Lest it be said that I had nothing good to say about the inauguration of President Barack Obama, I will say this. In his choice of ministers, Obama provided a good example of forbearance.
The AP notes the prayers were largely Protestant.
The clergy were Protestant, and so was the new head of state. But the inauguration Tuesday of President Barack Obama aimed for a much broader audience: an increasingly diverse America, where people want their beliefs acknowledged in the nation’s most important ceremony. In his address, Obama referred to God and Scripture, saying, “the time has come to set aside childish things,” from 1 Corinthians.
But he also reached out to American secularists, calling the United States, “a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers.” The Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism, based in Amherst, N.Y., called recognition in the inaugural address “truly historic and remarkable.” (from here)
This is a largely Protestant nation so the prayers reflected the obvious. Nevertheless, Obama personally noted our diversity.
Rev. Rick Warren, chosen to offer the opening prayer, in his own way, also did the same.
Some Christians said they were struck by Mr. Warren’s references to other faiths. Invoking other religions shows “he is appreciative of, or at least courteous to, people who don’t share his particular faith,” says William Martin, senior fellow at the Baker Institute at Rice University, and a biographer of the Rev. Billy Graham, the evangelical leader who offered blessings at several inaugurations. “He is trying to be as inclusive as he can be.” (from here)
Here is the text of Warren prayer.
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.”
The text of Warren’s prayer is from here. Note that that website also provides a video of the prayer.
Warren gave an unapologetically Christian prayer. He expressed personal beliefs. At the same time, he did not ridicule the beliefs of others. Without hedging the presentation of his beliefs, Warren recognized that others have the right to believe differently. That is the way forbearance works.
We each hold and express our religious belief because we do believe. Because we each have the right to seek salvation in our own way, we forbear the beliefs of others.
In recent years in the name of secularism, some have tried to silence religious expression as inappropriate and offensive. By engaging in such behavior, the people who advocate this form of secularism define themselves as neither tolerant nor willing to forbear. In fact, these people threaten religious freedom.
Consider the words of the apostles Peter and John when the authorities in Jerusalem demanded their silence.
Acts 4:18-20 (New International Version)
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
The Christian who allows his expression of faith to be silence is not a Christian. Such a Christian also is not free. Consider the excerpted conversation I lifted from this website.
An old man tells a teenage boy that wealth cannot be measured in gold or money alone.
The young man is confused. He asks, “Then what does it mean to be successful?” The old man tells the boy: “Success is whatever gets you closer to what you think is important. ”
“So I have to define success for myself?” the boy asks. The old man nods, “We all have to.”
We live in a land where all still have a precious gift. We each still have the opportunity to define and work towards our own unique definition of success. That is what we call freedom. Hopefully our new president and every one of our freely elected leaders will help us to preserve that freedom.