Waymon Hudson

A Purpose Driven Prayer

Filed By Waymon Hudson | January 22, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Politics
Tags: Aretha Franklin, Barack Obama, Gene Robinson, inaguration, Joseph Lowery, prayer, Rick Warren

Pastor Rick Warren delivered his invocation to the masses on Tuesday. It was a huge crowd on a historic occasion- but it was a small and narrow prayer. And it made the man that delivered it seem even smaller and more divisive than ever.

warren.jpgAfter the soaring moments or the inauguration- like Aretha singing, the crowds chanting, and Bishop Robinson's blessing- hearing Warren's prayer made it clear that he was indeed out of place at this global time of change and moving forward.

The smallness of the man and his words became even more apparent when compared to Joseph Lowery's moving benediction, which matched the history, hope, and seriousness of the occasion.

But perhaps Warren's prayer was simply a symbol and reflection of the previous chapter of our nation's history and politics, one that is hopefully coming to a close.

While I admit to be being predisposed to disliking Warren's prayer, actually watching it made me shake my head in shame. It represented everything that has been wrong with our country. Warren completely ignored other faiths and those that are non-believers, instead giving a long oratory on evangelical values and catch phrases.

And while he may have thought otherwise, saying "Jesus" in spanish doesn't make it an "inclusive" prayer.

There was no "meeting half-way" or open-mindedness to his invocation, only his way and his beliefs. While he may have been invited in the spirit of unity, according to Obama, it was apparent that there was truly only one side reaching out. Unity takes action on both parts, respect towards the differences we all have.

Warren showed none of that.

And while his prayer, and his very inclusion in the inauguration, reflected poorly on us as a nation, I think it perhaps reflected most poorly on him. Warren had an agenda, a purpose, with his prayer. It wasn't a celebration of our common moment in history, or a sincere blessing from a grateful heart.

It was a purpose driven prayer.

And Warren seemed that much smaller and more insignificant because of it. He had his moment, his chance to rise above and become a player in history. But all he did was show his true self, a narrow-minded man who will be easily forgotten. He will be a small footnote in the celebration, listed somewhere far beneath Aretha Franklin's hat.


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I found him embarassing, especially with the fake choked tears. No fire, no brimstone..and we know he has no real connection to Obama. Then to be followed and upstaged by the Rev Lowery was fine!

Love Lower, his pulpitspeak was even more poetical that the poet's, course hers was free verse.

Congratulations to all in the new administration. AMEN

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 23, 2009 2:22 AM

Lowery was in fine feather ... joy and exhaltation rang from somewhere deep and real, beyond a mere voice, propelled by decades of fully-in-touch authenticity ... he was life personified whereas Warren was an imitation thereof, with all the vibrance of a push-button-get-words wax figure in the Las Vegas Mme. Tussaud's.

I totally agree. Interestingly, for all the lead-up, truly Warren was out-classed. Bot by Obama's explicit multi- (and non- !) denominational inclusiveness, and of course Rev. Lowery's obvious and authentic, earned grasp of the import of the occasion.

Thank the dieties Aretha Franklin followed him. By the time she got to the second verse, I was all, "Rev. Rick who?"

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 23, 2009 2:27 AM

Heck, I was there by the third syllable, due to that pause she made before "tree" that gave me time to ask Phyllis, "Honey, is that woman really singing a song about my favorite body part!"

The prayer wasn't the most inspiring of invocations I've ever heard. To understand any further criticism I think it needs to be asked: What would he have had to say to make you happy? When one thinks about what he could have said, what he did say was pretty mild.

As for the invocation not being inclusive enough, Warren is being lambasted by the right for being too inclusive. He included language from the New Testament, Shema Yisrael, and the Quran.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 23, 2009 8:16 AM

Are there any other invocations you remember at all? :)

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 24, 2009 2:56 AM

I remember the Son-of-Graham's one at Shrub's first inaugural. Notwithstanding the fact that he is a former teenaged drinking and running buddy of one of my exes and that she told me stories about their escapades that curled my hair, he was as much a harbinger of that administration as I hope Lowery will be for this one -- in other words, hearing it, I felt like I wanted simultaneously to go all Rambo on every neocon creep I could lay my hands on and like crawling under a really big quilt with an emesis basin.

Last sentence of this post FTW!

The 2 prayers were like 2 vignettes; a BEFORE, then an AFTER vingette. My hope is that we saw where we WERE and where we WILL BE GOING with faith in America. Hopefully we will begin to include in our inaugurations and other events the many OTHER faiths in America BESIDES Christianity.

RE: Christians - IT IS TIME for the Religious Left to grow up and FIGHT for their religion's namesake; they need to stop being afraid of speaking the TRUTH in public. Poor Oprah is still recovering from the "Gay is a Gift from God" statement; she seemed afraid to take the side of intelligence and morality, she just seemed stunned.

Why aren't reporters LAUGHING ALOUD when others compare gays to pedophiles? They remain "fair and balanced" as if science and rational thought are forbidden in the news business.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 23, 2009 2:53 AM

I was rather pleased that Hopey did a shout-out to NON-believers. It's been since, like, what, my great-great-great-great-great-grandpappy? I wish I'd been a fly on Dobson's/Perkins'/La Barbera's/Sheldon's wall for that reaction shot!

About the bookending nature of the prayers, I had the same feeling.

As my wife and I had a winter holidays crisis with her sister mouthing that pedophile horsepucky, no doubt parroting her pig-ignorant husband parroting his even more pig-ignorant Pentacostal preacher on the subject but no less offensive (they are positively obsessed with our niece's sexual orientation unfolding, just as they were about their sons', terrified that she might be queer and her coming to stay with us for the holidays pushed them over the edge), that subject's a still more than a little touchy for us right now.

As for Oprah's apoplexy, both of us found it as cartoonish as a really bad Charles Bronson flick, say, Death Wish 3. Maybe she needs to add a little of Bishop John Shelby Spong's writings on the subject to her reading list!

We can only hope that, after the thinking christians finally starts to consider what was said and all by Rick, that they will get off their collective a$$es and take back their religion from the religiofacists who have turned their faith into a mockery.

No matter how much Warren and Palin and all the others wish to deny it, the US is a pluralistic and secular society, and can not live up to the ideals on which it was founded by being any other way.

They love to say that LGBT people are just a small minority, 2 to 3% of the population. Well then, how small does a minority have to be before their rights don't count any more, at what number is equality no longer an option?

Hopefully they will get back to us on that one.

When a Christian president asks a Christian pastor to give an invocation, I think it is reasonable to expect some type of Christian prayer. Warren's prayer was less than inspiring because he only said things that practically all of us could agree on (except the atheists, who obviously have no use for prayer in the first place) and that approach is exactly what is appropriate in front of a public audience that contains all manners of beliefs and non-beliefs.

Since we seem to agree that Warren is forgettable, let's forget about him and move on.

Don't downplay Rick Warren just because he's not black. Warren did as well a job as could be expected. What separates his prayer from the other religious invocations? Was he not ethnic enough to espouse the same bland and banal rhetoric that is accepted of others? Warren's white, middle-aged, heterosexualness doesn't make him exclusive. What makes him exclusive is religion.

I like you Waymon, we think alike.

I thought that Warren was "common" -- he lacked the eloquence in delivery of a Billy Graham, and obviously of a Rev. Lowery. But I also thought that his invocation was unnecessarily divisive. Now, I too am predisposed to be critical of him as I have the gayz.

However, I am still a person of faith and so I listened particularly closely to his word choices because I speak fluent evangelical--I was raised as such and now attend deprogramming...um, I mean worship services...at a Methodist church.

I agree that a Christian pastor should be allowed to give a Christian prayer, and in general I thought that Warren missed the mark. I thought his opening lines were digs at non-biblical-literalist-creationists and that closing with the Lord's Prayer was very insensitive and exclusionary. You can still pray a "Christian" prayer without being a dick. Warren couldn't do it.

I was surprised though by how insignificant he looked in the grand scheme of the events--and this is coming from somebody who was beside myself for weeks after the announcement of his invitation. I especially like the perspective of looking at Warren's invocation as "out with the old" and Lowery's benediction as "in with the new."

I admit that I've never read any of Warren's books or seen him preach, but after his performance yesterday I don't feel like I've missed anything. Of every person on the dais Tuesday, he was the only one that just looked, felt, and sounded out of place and the more I think about it it's just a total lack of class and dignity.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 23, 2009 8:40 AM

Ah, but Jennifer, he sells millions and millions of books I am told. I haven't "colored in" any of them myself. Methodists?, as deprogramming? Where do you live to find a Gay affirming Methodist church?

The reality is this. Although Obama got what neither Clinton or Bush got on their first term...a majority of popular as well as electoral votes. Still 47% of voters did not vote for him. He needed to give all those people, in all those states and districts, an additional reason to hear his acceptance speech.

I have it on good authority from my Hoosier Republican ladies that, guess what?, they liked Obama's acceptance speech. If we only speak to those who agree with us what have we accomplished? Inclusiveness includes getting someone to speak with.

Waymon, if we can only view anyone else through our own prejudices, how can we grow? You're bright, keep thinking. Warren may be a footnote, but I would rather use him as a "step up."

Karen Collett | January 23, 2009 9:23 AM
He will be a small footnote in the celebration, listed somewhere far beneath Aretha Franklin's hat.
Hail to the Hat!

After reading the comments thus far, I decided to go back and listen to both Warren and Lowery's prayers for myself. First let me say tht I am a mainstream Christian, a post-op woman, and have felt the venom of the rightous right through two members of my family.

Warren's prayer rang comfortably with me for the most part. I did take exception to his masculine use when referring to God. My God is both male and female. Sexually inclusive. I felt his prayer was inclusive overall extolling the nation to move forward and making mention that Obama is our first president of color. I was pleased that he mentioned the environment. No he did not deliever as rousing a speech as Lowery, but I appreciated the substance of his prayer. I really wasn't sure what to expect and feared possible LGBT bashing - which I didn't hear.

Before I heard the Youtube version of Lowery's prayer, I stumbled upon a Fox Network version. I checked out the comments which followed and was appalled by their racist tone. For someone who grew up in a southern state in the 1950's, I must admit a part of me is grating with the thought that we now have a bi-racial president. However, part of me also is uneasy with gay and lesbian folks. Why? Due to childhood sexual molestation, I identified gays as pedophiles. It wasn't until almost thirty years later that I was able to met and learn to accept gays as decent people. Much the same for my beliefs regarding people of color. I think I am a better person today for having attended St. William Church in Louisville where everyone, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. are welcomed.

But back to Lowery's prayer. Again I am not evangelical. While his prayer did evoke responses of Amen's, I preferred Warrens's prayer for its substance.

I repeat, as I have commented elsewhere on this blog, Preachers and religion have no place in government, nor at government functions or public events.

Both of these "Men of God" said things that offended me (I have been specific elsewhere), and Obama's repeated "God" references, and his inclusion of scripture in his address were appalling.

On Wednesday, Obama wasted hours of the people's time, squandering them at an interminable service at the so-called "National Cathedral". His free time would be better spent improving his jump shot.

No religion can stand up to even a few moments of scrutiny by a reasonable and rational mind. After 8 years in which religion trumped reason in public policy, can we please stop indulging these ancient superstitions, and get on with the very tough work ahead of us?

Curtis Morton | January 23, 2009 5:51 PM

I thought the prayer was pretty good, and I think that you bias against Warren is clogging your objectiveness. It's too bad many of the "open-minded" liberals are really close-minded about anything that is against what they believe.