My First Take on Rick Warren's Invocation: Emphasizing Unity and Christianity

The evangelical pastor's invocation prayer stressed unity—and Christianity.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

For me, the two most salient features of the Rev. Rick Warren's inauguration invocation were its emphasis on the values of unity and mutual respect, which seemed partly a reaction to the controversy his selection as invocation speaker sparked, and its bold invocation of Jesus in the form of the Lord's Prayer. For some, those two themes would seem incongruous. It was trademark Warren, who—like Barack Obama—has been accused of trying to be all things to all people.

On the first point, consider these lines from Warren's invocation:

The Lord is One....

You are compassionate and merciful and loving to everyone.

We celebrate a hinge point in history, with the inauguration of our first African-American president of the United States.... We know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.

Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, are united not by race or religion or blood but by 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 fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the Earth with the respect they deserve, forgive us.

May we have...civility in our attitude, even where we differ. Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all.

After the media's breathless coverage of the outrage Warren's selection triggered in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community—a new Gallup poll suggests there's not much controversy in the minds of most Americans—Warren appeared to be hellbent on re-establishing himself as a uniter. His message was E pluribus unum.

Warren's recitation of the Lord's Prayer will disappoint those calling for a truly ecumenical invocation, but it is noteworthy that the pastor chose a prayer that unites all Christians, not just evangelicals. So far as prayer goes, that's probably as ecumenical as Warren gets.

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