Ol' Rick Did Alright

There's been a lot of buzz around the blogsphere and news commentary-sphere regarding Pastor Rick Warren's invocation at President Obama's inauguration yesterday. Joel liked it. Fernando didn't. (Two guys whose opinions I hold in high regard, BTW.)

I think ol' Rick did alright. Let's face it, he was in a tough spot. A million and a half people standing in front of him, and he has to get up there and pray. An entire world watching, and he has to get up there and pray. I know people who can't pray in front of crowds of three!

So here's the challenge: be as ecumenical and inclusive as possible, and still stay true to who you are and what you believe. Hmm. That's a tough one. See, Pastor Rick knows what many of us know: that when we pray, we are supposed to pray in Jesus' name. To do any less would sacrifice who Rick Warren is.

There was a lot of speculation when it was announced that Rick Warren would be giving the invocation. "Will he mention Jesus?" I would have been surprised (and disappointed) had he not. Yes, he did try to be inclusive. Not many Christians or Jews might notice that as an addendum to the Shema Yisrael quote from Deuteronomy 6 (Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One) he added "And you are the compassionate and merciful one." This is, of course, a reference to the invocation at the beginning of almost every chapter of the Qur'an: "Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim, (In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.)"

As I said, Rick was in a tough spot. Calling on the name of Jesus is not very popular today, especially in a crowd of (I suspect largely) liberals. There was a very muted response to his prayer. Selecting Rick was a definite coup for the new administration, a shrewd political move. Originally, there was dismay from the political right, basically calling Rick a traitor for agreeing to give the invocation. But then, when the gay-marriage community started making noise, conservatives embraced Rick's selection. The president, by standing up to his liberal base and sticking with Rick, made inroads to middle America and extended an olive branch to evangelicals. Smooth.

Whatever your opinion of what Rick Warren said, you have to applaud him for having the guts to say it. But then, faith is a great encourager.


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