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:
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Journalgraphic indicates that unlike other presidents, John F. Kennedy also left his Bible closed.
Obama's speech was sprinkled with religious references.
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.
Lowery: Say amen
Lowery: and amen.
Audience: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)
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.
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.
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.
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."
"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."
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
Update: T.D. Jakes will give the sermon at a service Barack Obama will attend on inauguration day.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey
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.
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.
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."
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?
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.'"
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.
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."
"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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
Led by a California atheist who has tried to remove the phrase "under God" from the pledge of allegiance, a group of atheists filed suit in federal court Tuesday (Dec. 30) to block prayers and mentions of God at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan 20.
Michael Newdow, joined in his complaint by 11 atheist and humanist groups, filed similar, unsuccessful suits in 2001 and 2005, when President Bush was sworn in. He has also tried to remove the reference to God in the pledge of allegiance, arguing that it constitutes an illegal government endorsement of religion.
The suit names Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who will swear in the new president, as well as California megachurch pastor Rick Warren and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who will deliver the invocation and benediction, respectively, and other inauguration planners.
By adding the words "so help me God" to the oath of office, as Supreme Court chief justices and presidents have done since at least 1933, Roberts would "infuse the inaugural ceremony with purely religious dogma," the atheists charge. The atheists also object to the place of the Bible in the ceremony -- Obama has asked for the copy used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 -- and the delivery of opening and closing prayers.
The atheists are not suing Obama, however, because he, "like all other individuals, has Free Exercise rights," the suit says, referring to the Constitution's protection of religious expression. The problem would come if Roberts "prompts" Obama to recite the phrase, according to the atheists.
"The use of sectarian prayer and religious phrases during the inauguration not only violates a clear reading of the First Amendment, it serves as a justification for the breach of church-state separation in other areas," said Bob Ritter, staff attorney for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the American Humanist Association.
Warren's inclusion in the ceremony has also been criticized by liberals, particularly gay rights groups, who object to his vocal denunciations of same-sex marriage.
In a video sent to members of his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., Warren fired back at his critics, accusing them of "Christophobia" and "hate speech," according to Associated Baptist Press.
"Some people feel today that if you disagree with them, then that's hate speech," Warren said. "If you disagree with them, you either hate them or you're afraid of them. I'm neither afraid of gays nor do I hate gays. In fact I love them, but I do disagree with some of their
If you hear a sermon during Inauguration Week that you consider memorable, the Library of Congress wants to know about it.
With the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American president, its American Folklife Center hopes to add sermons and speeches from an array of houses of worship and secular settings to its spoken-word collection, the center announced Tuesday.
``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 media never gets it 100 percent correct. I've never seen an in-print article that gets everything right," Warren says, adding, "The media lives for conflict. If there's no conflict, then somebody's going to create it."
In the series, Warren insisted he wasn't equating gay marriage with incest or child molestation referring to Steve Waldman's earlier interview.
"I have in no way ever taught that homosexuality is the same thing as a forced relationship between an adult and a child, or between siblings," Warren said in the video. "I was trying to point out I'm not opposed to gays having their partnership. I'm opposed to gays using the term marriage for their relationship." Waldman posts his response here.
-- Several bloggers, including Gary Stern of The Journal News, pointed out that the church removed a part of its website on the Bible and homosexuality.
A Saddleback spokesman, Kristin Cole, told me that the section "has not been permanently removed, but rather repurposed for clarity." Saddleback Associate Pastor Tom Holladay will post an audio clip titled, "What Does the Bible Say About homosexuality ? is it a sin?"
Over the weekend, he spoke at the Muslim Public Affairs Council at its convention in California Saturday night. The L.A. Times reports that recognizing the potential for controversy, Warren said near the beginning of his speech: "Let me just get this over very quickly. I love Muslims. And for the media's purpose, I happen to love gays and straights."
Dan Gilgoff interviewed Muslim Public Affairs Council executive director Salam Al-Marayati about Muslim-evangelical relations.
We don't know the percentage [of evangelicals] that Robertson or [Focus on the Family founder] James Dobson represents. They're certainly significant but they are two voices. The rise of people like Rick Warren and Chris Seiple and Joel Hunter has changed that in the last 10 years.... It's a much needed and refreshing phase in terms of Christian-Muslim relations that we're in right now.
-- Just about everybody has an opinion about whether Obama should have chosen Warren.
It's particularly fun to read headlines if you click the "Rick Warren" tag on the Huffington Post:
Rick Warren Announcement Is Slap In The Face To GLBTQ Army
Obama's Pastor Warren Pick; A Bridge Too Far
Barack, Get a Klue
Right Message, Wrong Messenger
Dump Rick Warren - Letter to President-elect Obama
Rick Warren: What Was Obama Thinking?
-- Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press wrote a piece yesterday about how Warren has battled complaints from fellow evangelicals that he isn't nearly conservative enough.
"The comments from many of the evangelicals further to the right of him are often critical for his lax stance on their passionate issues," said Scott Thumma, a professor at Connecticut's Hartford Seminary.
However, some conservative evangelicals such as Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham have jumped to Warren's defense lately.
Michael Paulson at The Boston Globewrites that CNN's The Situation Room has an interview with Pat Robertson today. Robertson also praises Warren, and says, "All he's been asked to do is give an invocation. He isn't asked to endorse Obama. He's going to stand up there on the steps of the Capitol and he's going to say, God, please bless this country. And he will do that very well."
On a side note, Robertson told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux that he is "remarkably pleased" with Obama.
"I had grave misgivings about him. But so help me, he's come in forcefully, intelligently. He's picked a middle of the road cabinet. And so far, if he continues down this course, he has the makings of a great president."
-- Finally, a CNN poll suggests that public opinion on same-sex marriage has not changed in the last six months. In June, 44 percent of those surveyed said that gay marriages should be recognized by law as valid, and 53 percent said they should not. A poll release today showed that 55 percent oppose gay marriage.
Dan Gilgoff, formerly of Beliefnet, briefly interviewed Clark Evans, the Library of Congress's head of reference services, rare books, and special collections division about the Bible Barack Obama will use at the inauguration.
Before the election, we cross-posted several posts from Gilgoff when he was politics editor at Beliefnet. He has moved to a new role at U.S. New & World Report and has an excellent new politics & religion blog.
In the interview, Evans tells Gilgoff that the Bible has an inscription.
On the back flyleaf, you find the seal of the Supreme Court and a record of the event written out by William Thomas Carroll. What jumps out at you is that the Supreme Court justice at the time [who administered the oath to Lincoln] was Robert Taney, who had written the majority opinion in the Dred Scott decision of 1857 that permitted slavery to spread into the territories. There was a palpable tension between the justice and the president.