB, I'm sorry to hear that b/c you're probably one of the most Christianest people I know, in the good way!

    Meanwhile, back at the gossip ranch that is my mind, I'm just *dying* to know who it is. I know you're not going to say, but I'm totally checking out all your online presences trying to figure it out...

  4. Many would argue (and have argued) that having any prayer at all can be exclusive. I don't have as much of a problem with a nonsectarian prayer at the inauguration as I do at public school graduations, but one could argue why the line should be drawn at alienating members of other faiths, when that still leaves room for alienating nonbelievers. Why make the effort to include some but not all?

    I assumed the prayer would be nonsectarian, though, and was really surprised at how specifically Christian it was. Maybe it seems worse in this circumstance because everyone (including nonbelievers) knew there was going to be a prayer, but people of other faiths were surprised about the nature of the prayer halfway through.

  5. I was there in the crowd at the Inauguration and I have to say that, selfishly, it was an incredibly powerful experience to pray that prayer out loud with 2 million people. Most of the people around me did know it and prayed out loud as well. I appreciate your perspective that it may have been perceived as exclusive to some, but I would argue that even those who couldn't say it right along with those who knew it were blessed by the simplicity and power of the words. I liked it and thought it was appropriate for the setting.