Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Prayer, Politics and Partisan Preachers

I listened to most of the Inauguration today while driving for a couple of hours.

I think I don’t have a problem with having a prayer by a pastor that doesn’t believe much that I believe, he and I in our country get to believe and say what we think. But, there’s real religion and civic religion.

Reverend Warren played a game on us at the end of his prayer in the name of “Yeshua, Issa, Jesús, Jesus.” As I understand it, that’s Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and of course English. So, if you throw a bone to Jews and Arabs and use an ethnic and mainstream pronunciation of your religion’s name for (here, I have a problem quickly describing a third of a triune deity) - pick your own, it’s OK to exclude everyone else’s beliefs (thus the long tradition of civic religion that just talks about “God” or “our Heavenly Father”).

Reverend Lowery used his prayer time to divide:

“....help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."

I want all that the Reverend prayed for; but, the Inauguration is not the time to call out a race that helped elect the man he was praying for, a man that reached out to people of faith (and no faith) and all ethnicities in his campaign and his speech.

Maybe I’m being thin-skinned here; but, I don’t like the juxtaposition of religion and politics, especially when the religious part masks views of people that, despite their words, see people as less than equal. I know in the case of Reverend Lowery, that is a bit sacrilegious, to misuse a word. But, the Reverend is holding on to old grudges when he divides colors. Reverend Warren was apparently invited to show a willingness to create a conversation between people of good will, but with different religious backgrounds. Yet, he saw fit to pray to just his god.

Today when we celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama, a cross-cultural, cross-generational man, is not the time to pray to insular versions of god or to remind us of the ethnic sins of the past. It is the time to pray, or acknowledge, that people and their gods need to pull together.


Lifehiker said...

I see where you're coming from, but I have a different point of view.

Obama seems willing to let people of all stripes have their say, and say it in their own way. All of us need to hear what is said in the light of the person who said it, not in our own light.

I wouldn't expect a conservative Christian like Warren to leave out Jesus, nor would I expect Lowery to stop putting pressure on white America. Hearing what others say, honestly, opens the true path to reconciliation or at least, peaceful co-existence.

Within a half hour after Lowery finished, I heard a bitter white woman say she wouldn't waste a minute listening to Obama. She didn't even have to say it was because of his color...that much was clear. Lowery simply pointed out the obvious. America still has a long way to go when it comes to being colorblind.

DaleC said...

We have juxtaposed religion and politics since the founding of our country.

I wouldn't expect Warren to pray to anyone other than his God, anymore than I would expect a Rabbi or Imama to call Jesus "The Messiah".

Other than that, you're dead on, especially on Rev Lowery event though I wrote him off as an old man with old rhymes stuck in old times.

As you pointed out here and I did a few minutes ago on CL, Obama couldn't get elected without all us white folks. Even though I was not one of them, he is my President now.

Dave said...

LF and Dale,

I wasn't fully happy with my post when I hit the publish icon. Your comments show me why.

Obama is inclusive as you say LF, listening to all views. I part with you and Dale on forum grounds.

As I said in the post, I want what Joseph Lowry wants, and we aren't there yet. I think Rick Warren should say exactly what he thinks. Both men garner praise or criticism as their listeners choose to give it.

But, I want, not expect, that Obama listen and the Reverends talk as they will in a forum that is designed for criticism and insularity, not a forum designed to bring Americans together behind a new government. That forum, if prayer is to be a part of it, should restrict itself to what I called civic religion in the post.

We've all seen Rabbis, Mullahs, Pastor and Priests pray in public to god. That god then can be the God that Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Catholics (not forgetting Hindus, Buddists, etc.) believe in for all of the listeners, not just the public prayer's flavor.

That forum should not be the place to use prayer to whatever god as a vehicle for making a political statement designed to divide.

An aside, Dale, I went to Creative Loafing and couldn't find your comment. When are you going to give us your wisdom in a real live blog rather than on a drive-by basis?

DaleC said...

I now have a new handle Drive By Blogger

Thanks man.

I can't have a blog, my wife said so. :-)

DaleC said...

Oops, it wasn't on CL, but on Grifty

Dave said...

And Grifty is?

DaleC said...

damned types - Drifting Through The Grift