Archive for the ‘Billy Graham’ Category

Obama Inauguration: No Rabbis, Priests

January 20, 2009

Inauguration audiences on Tuesday will hear the new President deliver the most anticipated Inaugural Address since John F. Kennedy. They’ll hear the Queen of Soul sing and Yo-Yo Ma play. They’ll listen to hear if Rick Warren gets preachy when he prays. But there’s one thing they won’t hear: Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’olam.

That’s because for the sixth straight presidential Inauguration, rabbis won’t have a place on the dais. And the Jewish faith isn’t the only religious tradition that continues to be snubbed. Since 1985, only Evangelical Protestants have played a part in the swearing-in ceremony. That will continue again this year when megachurch pastor Warren delivers the invocation and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, an African-American Evangelical, offers the benediction. At a time when the United States is more religiously diverse than at any other point in its history, and Obama’s entire campaign was built on the notion of a newfound inclusiveness and multiculturalism, it seems a glaring omission. (See TIME’s special report on civil rights and the Obama presidency.)

Time Magazine

The recent Evangelical Protestant monopoly began in 1989, when George H.W. Bush asked Billy Graham to deliver both the invocation and benediction (the opening and closing prayers) at his Inauguration. Graham did the same for Bill Clinton in 1993 and again in 1997. The decision to delegate the religious role to Graham seemed a reasonable alternative to filling the stage with an ever-growing number of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu and Baha’i clergy. The famous Evangelist regularly topped the list of people Americans most admired, and he prayed in fairly broad terms, referring just to “God” and using the formulation “I pray” instead of “we pray” to make clear that he was not imposing his Christian prayer on the entire citizenry. (Read Obama’s words on his Christian faith.)

But the absence of non-Christian religious leaders was felt even more deeply starting in 2001, when Graham’s son Franklin ended his invocation with an exclusive statement: “We … acknowledge you alone as our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer. We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.” This was not a prayer offered on behalf of all Americans but on behalf of Christians alone. It bookended George W. Bush’s Inauguration with a benediction by Kirbyjon Caldwell that declared, “We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that’s above all other names, Jesus the Christ,” and instructed, “Let all who agree say ‘Amen.’ ” If you didn’t agree, there was apparently nothing for you to do but shuffle your feet.

For non-Christians, but particularly for Jews who had gotten used to having a place on the dais, the development was deeply disturbing. After all, traditionally, the religious roster at presidential swearing ins looked something like the set-up to an old joke: “A priest, a pastor and a rabbi walk into an Inauguration …” Rabbis prayed at a majority of Inaugurations that took place between 1949 and 1985, as did Catholic priests.

It is true that Jewish religious leaders weren’t on the dais in 1937, when Franklin D. Roosevelt first introduced the tradition of an Inaugural prayer. Up until then, presidential Inaugurations did not include prayers. Instead, the vice-presidential swearing in took place at a separate ceremony in the Senate chambers, after which the Senate chaplain usually offered a prayer. Roosevelt decided to merge the two events and brought the chaplain along to participate as well. But in a shrewd political maneuver, Roosevelt also opened up a second religious slot on the program for Father John Ryan, an influential figure in Catholic social teaching and a prominent supporter of the New Deal. As Mark Silk, professor of religion at Trinity College, has written, Ryan was not only known as “the Right Rev. New Dealer,” but he was also the most effective critic of Father Charles Coughlin, the notorious right-wing, anti-Roosevelt priest. Ryan’s participation in the Inauguration helped insulate Roosevelt against Coughlin’s attacks and shore up the growing – and critical – voting bloc of Catholic Democrats.

Related:
Obama Didn’t Need Rick Warren for Prayer; Others Abound

 Obama’s Path to Faith Was Eclectic, Diverse

Obama’s Inaugural Mistake: God Awful

December 20, 2008

Barack Obama has selected televangelist Rick Warren, author of  “The  Purpose Driven Life” and an outspoken opponent of  abortion rights and same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration Jan. 20. Why? What was he thinking when he picked this particular religious spokesman—a publicity hound who fights against causes of great moral importance to many of Obama’s supporters—for such a prominent role in the inauguration?

I consider this Obama’s first big misstep, and not only because of Warren’s stance on abortion and gay rights. He represents a combination of evangelicalism and boosterism , in the tradition of Norman Vincent Peale and Billy Graham, that is a particularly repugnant part of American religious tradition. Many have suggested that the choice of Warren puts him in a position to succeed Graham as the nation’s  best-known pastor. No religious leader should occupy the role that Graham played in successive  administrations—as an unofficial counselor to presidents, a predictable functionary on all ceremonial occasions, and a spokesman for one brand of religion. It is a brand of religion that has always been allied with American anti-intellectualism, and that is yet another reason why Obama’s choice is so puzzling and disturbing. 

Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren participates in a panel ... 
Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren participates in a panel discussion during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York in this September 26, 2008 file photo. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Warren, who opposes gay marriage, as a speaker at his inauguration, creating a commotion over what inclusiveness will mean for his administration.REUTERS/Chip East/Files

How wonderful it would have been if a humanist had been included in the inaugural ceremony for the first time.  Secularists, unlike evangelicals, voted overwhelmingly for Obama. It is truly disappointing to me  to see Obama catering those who make up a significant share his enemies and disregarding the views of his friends….

By Susan Jacoby
Washington Post
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Related:
http://sheblogan.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/praying-for-obama/

To Whose God Will Rick Warren Pray?

December 19, 2008

The selection of Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Rick Warren to deliver the Inaugural Invocation raises all sorts of provocative questions.

Has Barack Obama betrayed the left by choosing someone so closely identified with the anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage positions of the Christian Right? Does this mean Warren has succeeded Billy Graham as America’s pastor? Will the 2009 Inaugural Invocation be the first in American history delivered by a man with a goatee?

I think the most interesting question won’t be answered until Warren speaks on Jan. 20. To whom (Whom?) will Warren deliver the Inauguration’s opening prayer? Will his language be inclusive or exclusive? Will he pray to the sort of generic Creator God mentioned in the Declaration of Independence? Will he pray to the monotheistic and paternalistic God the Father? Or will he, as a conservative Christian pastor, pray in the name of Jesus?

Does it matter?

Above: Detail of Sistine Chapel fresco Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo (completed in 1512).

By David Waters
The Washington Post

Billy Graham used inclusive language when he delivered the Inaugural Invocation in 1989. “0 God, we consecrate today George Herbert Walker Bush to the presidency of these United States,” he said. But four years later, Graham ended his invocation at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration this way: “I pray this in the name of the one that’s called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. Amen.”

Do you remember anyone complaining? I don’t. It’s Billy Graham, the greatest evangelist of the 20th Century. How else would he pray?

Graham was too frail to deliver invocations for George W. Bush. At Bush’s 2005 Inauguration, Rev. Luis Leon’s prayer language used inclusive language, praying to a “most gracious and eternal God” and closing his prayer by saying, “We ask in Your most holy name.”

But at Bush’s first inauguration in 2001, the pastors who delivered the invocation and benediction created a bit of a stir when both of them prayed to Jesus. The invocation by Franklin Graham ended “in the name of the father, and of the son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.” The benediction by Kirbyjon Caldwell ended with the words, “‘We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that’s above all other names, Jesus the Christ.”

Among the critics was Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, who wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Graham’s “particularistic and parochial language . . . excluded tens of millions of American Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Unitarians, agnostics and atheists from his blessing . . . The plain message conveyed by the new administration is that Bush’s America is a Christian nation, and that non-Christians are welcome into the tent so long as they agree to accept their status as a tolerated minority rather than as fully equal citizens.”

So what will Rick Warren’s prayer say about Obama’s America? What should it say?

Related:
http://sheblogan.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/praying-for-obama/