All posts from “January 2009”

« December 2008 | Home | February 2009 »

January 30, 2009

Let's Rewind

January 30, 2009

Republican National Commitee Elects Michael Steele

The Republican National Committee has elected former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele chairman, the first black person to fill the position.

Steele, a pro-life Catholic, fought against a moderate image, but advocated for electing moderates to be elected in the party.

"There are a lot of people who would join us and be a party of our efforts who are pro-choice but they love our message on money; they love our value system on family values, broadly speaking, so then how do we cross-appeal," Steele said in a December interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. "How do we make ourselves relevant to the 21st century electorate which is clearly of a different mindset on a host of issues?"

January 28, 2009

Focus on the Family Action Taps Former Bush Aide who Resigned for Plagiarism

Focus on the Family Action recently hired Timothy Goeglein, a former White House aide who resigned last year after he admitted to plagiarism. He will fill a new role of vice president of external relations, according to the group's CitizenLink magazine.

"News reports are calling him a lobbyist, but Goeglein will actually be Focus Action's 'eyes and ears in Washington,'" the article states.

Goeglein left his position in the White House last year after he admitted to copying work a Dartmouth College publication for several of his columns for his hometown newspaper, the The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He told the newspaper, "Pride. Vanity. It's all my fault. It's inexcusable. What I did is wrong. I categorically apologize."

He was special assistant to President Bush and public liaison deputy director, often acting as a pipeline for social conservatives, including evangelicals. He was also once a spokesman for Gary Bauer, who ran for president in 2000.

The CitizenLink article makes no mention of the plagiarism story, but a press release from the organization does.

He has accepted full responsibility for his actions, and the matter is behind him, the organization's president and CEO Jim Daly said in the release.

"Tim has been forthright about his mistakes and humbly accepted the consequences of them ? a pretty rare thing in Washington," Daly said in the statement. "He is a Christian, and being a Christian doesn't mean you're perfect ? only that there is grace and forgiveness when you confess your imperfections. Tim has done that, and we welcome him to our team enthusiastically."

Continue reading Focus on the Family Action Taps Former Bush Aide who Resigned for Plagiarism...

January 28, 2009

Report: Obama Plans to Pick Pastor for Faith-Based Initiatives Position

President Obama plans to tap Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor and director of religious outreach for the campaign, to direct the office of faith-based initiatives, according to The New York Times.

Reporter Laurie Goodstein writes that DuBois consulted with dozens of religious and charity groups about the faith-based office.

The most contentious issue that Mr. DuBois will have to help resolve is whether Mr. Obama should rescind a Bush administration legal memorandum that allows religious groups that receive government money to hire only those who share their faith.

Mr. Obama said in a campaign speech last June, "If you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion."

Dan Gilgoff has also written about the meetings with religious leaders during the transition period. Gilgoff recently wrote that the people continuing on with the administration will include DuBois, Mara Vanderslice, and Mark Linton.

DuBois played a large role in the campaign on the religion front, often keeping in regular touch with people like Jim Wallis, Joel Hunter, and Donald Miller. I heard hints of his appointment when I spoke with several religious leaders last week, including Hunter who said that DuBois had an active relationships with many in religious leadership.

From my perspective his credibility has grown, he has several good assistants now, his confidence has grown. He's always been very responsive to me. I do think this is one of those things that you kind of grow into. You go along and learn and if you pick up and start to become conversant with several religious leaders then you gain confidence and credibility, and I think that's what's happening with Joshua.

DuBois faced some large challenges in the campaign, first when false rumors flew that Obama is a Muslim and then when YouTube videos of Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright emerged. Overall, he could be attributed to helping shrink the so-called God Gap, as Steve Waldman wrote after the election.

For more on DuBois, Michael Paulson wrote one of the best profiles for the Boston Globe last summer.

I watched DuBois work at the Democratic National Convention in August. He was very energetic, eager to network with any and every religious leader, but very cautious with the press. Everything we talked about had to go through a public relations team. When I first worked on a story on the Democrats' faith outreach, it took me several weeks to reach him. After I mentioned this problem to a source, I got a call very quickly.

"I'm certainly not a theologian, but there are fundamentals I know to be true. The foundations of my faith are in Jesus Christ and in his teachings, especially addressing the needs of the least of these," DuBois said. "That's certainly a model for me, and that's how I'm hoping to approach my work on the campaign."

DuBois said that while Obama's personal faith (Obama is a member of a United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago) shapes his approach to issues, the senator is a firm believer that church and state should be separated.

"Our democracy demands that when people are religiously motivated," DuBois said, "you have to translate your [policy] concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values. We're no longer just a Christian nation; we're also a Jewish nation, a Hindu nation, a Muslim nation, and a nation that does not adhere to a particular religion."

DuBois always seemed very eager to appeal to every religious group. Now the only thing left to do is get all religions to agree on a universal value.

January 28, 2009

Bush HIV/AIDS Czar Canned in Political Blunder

Late last week, while pro-life evangelicals and other conservatives were rightly watching the moves of the Obama administration regarding the so-called Mexico City policy, other events were unfolding at the State Department, where Ambassador Mark Dybul, head of PEPFAR, the much lauded program to fight HIV in Africa, was given one day to clean out his office.

Sorry, Dr. Mark, you did a great job, but apparently, not great enough to override the Democratic political hacks now calling the shots on HIV/AIDS policy. (These are the ones who now have a federal check book with a balance of about $48 billion of your money, folks.)

Back on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, I talked with Ambassador Dybul in Washington. Of course, evangelicals were peppering him with questions about whether he would stay on under President Obama, who on World AIDS Day had nothing but positive things to say about PEPFAR's achievements.

Dybul admitted that his fate in Washington was in the hands of others. But he was not gloomy or angry. I have met dozens if not hundreds of medical professionals who are working across the world against the virus. Dr. Dybul, actually, is one of the most skilled public health physicians you could ever meet. He's on the global High Honor Roll in the global fight against HIV.

It is no mistake that under his watch more than 2 million people have access to life-sustaining drugs.

Here's what political columnist and former Bush speechwriter Mike Gerson had to say today in the Washington Post about Dr.Dybul:

While I worked at the White House -- from 2001 to 2006 -- I saw Dybul combine the ability to build bipartisan consensus for PEPFAR on Capitol Hill with exceptional compassion for the victims of a cruel and wasting sickness. It mattered little to the Bush administration that Dybul was openly gay or that he had contributed to Democratic candidates in the past. He was recognized as a great humanitarian physician -- a man of faith and conscience -- almost universally respected among legislators, AIDS activists, foreign leaders and health experts. Almost.

A few radical "reproductive rights" groups -- the fringe of a fringe -- accused Dybul of advocating "abstinence only" programs in AIDS prevention. It was always a lie. Dybul consistently supported comprehensive prevention efforts that include abstinence, faithfulness and condom use -- the approach that African governments themselves developed. In fact, Dybul was sometimes attacked from the right for defending a broad definition of AIDS prevention, including programs to address prostitution and transgenerational sex. Over the years, PEPFAR distributed 2.2 billion condoms -- hardly an "abstinence only" approach.

What happens next?

Even today, one evangelical leader expressed to me her fear that PEPFAR itself is going to be radically reshaped under the Obama administration. That probably means so long to faith-based abstinence and fidelity educational programs in Africa and elsewhere. These efforts were at the heart of the Uganda success story in which HIV/AIDS rates and deaths were dramatically reduced. Countless families were held together as a result.

This move sure feels like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

January 28, 2009

The Importance of Religion: State by State

Gallup just released data comparing importance of religion in Americans' lives.

Overall, 65 percent of Americans say religion is an important part of their daily lives. The number is lower than what the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found in their Religious Landscape survey released in February 2008. In that survey, 82 percent of Americans said religious belief and practices was very important or somewhat important, while only 65 percent of Gallup respondents said religion is an important part of their daily life. The Pew Forum gave an option for "very important" or "somewhat important" "not too important/not important at all" while Gallup gave respondents yes, no, don't know options.

So how does your state rank?
Top 10 most religious states
1. Mississippi
2. Alabama
3. South Carolina
4. Tennessee
5. Louisiana
6. Arkansas
7. Georgia
8. North Carolina
9. Oklahoma
10. Kentucky
(Texas comes in at 11)

Top 11 least religious states
1. Vermont
2. New Hampshire
3. Maine
4. Massachusetts
5. Alaska
6. Washington
7. Oregon
8. Rhode Island
9. Nevada
10. Connecticut

The results were based on telephone interviews with 355,334 adults.

January 28, 2009

Stimulus Bill includes Funding for Faith-Based Organization Grants

The economic stimulus bill includes a provision for funding $100 million for grants to faith-based organizations, Howard M. Friedman notes on Religion Clause.

According to page 141 of bill, half of the amount would become available October 1, 2009. Friedman also notes that a proposed amendment by Rep. Susan Davis of California would increase the total appropriation to $500 million.

January 27, 2009

Obama Ditching Family Planning from the Stimulus

AP is reporting:

President Barack Obama has told congressional Democrats to drop a proposal to spend money on family planning from the proposed $825 billion plan to stimulate the economy, a White House aide told McClatchy.

Obama is likely to offer that concession when he meets Tuesday with congressional Republicans, who've complained bitterly that the proposal is liberal pork that has nothing to do with stimulating the economy or creating jobs.

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

January 27, 2009

Sarah Palin PAC is Formed

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has started a new political action commitee called SarahPAC to raise funds.

A spokeswoman for the PAC said that it was launched about five hours ago to help the former vice presidential candidate maintain connections across the country. She said it was too early to tell whether Palin will run in 2012.

The website says that the PAC is "dedicated to building America's future, supporting fresh ideas and candidates who share our vision for reform and innovation."

Sen. John McCain was recently asked whether he regretted picking Palin as his running mate, and he said, "I think the world of Sarah Palin."

January 27, 2009

Obama Reaches Out to Muslims through TV Interview

President Obama chose an Arabic network for his first television interview, saying that his administration will offer friendship to the Muslim world but will hunt down terrorists that kill innocent civilians. Politico has the full transcript.

In an interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite television network, Obama emphasized his Muslim background and relatives, telling Muslims "that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect."

"And what we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations -- whether Muslim or any other faith in the past -- that will use faith as a justification for violence," Obama told the network. "We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith's name."

Paul Schemm of the Associated Press reports on the reaction from those in the Arab world, saying that they have been more cautious about the new president than other parts of the world. Obama said that he would address the Muslim world from a Muslim capital in the first 100 days of his administration, but no location has been announced.

"America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers -- regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams," Obama said on the network. Several people noted Obama's inclusion of non-believers in the religion lineup in his inaugural address as well.

January 27, 2009

Spiffy up that Resume

The National Association of Evangelicals launched a search today for someone to replace Richard Cizik as director of government affairs.

Cizik resigned in December after he told National Public Radio that he is shifting his views on same-sex unions.

A spokeswoman for the NAE said the organization does not have a set time frame that it wants to have the position filled.

From the release, here's what the individual will be expected to do.

The Director of Government Affairs will be responsible for representing the NAE before Congress, the White House and the Courts and will work to advance the approach and principles of the NAE document For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility.

Job qualifications include, among others, personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, agreement to and affirmation of the NAE Statement of Faith, and participation in an NAE affiliated congregation. Candidates must also possess knowledge of evangelical beliefs, history and community, along with experience in government affairs and a familiarity with politics and policies of concern to evangelicals.

January 23, 2009

Obama Overturns Mexico City Policy

President Obama signed an executive order called the "Mexico City policy," which reverses a ban on funding international groups that provide abortions.

Ronald Reagan first implemented the policy that prohibited the U.S. from funding programs that offer abortion overseas. Bill Clinton reversed the policy in 1993 while George W. Bush restored it in 2001.

The Associated Press writes, "Obama signed it quietly, without coverage by the media, late on Friday afternoon, a contrast to the midday signings with fanfare of executive orders on other subjects earlier in the week."

Abortion opponents are sending their outraged press releases while progressives are essentially saying "at least he didn't do it yesterday."

Charmaine Yoest, President & CEO of AUL Action: "What a terrible way to begin a new administration: with an abortion business bailout that will exploit women in developing countries for political ends. We should not export the tragedy of abortion to other nations, and we certainly shouldn't do so via the hard-earned dollars of American taxpayers."

Jim Wallis of Sojourners: "I am encouraged that President Obama’s first action on abortion was to release a statement supporting a common ground approach to reducing abortion, even as he also reiterated his policy of supporting legal choice. Even more significant was his decision not to issue an executive order rescinding the 'Mexico City policy' on the day of the anniversary of the Roe decision and the annual March for Life."

Obama has spoken several times on the desire to reduce unintended pregnancy, but he reiterated his support for Roe v. Wade yesterday on the Supreme Court decision's anniversary.

January 23, 2009

Obama's Missing Bible

Anyone who watched Barack Obama's swearing-in on Tuesday noticed that Chief Justice John Roberts fumbled the oath. Which led the White House, out of an "abundance of caution," to summon Roberts to the White House Wednesday night for a second try.

Much was made over the fact that Obama didn't use a Bible (or any book, it appears) on round two, unlike his use of Lincoln's Bible on round one. As WaPo reports, it's not the first time a do-over has taken place, and it's also not the first time a Bible wasn't used. The highlights:

-- Theodore Roosevelt didn't use one in 1901

-- Calvin Coolidge didn't use one in 1923

-- Lyndon Johnson used a Catholic missal on that dark day in 1963 when an aide found it next to JFK's bed onboard Air Force One.

(Originally published at Religion News Blog.)

January 22, 2009

March for Life Targets Obama

Washington -- Abortion opponents had the luxury of having a president on their side for eight years in a row. That changed two days ago.

President Obama was a major theme during today's March for Life, where tens of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall and made their way to the Supreme Court on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Several participants held signs with references to President Obama, like "The audacity of hope: overturn Roe." One sign called for the Catholic church to excommunicate pro-abortion candidates, and several of the signs advocated for people to fight the Freedom of Choice Act.

Congressman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the new house Republican Conference Chairman, was one of the first speakers at the rally. The event is annual, but this year is different. Pence, an outspoken Christian, said that the challenge this year was to encourage abortion opponents who may be discouraged about recent elections. Here was more of our conversation today:

Does a new administration change the significance of the March for Life?
I think so, although as I said today, the abortion movement seems to be gathering strength in Washington D.C., life is winning in America. As I said from the podium every day, every hour, compassion is overcoming convenience, life is defeating despair and hope is defeating a lifetime of regret.

The march comes off of the inauguration. Does that make a difference?
I think it does. I’ve spoken at eight previous marches for life. This is my ninth, and in all of the previous eight, we’ve been celebrating pro-life victories in the ballot box, either for the presidency or for Congress. But in the recent years, now the challenge is to encourage people who may be discouraged by the outcome of recent congressional elections and the presidential election. What I sought to do from the podium is to assure people that the men and women who are gathered there and the pro-life minority in congress will continue to labor on behalf of the sanctity of life.

We will continue to fight to oppose any effort to use taxpayer dollars to promote abortion at home or abroad. I said we are going to defend Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy, and I introduced legislation that would deny federal funding to any Planned Parenthood of America. The largest abortion provider in America should not be the largest recipient of federal funding under Title X.

The Mexico City Policy would be an executive order that would rescind in effect the prohibition of foreign aid going to organizations that promote or perform abortions. That would be profoundly disappointing to millions of American taxpayers, including many pro-choice Americans who still don’t think we should be using tax dollars to subsidize abortions.

Do you think Obama will push for The Freedom of Choice Act?
We think it’s a very real possibility. I take President Obama at his word and in the middle of his last campaign he said it was his desire to sign the Freedom of Choice act as one of his first official acts. So we’re prepared to take the battle to the American people.

Do you predict Obama's presidency could galvanize the pro-life movement or be more discouraging?

If anything, the fact that we’ve had a pro-life president the last eight years and for most of that time had pro-life majorities in Congress has probably bred a certain amount of complacency. But now, with expanded abortion rights majorities in Congress and the most pro-abortion president in America’s history in the White House, I believe it will galvanize millions of pro-life Americans to become politically active and turn the tide for life.

How does this march compare to previous marches?
The crowd was immense. The thing I’m most proud of is that Congressman Chris Smith told me moments ago there was the largest turnout of House Republicans in his memory. We had roughly 20 members of the House of Representatives there today. I expect he’s made about 36 of these marches in his life, so that was a great encouragement to me.

Obama has talked about reducing number of unintended pregnancies.
Well we heard the language of safe, legal, and rare during the 1990s from a president who rescinded the Mexico City policy and oversaw a pro-abortion administration. We’ll take a wait and see approach. We hope President Obama will pursue policy that will mitigate abortion, but we’ll remain determined that the only way forward is to elect a pro-life majority to the House and the Senate, elect a pro-life president and send Roe v. Wade to the ash-heap of history where it belongs.

Photo courtesy of Mike Pence's office.

January 22, 2009

Obama on Roe Anniversary: 'I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose'

As thousands marched from the National Mall to the Supreme Court today, President Obama issued a press release on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.

On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere.

January 22, 2009

Rabbi Under Fire for Attending Inaugural Prayer Service

An Orthodox rabbi broke Jewish law by participating in an interfaith prayer service on Wednesday (Jan. 21) at Washington National Cathedral, according to the Rabbinical Council of America.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who leads Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York, was one of three rabbis who participated in the National Prayer Service. The others were from Judaism's Conservative and Reform branches.

Lookstein recited a nondenominational prayer during Wednesday's service.

"The long-standing policy of the Rabbinical Council of America," the RCA said in a statement, "in accordance with Jewish law, is that participation in a prayer service held in the sanctuary of a church is prohibited."

Rabbi Basil Herring, RCA's executive vice president, said he does not expect Lookstein to be punished for his role in the service. "We simply wanted to make the point that he was not going there on behalf of the rabbinical council, and that whatever he did, he did in his own capacity."

Continue reading Rabbi Under Fire for Attending Inaugural Prayer Service...

January 22, 2009

Crowd Gears up for March For Life


Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to reconsider his support of legal abortions as a crowd prepares to march on Thursday.

Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, declined to comment to the press, saying "We're not making any announcements on that today."

I will be on the National Mall with the estimated 200,000 people expected to join in the "March for Life" to the Supreme Court building on the anniversary of Roe V. Wade. Just a thought, but I wonder how many of the marchers were conveniently in town for the inauguration.

IMG_4033.jpg

Above is a picture my friend Elizabeth Postgate took on our way back from the inauguration Tuesday near the Supreme Court building.

CatholicVote.com released a bold YouTube video that plays off of President Obama's historic inauguration.

January 22, 2009

So What Happened at the Prayer Service?

The prayer service at the National Cathedral Wednesday morning was a very sober and interfaith as expected as President Obama prepared to launch into his first full day as president. I guess first full day depends on the efficacy of the first oath or second.

Andy Stanley, founding pastor of North Point Community Church in Georgia, was the only religious leader to invoke Jesus' name, as the rest of the service was very interfaith oriented. Here is Stanley's prayer:

Gracious God, whose glory is in all the world:
We commend this nation to your merciful care that, being guided by your Providence,
we may dwell secure in your peace.
Grant to Barack Obama, President of the United States,
and to all in authority, your grace and good will.
Bless them with your heavenly gifts.
Give them wisdom and strength to know and do your will.
Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness,
and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve the people of this land in honor of you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

A children's choir broke a sober mood by getting Obama and the crowd to join in singing "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands." Ironically, earlier this week, Mollie at GetReligion told me that she saw someone with a t-shirt of Obama holding the earth with the same song title underneath. Speaking of Mollie, I'd like to one-up her; she sat in front of Beyonce at the inauguration, but I shook Bill Clinton's hand this morning.

Back to the service, Sharon Watkins gave a sermon directed at President Obama. "Someone has to keep watch and be ready to defend, and Mr. President ? Tag! You're it!" she said, drawing laughter.

Her sermon focused on reasoning from an ethical center based on loving God and loving your neighbor.

"In times, such as these, we the people need you, the leaders of this nation, to be guided by the counsel that Isaiah gave so long ago, to work for the common good, for the public happiness, the well-being of the nation and the world, knowing that our individual wellbeing depends upon a world in which liberty and justice prevail," Watkins preached. "This is the biblical way. It is also the American way - to believe in something bigger than ourselves, to reach out to neighbor to build communities of possibility, of liberty and justice for all."

The rest of the event was scripted and can be found in the program here, but here are some other prayers:

Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, prayed the following:

May the Senators, members of the House of Representatives and all those whom we entrust to make our laws be filled with the courage and foresight to provide for the needs of our people, to care for our natural resources, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.
Keep this nation under your care,
And guide us in the way of justice and truth.

Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church prayed the following:

Grant us the wisdom and will to learn from those who have paved the path of our nation's history. Give us patience and endurance in these extraordinary times that we may build with steadfast labor upon the foundation laid for us in every generation. Make us a testament for good that we may be a beacon for liberty and a source of light in the world.
Amen.

Send me a link if you see a video of Watkin's address; otherwise, I will post my amateur one when it's finished downloading. I also plan to post more interviews tomorrow once they are transcribed.

January 22, 2009

Fired US Attorney Will be a Prosecutor in Guantanamo

Fired New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias will be a prosecutor with the Office of Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when terror trials resume there, Ben Smith at Politico reports.

The move has doubly powerful symbolism: Iglesias is recently famous for being fired for refusing to compromise his political independence, but he knows Guantanamo Bay well: He was the Navy defense lawyer played by Tom Cruise in the film, "A Few Good Men," one of three who defended marines at the naval base.

Iglesias, a Naval reservist, said he'd been activated as a Judge Advocate General "prosecuting terror cases out of Guantanamo."

Iglesias is an evangelical who believes he was caught in the middle of a politicization of the Justice department. I interviewed Iglesias last summer about his book, which tells his side of the story about why he was fired by the Bush administration.

January 21, 2009

Obama Attends Prayer Service

I just got to a computer long after the prayer service President Obama attended this morning at the National Cathedral.

I plan to update the blog more tonight with more details and interviews while I miss the premiere of LOST. Please note my devotion.

To hold you over until then, Time magazine has a transcript of Sharon Watkins' address. And Ted Olsen provides a roundup of inaugural reactions here.

Below are the tweets I texted from my phone to Twitter during the service:

waiting for President Obama at the National Cathedral.

President Obama has arrived and the mood is very sober at the National Cathedral.

President Obama and all just sang "he's got the whole world in his hands"

just sang great is thy faithfulness and listening to Sharon Watkins

Watkins tells Obama "tag. you're it."

Watkins preaches about loving your neighbor. wintley phipps is singing amazing grace.

Jim Wallis prays for congress...to care for our natural resources. other religious leaders pray as well.

praying the Lord's prayer

the congregation at the national cathedral is singing "For the healing of the nations." Obamas and Bidens just left the service.

January 21, 2009

Poor Pastor Rick

All that praying outside yesterday got him sick.

January 20, 2009

Protestants Lead Obama's Private Prayer Service

Those who spoke at the private prayer service for President Obama this morning were primarily Protestants, according to the bulletin obtained by Christianity Today.

Tomorrow morning's service at the National Cathedral will be filled with leaders from several religious traditions, but those would conducted the private service were primarily Protestants.

According to the bulletin, the service went as follows:

Luis Leon, Rector of St. John's Church, welcomed guests. The Associated Press reports that Leon said every president since James Madison has worshiped at the church at least once, "some of them kicking and screaming."
Bishop Charles E. Blake, presiding bishop of Church of God in Christ, gave an invocation. The AP writes that he drew murmurs and chuckles when he blessed the Obamas and asked that "they may finish these two terms in office" stronger than they are now.
St. John's Choir sang This Little Light of Mine.
Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor at Northland, A Church Distributed, gave a blessing.
Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, read from Isaiah 42:1-9.
The congregation sang Hymn 686: Come, thou fount of every blessing .
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, read from Luke 12:22-31.
Yolanda Adams sang Open Up My Heart.
Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, introduced Bishop T.D. Jakes.
Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter's House, gave the sermon. The AP reports that
borrowing an Obama campaign slogan, he told the president-elect that he will face many critics, "but you are all fired up, sir, and you're ready to go." The nation and God will go with him, too, Jakes said.
The congregation sang Hymn 488: Be thou my vision.
William A. Kerry, executive director of the Claude Pepper Center at Florida State University, prayed.
Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., president emeritus of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, prayed. Politico reports that he said, "Give to president Obama a double measure of faith and hope, and the strength to do justice?Give him the sight to see all that needs to be seen and the insight to look beyond the clouds and chaos of the moment and see great joys and possibilities. Let the house where he lives and serves be a house of hope for the nation, a house of joy and affection for his family, and the house of friendship for all nations. We thank you eternal god, for our new president, president elect Obama."
Luis Leon read responsive Prayers for the Nation.
Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the first female bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, gave the benediction.
The congregation sang Hymn 680: God of Grace and God of Glory.

Ben Smith at Politico reports that a sizable Jewish contingent was in attendance.

The political guests, along with Obama and Biden, included Rahm Emanuel, Dick Durbin, and Claire McCaskill, along with much of the Cabinet. The religious leaders included Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, who is giving a sermon, Gene Robinson, Archbishop Donald Wuerl, Bishop Murphy, and Rabbi David Saperstein.

Smith also gives the pool report, which has an account of Jakes' sermon.

Jakes read from Daniel, 3:19 and used the scripture to offer [Obama] a series of four lessons for his administration.

1 ? "In time of crisis, good men must stand up. God always sends the best men into the worst times."

2 ? "You cannot change what you will not confront. This is a moment of confrontation in this country. There's no way around it?This is not a time for politeness or correctness, this is a time for people to confront issues and bring about change."

3 ? "You cannot enjoy the light without enduring the heat. The reality is the more brilliant, the more glorious, the more essential the light, the more intense the heat. We cannot separate one from the other."

4 ? "Extraordinary times require extraordinary methods. This is a historical moment for us and our nation and our country, and though we enjoy it and are inspired by it and motivated by it."

After his four lessons, Jakes turned from the crowd and looked directly at Obama.

"The problems are mighty and the solutions are not simple," Jakes said, "and everywhere you turn there will be a critic waiting to attack every decision that you make. But you are all fired up, Sir, and you are ready to go. And this nation goes with you. God goes with you.

"I say to you as my son who is here today, my 14-year-old son ? he probably would not quote scripture. He probably would use Star Trek instead, and so I say, ?May the force be with you."

Jeffrey Weiss at the Dallas Morning News religion blog quickly corrects Jakes. The 'may the force be with you' reference is from, of course, Star Wars.

January 20, 2009

Prayer Controversy Fades as Obama Takes Oath

Washington -- After weeks of outcry, Rick Warren's invocation seemed to fade to the background as President Barack Obama took his inaugural oath.

Officials estimate that 2 million people crowded the National Mall to watch the first black become president.

An anxious crowd waited while Warren's name was announced to kick off the day. A few people in one section booed, but the crowd hushed after his voice boomed across the mall. Some bowed their heads, and others prayed along when Warren began reciting the Lord's Prayer.

"History is your story," Warren prayed. He then referenced the English version of the Jewish Sh'ma: ""Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One."

"We celebrate a hingepoint of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States," Warren said as the crowd started cheering. "And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven."

Perhaps the backlash Warren received helped him craft his prayer. "When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us," he said.

His prayer was not a simple tip of the hat to Christianity. Although he emphasized his faith as personal, he invoked Jesus' name in Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish, instead of making it more pluralistic. "I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus, who taught us to pray," he said before leading the crowd in the Lord's Prayer.

But the real climax of the day came when Obama took the oath of office with his hand on top of President Lincoln's Bible, which was closed. A Wall Street Journal graphic indicates that unlike other presidents, John F. Kennedy also left his Bible closed.

Obama's speech was sprinkled with religious references.
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctpolitics/2009/01/from_obamas_ina.html
He directly referred to I Corinthians 3:11 when he said, ""We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things."

Obama later addresses the Muslim world: "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

Civil rights leader Joseph E. Lowery's benediction closed the ceremony with a reference to Amos: "When justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream."

The crowd started scattering, but at some point, people grew quieter and began listening again. They burst into laughter after Lowery said, "We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."

The crowd then cheered at his final call for a few amens.

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
Audience: Amen!
Lowery: Say amen
Audience: Amen!
Lowery: and amen.
Audience: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)

January 20, 2009

Inaugural Benediction Draws Laughter

The end of Joseph Lowery's prayer drew laughter across the mall: "We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."

I'm looking for the final transcript, but here's a YouTube video:

Update: Here's the transcript

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand -- true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you're able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed -- the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- (laughter) -- when yellow will be mellow -- (laughter) -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- (laughter) -- and when white will embrace what is right.

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

Audience: Amen!

Lowery: Say amen

Audience:: Amen!

Lowery: and amen.

Audience: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)

January 20, 2009

Lifting Every Voice

Civil rights leader Joseph E. Lowery began the closing prayer at the inauguration by quoting the final stanza of James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing":

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

January 20, 2009

A reference to research on embryos?

Unclear what, exactly, President Obama meant in his Inaugural Address when he said, "We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost."

But expect a fair bit of parsing of it in the near future.

January 20, 2009

Rick Warren's Inaugural Invocation

Let us pray.

Almighty God, our Father, everything we see and everything we can't see exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory.

History is your story. The Scripture tells us, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One." And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now, today, we rejoice not only in America's peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time. We celebrate a hingepoint of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.

Give to our new President, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. May all people of goodwill today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you. We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus, who taught us to pray:

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."

Update: Video of Warren's prayer


January 20, 2009

Obama's Inaugural Address: The Religious Parts

"We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. ...

"We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

"To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. ...

"For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate. ...

"This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. ...

"With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America."

The rest of it after the jump.

Continue reading Obama's Inaugural Address: The Religious Parts...

January 20, 2009

The first Catholic vice president

Joe Biden just became the first Roman Catholic vice president in American history. NPR lets us know that five other Catholics have run for vice president: William Miller (R-1964), Ed Muskie (D-1968), Thomas Eagleton (D-1972, briefly), Sargent Shriver (D-1972) and Geraldine Ferraro (D-1984).

January 20, 2009

Joel Hunter, Samuel Rodriguez to Pray at Private Prayer Service

Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, will offer prayers at the prayer service tomorrow that Barack Obama will attend before the inauguration.

T.D. Jakes will give the sermon at the service, which is closed to the public. I caught up with Rodriguez tonight and below is the partial transcript of our conversation.

What do you think about the inauguration plans tomorrow?
I think it was a brilliant move to ask Rick Warren. It speaks to his commitment to bring the country together. My prayer is that [Obama’s] public policy agenda reflects that same commitment.

This great man will govern from the center. I believe that he will not make the Freedom of Choice Act his priority. I believe that he will focus on abortion-reduction strategies, lowering the teenage pregnancy rate. That’s my prayer. The Defense of Marriage Act - Dear Mr. President, this would be one of those ‘don’t touch, don’t tell,’ not ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ These are issues that are cultural wedge issues that have historically separated us. His selections on cabinet appointments are center, if not center right. My speculation is, in light of the presidential transition team, my speculation is that he will govern from the center.

What did you think of Obama's selection of T.D. Jakes?
I appreciate the selection. Bishop T.D. Jakes is one of the most anointed and articulate orators. I think he couldn’t have picked someone better.
I believe that Barack Obama’s selection of speakers and orators, and those that will be praying and reading Scripture, excluding Sam Rodriguez, excluding Sam Rodriguez, other than that, excellent choice.

What about Robinson? Excellent?
(pause) My problem with Gene Robinson, and of course I have my own biblical worldview, is not that he is openly gay. It has to do more with Rick Warren’s selection. Gene was very apprehensive, very condescending, and totally against the selection of Rick Warren. I think that was wrong. Rick, on the other hand, responded in such a Christ-like manner when he was made aware of Gene Robinson’s selection. My reluctance to put him in the same category as excellent has everything to do with the way he responded to Rick Warren and nothing to do with sexual orientation. If he had not responded in that way, I would’ve said excellent choice.

Do you have expectations for tomorrow?
Lots of tears, lots of goose bumps.

I know that there was speculation over whether Rick Warren would pray in Jesus’ name. Do you plan to pray in Jesus’ name tomorrow?
If you invite me as a Hispanic evangelical, I will pray in Jesus’ name, respecting religious pluralism in America. I hope [Rick Warren] does. I hope he would but if he doesn’t I understand. I will be praying in Jesus’ name and I will be sharing from the New Testament from the Gospel of Luke.

Which passage?
It’s confidential until tomorrow.

Anything else you’d like to add?
All the Christians in this community should stand around him and support him. We have a moral commitment to cover him in prayer.


January 19, 2009

61% in Poll Back Rick Warren

A new poll suggests that the majority of Americans support Barack Obama's selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

The invitation was heavily criticized by progressives because of Warren's views on same-sex marriage, but in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 61 percent said they back Obama's invitation.

The Post reports that 23 percent oppose the choice, and 16 percent expressed no opinion. Party affiliation had little effect on the response; 66 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of both Republicans and independents said they support Obama's choice.

January 19, 2009

Warren asks ‘Can we not all just get along?’

Rick Warren spoke to a packed house for the annual King Day service at Ebenezer Baptist Church today, telling the crowd that the invitation meant more to him than praying at Barack Obama's inauguration tomorrow.

Manya Brachear posted some of the quotes from Warren's sermon.

"I am a white, overweight, southern California mega-church pastor. I love you. And I reach out my hand to you and I say to you and to anyone of good will--to quote that great theologian Rodney King--‘Can we not all just get along?’" he said. "You don’t have to agree on everything. You don’t have to agree to be agreeable. You can disagree without being disagreeable. You can walk hand-in-hand with out seeing eye-to-eye.

"You know what I love about America? It’s diversity. I don’t know if you’ve figured this out, but God likes variety."

"I consider this opportunity as one of the greatest privileges in my ministry," Warren said. "It is even more important to me personally, than praying the invocation for my friend President Obama’s Inauguration the next day."

"For so many of us, Dr. King was a role model, not just for justice, but also a role model for local church pastoring and preaching," Warren said. "I have a personally typed and signed letter by Dr. King framed on my office wall."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also has a news story on the sermon and the protests outside.

January 19, 2009

PIC Apologizes for not Broadcasting Robinson's Prayer

Update: Robinson's prayer will be rebroadcast on the mall.

The Presidential Inauguration Committee today apologized for not broadcasting yesterday's invocation by the Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.

"We had always intended and planned for Rt. Rev. Robinson's invocation to be included in the televised portion of yesterday's program. We regret the error in executing this plan ? but are gratified that hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the mall heard his eloquent prayer for our nation that was a fitting start to our event," PIC communications director Josh Earnest said in a statement to Christianity Today.

Update: Ben Smith of Politico writes that a source on the committee told him that yesterday's program will be shown on screens on the Mall to entertain the assembled crowd. Tomorrow's version will include Robinson's prayer, the source said.

CT posted a video on YouTube yesterday (below) that is getting thousands of hits and comments. Most commenters were aggravated at HBO for not airing the video.

HBO had already shifted blame for not broadcasting the invocation, telling AfterElton.com that, "The producer of the concert has said that the Presidential Inaugural Committee made the decision to keep the invocation as part of the pre-show."

Robinson's prayer seemed to stifle some of the anger stoked by Rick Warren, who will deliver an invocation at tomorrow's inauguration. The video of the prayer is posted below.

January 18, 2009

Gay Bishop Kicks off Celebrity-filled Event

WASHINGTON -- Gene Robinson, the divisive figure who was the first openly Episcopal gay bishop, led the invocation at today's inaugural kickoff.

Robinson prayed for God to "bless this nation with anger ? anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people." He also prayed that God would bless us with "the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah."

Overall, his prayer was not especially surprising, since Robinson had told the Concord Monitor that it wouldn't be "especially Christian" and wouldn't use a Bible. Below is the video I took on my camera of Robinson's prayer.

The event was mostly focused on the celebrities, including Bono, Tiger Woods, Beyonce, and Bruce Springsteen. Several journalists clearly need a brush-up on People, In Style, and US magazines because people had to call out each celebrity for those of us who were clueless. My favorite moment was when it looked like Samuel L. Jackson peeked around the corner to take a picture on his phone. Even Malia Obama pulled out a small digital camera.

Click below for the full text of the prayer and more pictures.

Continue reading Gay Bishop Kicks off Celebrity-filled Event...

January 18, 2009

Obama Surprises Church with a Visit

Barack Obama and his family surprised Nineteenth Street Baptist Church by attending its services this morning.

Director of religious affairs Joshua DuBois said in a statement that the Obama's "look forward to learning more about many churches in the District. They will choose a church home at a time that is best for their family."

Nikita Stewart and Hamil R. Harris give some background on the visit and the history of the church in the Washington Post.

As a midsize church, it's often a campaign stop, particularly for local politicians. Obama's visit there came after four weeks of secret planning, according to people involved in the discussions. Nineteenth Street has the kind of political and social mix that might have drawn the transition office to make it the place where the Obamas would worship two days before the inauguration.

Nineteenth Street Baptist originated at 19th and I streets NW, where slaves and whites worshiped together at Baptist Church of Christ. Later, white church members moved out, selling the property to a group of black Baptist ministers and others in 1839. They organized the "First Colored Church of Washington," later changing the name to Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in 1870.

Obama will also attend St. John's Episcopal Church on Tuesday, the morning of his inauguration.

Update: Joe Biden Vice worshiped and received communion today at the same Catholic church President John F. Kennedy attended they day of his inauguration, the Associated Press reports.

January 16, 2009

Live From DC, It's the Inauguration!

Starting tomorrow, I'll cover the inauguration in Washington, D.C., writing about everyone and everything from Bono, to Gene Robinson, to Rick Warren, to Lincoln's Bible, to Sharon Watkins, to the March for Life.

obama.jpg

So tune in and like CNN did today, pass this link to all of your friends: http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctpolitics/

If you'll be in the D.C. area, feel free to send your photos and thoughtful comments to us at christianitytodaymag@gmail.com, which we'll consider posting on the blog.

January 16, 2009

Jim Wallis, Kirbyjon Caldwell to Pray at Inaugural Service

Update: T.D. Jakes will give the sermon at a service Barack Obama will attend on inauguration day.

President of Sojourners Jim Wallis and Kirbyjon Caldwell, who gave the benediction at President Bush's 2001 inauguration, will offer responsive prayers at the Jan. 21 National Prayer Service that closes the inauguration, the inaugural committee announced today.

Update: Bishop T.D. Jakes will give the sermon at the prayer service Barack Obama will attend the day of inauguration, the Associated Press reports.

The Associated Press had written that a Muslim and Rabbis would pray, but no evangelicals had been announced at that service yet. Today, the committee sent out the full list of participants:

Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, will welcome attendees to the event, followed by the invocation of Reverend John Bryon Chane, Episcopal Bishop of Washington.

Reverend Otis Moss Jr., Senior Pastor Emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio will provide the opening prayer, followed by a prayer for civil leaders delivered by Reverend Andy Stanley, Senior Pastor, North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Georgia.

Scripture readings will be provided by Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Atlanta, Georgia as well as Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, New York City, and the Most Reverend Francisco Gonzalez, S.F., Auxiliary Bishop of Washington. Rabbi David Saperstein, Executive Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington, D.C., has been asked to deliver a psalm.

Responsive prayers will be given by six leaders:

--Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President, Islamic Society of North America, Hartford, CT
--Rev. Suzan Johnson-Cook, Senior Pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship, New York City
--Rabbi Jerome Epstein, Director, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York City
--Rev. Carol Wade of the Washington National Cathedral
--Dr. Uma Mysorekar, President, Hindu Temple Society of North America, New York City
--Rev. Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners, Washington, D.C.
-- Rabbi Haskal Lookstein, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurunm, New York City
--Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, Senior Pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, TX

The service will conclude with a prayer for the nation delivered by Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., followed by a closing prayer provided by Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church USA and a benediction by the Reverend Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee previously announced that Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) will deliver the sermon.

January 15, 2009

Judge Rejects Atheist Challenge to Inaugural Prayer

A U.S. District judge today denied a California atheist's request to halt references to God at President-elect Obama's swearing-in on Jan. 20.

"I think it's highly questionable that I have such authority," said Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after a two-hour hearing today.

Walton did not dismiss the case, but denied Michael Newdow's request for a preliminary injunction, saying the "ceremonial speech" at the presidential inauguration is "in substance" no different from legislative prayers that the Supreme Court has permitted.

Newdow, an emergency room physician, made his third attempt to have religious references at presidential inaugurations declared unconstitutional. This time, he was joined by 11 atheist and humanist organizations who felt the words "so help me God" in the oath, and references to God in the invocation and benediction, discriminated against them as nonbelievers.

"This is a practice subversive to the principle of equality," argued Newdow. "The harm is it turns people into second-class citizens and you're not allowed to do that."

Walton said he had difficulty understanding how Newdow and other plaintiffs could say they were harmed by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath with the words "so help me God" while supporting Obama's personal free exercise to say the same phrase.

"I can tell the chief justice what he can do?" Walton asked Newdow.

"The chief justice is not above the law," responded Newdow, who represented himself and the other plaintiffs.

Newdow also argued that the plaintiffs, including a minor, would feel forced to hear prayers they didn't condone if they watched the inauguration.

"I don't think there is a credible claim of coercion, whether it's a child or an adult," argued Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. O'Quinn.

In addition to Roberts, Newdow named inaugural planners in the suit, as well as California megachurch pastor Rick Warren and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who will deliver the invocation and benediction, respectively.

After the hearing, Newdow said he would appeal the ruling but added, "I think it's going to be futile."

Newdow, who also has tried to remove the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, was unsuccessful in his efforts to fight inaugural prayers in 2001 and 2005.

Bob Ritter, co-counsel for the defendants, criticized Walton's ruling.

"This case is not about atheists merely 'feeling offended.' There is real harm," he said in a statement. "... All Americans will be injured on Jan. 20 by (dignitaries) ... violating the principle of separation of church and state, which is the basis for our religious liberty."

January 15, 2009

What Bible Passage should Obama Choose?

Barack Obama's inauguration feels like a wedding to me, where everything from the ministers to the flowers will be scrutinized. And yes, even the Bible passage Obama turns to for the "I do solemnly swear..." part will be picked apart.

But for historical context, The Wall Street Journal has an excellent interactive graphic with pictures, the Bible, and the text used for several presidents' inaugurations. Here's a few of them (I pulled the KJV versions):

George W. Bush
: "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31

Bill Clinton: "And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in." - Isaiah 58:12

Ronald Reagan: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." - II Chronicles 7:14

Jimmy Carter: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" - Micah 6:8

Abraham Lincoln: "Judge not, that ye be not judged." - Matthew 7:1

George Washington: "Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon." - Genesis 49:13

USA Today
's Cathy Lynn Grossman suggests that Obama should pick Deuteronomy 16:20: "That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee."

What do you think? Which passage should Obama choose?

(h/t Justin Taylor)

January 15, 2009

Giving Obama an Agenda

Everybody wants to give president-elect Barack Obama their two cents, and a coalition of evangelicals and Third Way put their's in this morning.

Third Way, a Washington think tank aiming to shape Democratic Party policy, partnered with the evangelicals to give Obama's transition team policy recommendations, which include the following:

? Reducing abortions through common ground policies. We agree on a goal of reducing
abortions in America through policies that address the circumstances that lead to
abortion: preventing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women and new
families, and increasing support for adoption.
? Protecting the rights of gay and lesbian people to earn a living. Based on a common
commitment to fairness and the Golden Rule, we support a policy that makes it illegal
to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote employees based on their sexual orientation.
We also believe that there must be a clear exemption for faith-based employers.
? Renouncing torture. We agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading
treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American.
? Creating secure and comprehensive immigration reform. We agree that we need
secure, compassionate, and comprehensive immigration reform. We support policies that
create an earned path to citizenship and protect families, while securing our borders and
treating American taxpayers fairly.

The memo's drafters include the following:
? Rachel Laser, Director of the Culture Program for Third Way;
? Dr. Robert P. Jones, Visiting Fellow at Third Way and President of Public Religion Research;
? Dr. David Gushee, Professor at Mercer University and President of Evangelicals for Human Rights;
? Rev. Dr. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor at Northland, A Church Distributed;
? Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference;
? Dr. Ronald J. Sider, President of Evangelicals for Social Action;
? Katie Paris, Director of Communications Strategy for Faith in Public Life

Update:
The audio from the press conference can be found at Faith in Public Life's website.

"The culture wars have been characterized by vilifying those who differ from us on provocative issues and treating them as traitors and threats," Hunter said at the press conference. "I believe we can end those wars by thinking of our differences as ways we can learn from each other and advance without compromising core values."

January 14, 2009

Rabbis, Muslim, Archbishop to Pray at Inaugural Service

A Muslim woman, rabbis and a Catholic archbishop will pray at the Jan. 21 National Prayer Service which closes the inauguration, according to the Associated Press.
The Inauguration Committee has said that the Rev. Sharon Watkins will deliver the sermon at the event, but no evangelicals have been announced for that particular service yet.

A prayer will be offered at the National Cathedral by Ingrid Mattson, the first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. The Islamic Society, based in Indiana, is the nation's largest Muslim group.

Three rabbis, representing the three major branches of American Judaism, will also say a prayer at the service, according to officials familiar with the plans. The Jewish clergy are Reform Rabbi David Saperstein, Conservative Rabbi Jerome Epstein and Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, sources said.

It is also traditional for the incoming administration to ask the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington to lead a prayer. The Most Rev. Donald Wuerl leads the archdiocese.

Keep reading the story because Rachel Zoll frames the story in larger context. Some say Rick Warren could be the next Billy Graham, but Zoll writes, "No one has, or likely could, take [Graham's] place as 'America's pastor.'"

January 14, 2009

Obama to Attend Prayer Service on Inauguration Day

Barack Obama will attend a private prayer service on the morning of his inauguration at the historic St. John's Episcopal Church, according to the Washington Post.

St. John's, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, is known as the "Church of the Presidents." Since James Madison, every president has worshiped there at some point during his tenure in the Oval Office. The church has kneelers embroidered in tribute to each president, and Pew 54 is traditionally assigned to the chief executives when they visit.

Obama has rarely appeared at Sunday worship since he broke ties with Jeremiah Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ. Washington Post reporter Jacqueline L. Salmon provides historical context for why Obama may have chosen to attend the prayer service at St. John's.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt started the tradition of attending a worship service before inauguration at St. John's. Since then, four other presidents have worshiped there on Inauguration Day, according to the church's Web site: Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

And since Roosevelt, every president except Richard M. Nixon has attended a worship service on inauguration morning somewhere in the District.

January 13, 2009

Obama Supported Same-sex Marriage in '96

Documents revealed on the Windy City Times suggest that Barack Obama supported same-sex marriage in 1996, indicating that the president-elect made a more conservative shift before running for president.

"I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages," he said in a questionnaire the same year he was elected to the Illinois Senate.

Obama now favors civil unions and opposes a federal same-sex marriage ban, but he opposes same-sex marriage.

Fifty-five percent of Americans oppose gay marriage, with 36 percent favoring it, according to an August 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

(h/t Ben Smith, Politico)

January 13, 2009

Warren Affirms Obama's 'Desire to be President of Every Citizen'

Updated: 1/18/09

Rick Warren complimented Barack Obama's invitations to himself and other clergy to pray at inaugural events as a sign of the president-elect's commitment to govern on behalf of all Americans.

The invitation to openly gay Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson to pray at the inaugural kick off event on Sunday has again stirred great controversy.

"President-elect Obama has again demonstrated his genuine commitment to bringing all Americans of goodwill together in search of common ground," Warren said in a statement provided to Christianity Today. "I applaud his desire to be the president of every citizen."

Warren and Obama have continually been taking heat from members of the gay community since it was announced that the California megachurch pastor would give the invocation at the swearing-in ceremony next Tuesday. Robinson was one of the earliest critics, saying "it was like a slap in the face."

"I'm all for Rick Warren being at the table," Bishop Robinson told The New York Times, "but we're not talking about a discussion, we're talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he's praying to is not the God that I know."

There is speculation over whether Warren will pray in Jesus' name or not. Robinson told the Concord Monitor that he doesn't yet know what he'll say, but he knows he won't use a Bible.

"While that is a holy and sacred text to me, it is not for many Americans," Robinson said. "I will be careful not to be especially Christian in my prayer. This is a prayer for the whole nation."

* * *

Warren's statement quoted above initially appeared to focus on Obama's invitation to Gene Robinson. The statement, e-mailed by a media relations firm, bore the headline: "Statement by Dr. Rick Warren on the Invitation for Bishop V. Gene Robinson to Give the Inaugural Opening Ceremony Invocation (which Warren Gave Four Years Ago)."

Based on that headline, this post was originally titled "Warren Applauds Obama's Invitation to Gay Bishop." The Washington Post ("Rick Warren Reaches Out to Gene Robinson") also interpreted the statement as a response to the Robinson invitation. Numerous bloggers followed suit.

Sunday, January 18, a follow-up statement from Larry Ross of A. Larry Ross Communications, a firm that frequently represents Rick Warren, clarified the intent of Warren's original statement: "In his recent statement, Dr. Warren was not applauding the person invited, but rather affirming the principle of President-elect Obama's commitment to serve as a President of all citizens and hold an inclusive inaugural."

January 12, 2009

Gay Bishop, Woman Added to Obama's Inaugural Prayers

After choosing an evangelical pastor to deliver the invocation at his swearing-in, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen two progressive Protestant leaders – a woman and an openly gay bishop – to bookend his inaugural ceremonies.

"It reflects his commitment to pluralism," said Shaun Casey, an ethics professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington who advised Obama during the presidential campaign. "My advice is for folks to look at the full range of people invited (to deliver prayers) – the sum is larger than its parts."

Obama's pick of California megachurch pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20 was heavily criticized by liberals, especially gay groups. Warren advocated for the passage of Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in California.

Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson was among the most vocal critics, saying that Obama's decision to invite Warren "was like a slap in the face."

Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, announced Monday (Jan. 12) that he's been invited to kick off the inaugural ceremonies on Sunday (Jan. 18) by delivering an invocation at a celebratory concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

The Rev. Sharon Watkins, the first woman elected to lead the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will preach at a prayer service at Washington National Cathedral that concludes the inaugural ceremonies. She will be the first woman to deliver the sermon at the traditional inaugural event, according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Obama's invitation "is an indication of the new president's commitment to being president of ALL the people," Robinson said in an e-mail to supporters. "I am humbled and overjoyed at this invitation, and it will be my great honor to be there representing the Episcopal Church, the people of New Hampshire, and all of us in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community."

Robinson endorsed Obama in August, 2007, and has remained an adviser to him, a spokesman told the Concord Monitor newspaper in New Hampshire.

"This is something the gay rights movement should focus on as much as the Warren pick," said prominent blogger Andrew Sullivan, "(that) Obama's understanding that American Christianity is not a monolith on the question of the sacredness of gay marriage."

Watkins, who was elected general minister and president of her 700,000- member denomination in 2005, serves on the board of the National Council of Churches and Sojourners, an anti-poverty ministry in Washington.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is closely aligned with the United Church of Christ, the denomination Obama joined when he became a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ nearly 20 years ago. Obama broke ties with Trinity, however, during the campaign, after controversial church sermons were broadcast.

Unlike the UCC, which endorses gay marriage, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) does not have a denominational policy on same-sex unions.

"I hope that my message will call us to believe in something bigger than ourselves and remind us to reach out to all of our neighbors to build communities of possibility," Watkins said.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a United Methodist and civil rights pioneer who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., will deliver the benediction at the swearing-in on Jan. 20.

January 12, 2009

By Any Means Necessary?

Civic debate seems to be turning ugly in America. After the pro-marriage Proposition 8 was passed in California, angry gay-rights activists vented their fury on Mormons and Christians, who publicly opposed marriage by homosexuals. Pro-life activists have long experienced social marginalization at the hands of pro-choice organizations and their sympathizers in the mainstream media, according to the final article by the late Richard John Neuhaus. And now Jews in the Chicago area are facing the wrath of vandals responding to Israel's Gaza invasion. "This touches a raw nerve," Rabbi Zvi Engel of Congregation Or Torah in Skokie said, responding to "Death to Israel!" slogans and other provocations on area synagogues. "You have to remember, in our congregations, there are people who remember this happening in Europe" at the start of the Holocaust. Even in America, where freedom of speech is enshrined as a core value, many seek to win debates in the public square by any means necessary.

January 9, 2009

Obama Asks Court to Include 'So help me God' at Inauguration

President-elect Barack Obama asked that the words "so help me God" be added to the end of the oath of office at the Inauguration, according to CNN.

CNN reports that the request was confirmed by an affidavit filed today by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' court counselor. Roberts said he would abide by Obama's wishes.

The phrase has been a long-held tradition but is being challenged by an atheist who wants it removed.

January 9, 2009

Joe the Journalist Goes to Gaza

Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher, told a television station that he plans to report from the Middle East for www.pjtv.com, a conservative Christian Web site, for 10 days.

"Being a Christian I'm pretty well protected by God I believe," Wurzelbacher said. "That's not saying he's going to stop a mortar for me, but you gotta take the chance."

Wurzelbacher became famous after John McCain referred to him several times in a presidential debate in October. The plumber's move coincidentally comes shortly after he released a new book.

"I get to go over there and let their "Average Joes" share their story, what they think, how they feel, especially with world opinion, maybe get a real story out there," Wurzelbacher told the station.

January 9, 2009

Augustine on Blagojevich

The debate over the validity of Gov. Rod Blagojevish's appointment of Roland Burris as the next senator from illinois is ultimately a legal issue and not a moral one, according to Stanley Fish in today's New York Times. Fish, a professor of law at Florida International University, says the topic has been debated thoroughly already, by St. Augustine:

This debate was about the status of churchmen who had cooperated with the emperor Diocletian during the period when he was actively persecuting Christians. The Donatists argued that those who had betrayed their faith under pressure and then returned to the fold when the persecutions were over had lost the authority to perform their priestly offices, including the offices of administering the sacraments and making ecclesiastical appointments. In their view, priestly authority was a function of personal virtue, and when a new bishop was consecrated by someone they considered tainted, they rejected him and consecrated another.

Augustine, however, argued that authority was a function of one's office, not one's character: "It is the office that speaks, appoints and consecrates. Its legitimacy does not vary with personal qualities of the imperfect human being who is the temporary custodian of a power that at once exceeds and transforms him."

Here's guessing that another saint, one named Paul, would agree. The apostle urged obedience to the governing authorities, who happened to represent the Roman Empire, not known for its commitment to fairness. Said Paul:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

January 8, 2009

Who Said 'So help me God' First?

A U.S. District Court judge will hear a case next week from an atheist who wants to block a long-held tradition prayers and mentions of God at the inauguration.

Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA Today wrote a piece that shows some history behind God included at the inauguration. She writes that the website and video produced by the official committee in charge of the inauguration say George Washington set a precedent by saying "So help me God." But experts at the Library of Congress and the first president's home, Mt. Vernon, now say that there is no documentation that the famous phrase came from Washington's mouth.

So who gets the blame or credit for the famous phrase "So help me God"?

Chester Arthur said the famous phrase at his inauguration in 1881. Beth Hahn, historical editor for the U.S. Senate Historical Office told Grossman that it was the first eyewitness documentation and was included in in The New York Times.

Washington began with "fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe ?" Then said, "In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either: No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States."

He concludes by turning back to God, "the benign Parent of the human race, in humble supplication," and asks for God's "divine blessing" for the nation.

Blessings by clergy at the inauguration - initially by the Senate chaplain and then, since 1933, by clergy invited by the president-elect - have been part of inaugurations for more than two centuries without much attention.

January 7, 2009

Inaugural Prayers

Religion News Service asked several religious leaders what they would have prayed for if they had been asked to pray at Barack Obama's inauguration.

Posted below include responses from evangelicals, such as Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham; the Rev. Wilfred De Jesus, Chicago pastor and an adviser to Obama's campaign; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

Some of the responses have been edited for length and clarity:

Author and speaker Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham.
"We bow before you as the one, true, living God.

In a world of confusion, you are the way. In a world of political correctness, you are the truth. In a world of death, you are eternal life.

Thank you for our freedom which has not come easily, and is even nowbeing defended by the courageous sacrifice of those willing to lay down their lives. May we never abuse it or take it for granted.

Protect us from enemies outside our borders and from the sinful influences that have torn down the barriers of safety around our hearts and minds.

Restore our families, schools, churches, and communities: that parents would step up as leaders; pastors would shepherd their flocks; teachers would impart wisdom with their instruction; and individuals would take responsibility for their own lives.

We ask that you would bless President Obama with wisdom to make decisions that are right; courage to stand against that which is wrong; innovative ideas to solve problems; heartfelt compassion to meet human needs; patience to respectfully work out differences; counselors who speak the truth; family members and friends who love, encourage and support him.

Give our new president a powerful, fresh encounter with yourself, so that on your behalf, he would exercise kindness, justice, and righteousness in this nation, and in the world.

Most of all, we pray that we would be reminded that the change we long for, and the change we can truly believe in, is in the human heart as we turn in repentance and trust to you. Give our country the strength, the power, and the means to live out your will to your glory.

In the name of your son, our savior, Jesus Christ, Amen."

Continue reading Inaugural Prayers...

January 7, 2009

Jack Kemp Diagnosed with Cancer

Former vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp has been diagnosed with cancer, according to Politico.

According to a statement from his consulting firm, Kemp Partners, doctors are still testing Kemp before determining a course of treatment.

The Republican said Kemp has told friends that he went to the doctor complaining of pain but was otherwise feeling fine. Tests showed that he has cancer in multiple places.

Kemp ran for the Republican nomination in 1996 before losing to Sen. Bob Dole, who chose Kemp as his running mate. Kemp was raised as a Christian Scientist but became a Presbyterian after his marriage, according to a 1996 New York Times article.

After his marriage, Mr. Kemp became a Presbyterian. He does not like to talk about his religion, although he says he has become a born-again Christian. He is a staunch opponent of legal abortions. But as a politician, he has always been more interested in economic issues than in the social issues like abortion that dominate the political thinking of organizations on the Christian right.

January 6, 2009

Library of Congress seeks inaugural sermons

The Library of Congress' American Folklife Center is seeking sermons that are preached in U.S. houses of worship during inaugural week.

The library said it would mark the historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American president by adding sermons from a range of houses of worship and secular settings to its spoken-word collection.

"In anticipation of citizens' efforts to mark this historic time around the country, the American Folklife Center will be collecting audio and video recordings of sermons and orations that comment on the significance of the inauguration of 2009," the center states on its Web site. "It is expected that such sermons and orations will be delivered at churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, as well as before humanist congregations and other secular gatherings. The American Folklife Center is seeking as wide a representation of orations as possible."

The collection will include written texts and audio and video recordings from Jan. 16-25. They must be sent to the center by Feb. 27. Recordings, texts and related printed programs that meet the center's specifications will be processed by archivists and then made available
to students, scholars and the general public.

January 6, 2009

Al's Take on the Religious Right

The drama between Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Colemen continues as Franken won the ballot recount for a Minnesota senate seat by 225 votes.

It's not official, but so far, it looks like Franken may win this round. Franken has an entire chapter in his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them entitled "Thank God for Jerry Falwell," referring to the late pastor who co-founded the Moral Majority.

Franken refers to Ann Coulter's book Slander where Coulter writes "The Religious Right," is the "boogeyman" for the left. Franken writes that "if Coulter doesn't think the religious right exists, she should really get out more. I've been to Christian Coalition events, and there are a lot of people there . . . The point is, they're big and they're growing."

After his book was published, Steve Waldman of Beliefnet asked Franken what was wrong with the Religious Right.

They sometimes forget we don’t live in a theocracy. They can be in the public square and express their opinion but to expect other people to alter their behavior to say that, for example, that homosexuality is immoral because it says so in the Bible…I mean it also says you can’t eat pork. I don’t see a lot of orthodox Jews saying people who eat pork shouldn't be allowed to get insurance benefits.

I mean there’s stuff in the Bible how about how to sell your daughter. They kind of are pretty selective about what is important and what isn’t. I think slavery is ok in the Bible. It’s stupid! It’s like the dumbest thing that they want to proscribe other people’s behavior based on their belief.

In other words, Franken won't be singing "You've Got a Friend in Me."

January 2, 2009

Bristol Palin Discourages Teenage Pregnancy

Sarah Palin and her daughter, Bristol Palin, discouraged teenage pregnancy in a statement posted on the Alaska governor's website today.

Bristol Palin gave birth to Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston on December 27. Her mother initially declined to comment, but the women issued the following statement.

Bristol Palin said she "obviously discourages" teen pregnancy and knows that plans she previously made for herself will now forever be changed. "Teenagers need to prevent pregnancy to begin with ? this isn't ideal. But I'm fortunate to have a supportive family which is dealing with this together. Tripp is so perfectly precious; we love him with all our hearts. I can't imagine life without him now."

Sarah Palin explained her reaction when she first heard the news about the pregnancy.

"When Bristol and Levi first told us the shocking news that she was pregnant, to be honest, we all at first looked at the situation with some fear and a bit of despair. Isn't it just like God to turn those circumstances into such an amazing, joyful blessing when you ask Him to help you through?"

Palin lauded her daughter and the baby's father, Levi Johnston, saying they will continue high school courses.

"We are over the moon with the arrival of this healthy, beautiful baby," Palin said. "The road ahead for this young couple will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Bristol and Levi are committed to accomplish what millions of other young parents have accomplished, to provide a loving and secure environment for their child. They are both hard workers, they're very strong, and have faith they've made the right decision in setting aside their own interests to make this child their highest priority."