Thursday, 22 January 2009


Pastor Rick Warren's invocation at President Obama's inauguration today has ignited a flurry of critiques for using words from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy texts as well as including the name of Jesus – in several languages.
Leading up to the prayer, bloggers and commentators debated whether Warren – an evangelical pastor blasted by the homosexual community for his opposition to same-sex marriage – would draft a prayer that was inclusive of the many Americans of differing religions, moralities and politics or whether it would be solely reflective of evangelical Christian theology.
Following the prayer, some criticized him for being too inclusive.
Islam expert Robert Spencer at, an organization dedicated to bringing public attention to jihad theology and defending Western society, criticized Warren for including a common refrain from Islam's Quran – "You are the compassionate and merciful one.".
"'The compassionate, the merciful' is, of course, a reference to the invocation at the beginning of every chapter of the Qur'an except one: Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim, 'In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful,'" Spencer writes. "Making sure everyone feels included – terrific. But the prayer indicates yet again that there is little general awareness of the reasons why the term 'Judeo-Christian-Islamic values' is a misnomer."
Warren also included the foundational Jewish prayer Shema Yisrael, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one," and the prayer beginning with the words "Our Father," revered by Christians as the Lord's Prayer.
Warren also drew criticism from those who thought the prayer was too evangelical or that the pastor, by his very presence, excluded the "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender" audience members.
In a forum on the Dallas Morning News' website, a poster named Alex writes, "Not exactly inclusive. Invoking Jesus 'who taught us to pray' alienates all non-Christians. And Catholics don't say 'For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory for ever and ever.' And his previous statements about LGBT Americans and those who are pro-choice [are] divisive as well."
The paper's religion blog writer, Jeffrey Weiss, however, was willing to extend Warren more credit.
"I found it to be inclusive – in the sense that he expressed God's love of all peoples and set forth a set of broad moral imperatives," Weiss writes. "But also restrictive in that it was an emphatically Christian prayer. But you can't invite Rick Warren to pray and expect anything but an evangelical Christian prayer."
Dan Gilgoff, the "God & Country" blogger for U.S. News & World Report, acknowledged the difficult position Warren faced, straddling a faith that demands he speak for truth and a portion of the public antagonistic toward him for standing there at all.
"For me," Gilgoff writes, "the two most salient features of the Rev. Rick Warren's inauguration invocation were its emphasis on the values of unity and mutual respect, which seemed partly a reaction to the controversy his selection as invocation speaker sparked, and its bold invocation of Jesus in the form of the Lord's Prayer. For some, those two themes would seem incongruous. It was trademark Warren, who – like Barack Obama – has been accused of trying to be all things to all people."
On the Dallas paper's message board, one contributor presented a complimentary critique, with a fitting conclusion, regardless of one's opinion of Warren's invocation.
"A prayer for our time and our new President," he writes. "May God's care and blessing be upon a people that can extend that blessing onto others. The Lord of ALL (non-Christian, gay and lesbians included) is the Lord of us. May we recognize and honor Him so. As this prayer clearly reminds us, we will eventually have to give an account to Him of our deeds, good or bad."
The contributor concludes, "Please pray for our new president and this administration. America is in great need of it."