Rick Warren's Invocation Invokes Judaism, Islam

The evangelical pastor's inauguration invocation included appeals to Muslims and Jews.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

The Rev. Rick Warren's invocation might have featured the full Lord's Prayer, the prayer that best cuts across many Christian denominations, but for those listening closely, it also included clear hat-tips to Judaism and Islam. The references came right up top, six lines into Warren's invocation:

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.

The first half of that paragraph— Hear , O Israel , the Lord is our God . The Lord is One—is the Shema, the most important prayer in Judaism. Many Jews recited it on the way to their deaths during the Holocaust.

The second half of that paragraph—"You are the compassionate and merciful one"—echoes the opening of all but one chapter of the Koran. Those chapters begin Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem, which translates into, "In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, the most merciful."

"After the actual name Allah, Rahman is the one name that's unique to God," explains Jonathan Brown, assistant professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Washington. "It's this intense compassion and mercy you can't find in a human being."

That means Rick Warren's invocation was more ecumenical than many expected it to be. The interesting thing now will be to watch whether and how Warren's shout-outs are greeted in the Jewish and Muslim communities. Yet again, Warren is trying to be a bridge builder, even as the media focus on his ability to sow controversy.