Category: inauguration

The inauguration: an aside from a neglected author

By , 23 January 2009 7:43 pm

Well, we watched the inauguration. Having spent a number of weeks talking about the differences between Britain and the States this was a classic; other than a vaguely common language, there was a gulf as wide as the Atlantic between us on this. We just don’t do inaugurations, but of course this was far closer to a coronation than a changeover of a British administration.

Anyway I paid careful attention to Rick Warren’s invocation because I knew something of the furore surrounding it. Frankly I generally approved of what he said. I sensed him footstep very gingerly around a number of difficult issues and I applauded his courage in using the word ‘Jesus’ at the end. A key factor in my approval was simply that nothing remotely like such a public and explicitly evangelical prayer would have been allowed in the UK.

Later on I was directed to a reformed website for a transcript by son number two and made the mistake of commenting on the speech. No one directly answered me but as a result I got the remaining 99 or so e-mails. What astonished (and to be honest appalled me) was the real unpleasantness of tone of many of the comments. I read that Warren had no business making the invocation, that he was wrong to use the Lord’s prayer, that he should have prayed for Obama to be converted, that he should not have made any concessions whatsoever to Islam and Judaism so on.

One interesting one that troubled me was the complaint that he should have used some of the Old Testament prayers directly, such as Ezra’s great prayer of contrition (Ezra 9). Why did that bother me? It troubled me because that was a prayer specifically for God’s own chosen people and however great a view you have of the United States’ manifest destiny, it does not replace the Old Testament nation of Israel. Ultimately it seems to me that there is no scriptural mandate or parallel for anything remotely like an invocation at the inauguration of the President of a secular state. Yes, there were things I would like to have changed and added but I am not Rick Warren (much to my publisher’s dismay). I think he did a jolly good job under the circumstances and I felt he came over well as a genuine warm-hearted believer with a faith worth having. His words were carried to the ends of the earth and I pray that God will mightily use them. The fact is there are clearly people – within the Christian community – who so hate him that nothing that could be said would have appeased them. Or maybe they hate Obama so much that he got caught in the spillover.

Anyway as I read the comments I actually found a terrible thought dawning in my mind. I realised that I was beginning to formulate a prayer. It’s a prayer that I have not yet prayed but after being immersed in the vitriol I think I probably could. It is this: ‘Thank you God that my books have not been a vast success because I’m not sure I could handle bitter criticism from fellow Christians.’

Have a good week.

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