21 January 2009

Obama's Ongoing Problems with Prayer

Prayers continue to be a problem for President Obama. Many Obama supporters were incensed when Reverend Rick Warren was asked to deliver the invocation at the Inaugural as Warren was not seen as being inclusive over homosexual rights. As it turned out, Warren gave a reverend, outreaching but Milquetoast invocation that closed by echoing the "Lord's Prayer".

In sharp contrast, Dr. Joseph Lowery, the 87 year old Methodist minister and Civil Rights leader gave an benediction that sounded more like a partisan provocation. The peroration fuses two borrowed phrases:
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 in back, when brown can stick around... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen. Say Amen'...

The first part of the prayer borrows a phrase from “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, also known as "The Negro National Anthem," by James Weldon Johnson. Then Lowery fused rhyming chants from his Civil Rights activism days.

America inaugurates its first Black President and his chosen minister blesses the occasion by using divisive racial indictments. So much for being one nation under God indivisible in a post-racial America. For a formal prayer, I am troubled at a benediction that provokes audible laughter, both for the prayer’s content as well as the vulgar rhyming.

I'm reminded of Reverend Wright's pulpit taunt "America's chickens are coming home to roost". So much for setting the wrong reverent tone—I don’t feel blessed.

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