I know inaugural news and commentary are already passe. But I could not find one report this past week that caught what I believe was the most subtle, strategic and possibly subversive moment of the inauguration ceremony. Did you catch it?
Like most news agencies, U.S. News & World Report reported that the Rev. Rick Warren's invocation "clearly opted for a conciliatory tone that eschewed any mention of culture-war issues." But Warren hardly was pacifying the elites or anyone else -- if you truly understand what he prayed. The invocation seemed like a rather benign blessing that even his most ardent foes could have interpreted as inclusive. But the real portrait of his prayer was quite to the contrary.
First of all, Warren's prayer was nearly five minutes long -- about 486 words. He certainly didn't cower to typical audience intolerance for long prayers and opt for a short grace before meals.
Second, Warren embarked on what theologians call a Mars Hill apologetic, which is a biblical approach and deductive line of reasoning that the apostle Paul used in teaching about a Creator God, with whom all can identify at first: "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."
Third, Warren then narrowed his focus by identifying the Creator as the one true Hebrew (or Jewish) God of the Old Testament -- something that sounds inclusive of Judaism but also serves as the basis and narrowing of his Christian logic. At the same time, he was culturally relative and sensitive to (but not necessarily endorsing of) Islam by extolling God as "the compassionate and merciful one," a descriptive line that opens all but one chapter of the Quran. Warren prayed: "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."
Fourth, Warren then covered the gamut in compassionate petitions -- thanking God for racial freedom and equality, praying a blessing on Obama and his Cabinet, and asking God to help us all unite in freedom, forgive us of our presumption and pride, and share with and serve all humanity.
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