Friday, January 16, 2009

Heaven help us ...

... or where is Billy Graham now that we need him? Sadly, the Rev. Mr. Graham, now 90 and beset by the infirmities of old age, rarely leaves his North Carolina home and certainly is not up to a trek to Washington, D.C., to pray at Tuesday's inauguration of Barack Obama. I'm sure he'll be praying for Obama and the nation anyway, bless his heart, but it will not be quite the same. It was kind of nice when most felt one guy, even though unabashedly Christian and Southern Baptist to boot, could pray for us all and few minded --- and no one seemed to feel he or she was being prayed against.

So we've been treated recently to a variety of unseemly skirmishes on the inaugural prayer front. First Obama asked Rick Warren (upper left), a preacher licensed by Southern Baptists who leads the Saddleback megachurch. Because of that, there was rejoicing among conservatives and great wailing and gnashing of teeth among liberals, including many of my queer brothers and sisters.

Then Obama asked V. Gene Robinson (lower left), Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire and gay, to lead prayers on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial during an inaugural kickoff event. Because of that there was great shrieking and hand-wringing among conservatives and general rejoicing among liberals.

And so it's gone. Betwixt and between we've learned that the Rev. Sharon Watkins, head of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a moderate to liberal denomination, will preach at the National Prayer Service, and that here and there along the inaugural parade route we will hear from a Roman Catholic archbishop, at least three rabbis and a Muslim. We heard from atheists and agnostics in the form of a lawsuit (rejected) challenging prayer of any sort, or for that matter mention of God, during the proceedings. About the only folks not heard from, as nearly as I can tell, are the Mormons (take that, Mit Romney). If we're going to all of this bother to be inclusive, it would have been nice to include them. There are more Mormons out there, after all, than many of the other varieties heretofore mentioned.

I read a good many religiously-oriented blogs, ranging from ultraconservative to flaming liberal --- including a few Mormon ones, and much has been said there about all of this. But I'll spare you. Nor I would never link to those faith-based (?!?) blogs because quite frankly they all manage to give religion a black eye on a regular basis. If any of the great unchurched mass out there are looking for faith-based homes, I'd prefer they just pick a few churches and start attending (OK OK Take the BeliefNet "what denomination am I?" multiple-choice test if you must). But read the blogs and you'll have the bejesus scared out of you before ya get off the ground.

I guess in general I'm OK with this multiple-choice inaugural prayer business if one of its points is to say "Now looka here. No matter what we think or believe about each other, we've got to keep all this sniping down to an uproar and make sure everyone's got enough to eat." And what with the economy and all, that could become an issue unless we behave ourselves in more ways than one.

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind if there were no prayers at all. Somewhere in the process of offending no one many of them end up sounding a tad hollow. And presumably our leaders and all the rest of us would be off in our respective closets praying privately anyway, something I think there's a New Testament precedent for.

1 comment:

Ed Abbey said...

I'm always surprised at how worked up people get over this kind of stuff. I guess I feel that my religion or my moral values are exactly that, mine and what or who I choose shouldn't make much of a difference to anyone else. I'm more concerned of how Obama is going to run the country than whether or not the leader of the prayer shares my beliefs on gays.