Pastor Rick Warren made a name for himself on the national stage when during the election campaign he asked both candidates to come to his church and have a conversation with him about how they would handle situations. He asked each of them the same questions and they were given the same amount of time to respond. I actually thought this was a good idea. Just because we are religious does not mean we cannot involve ourselves in the public arena. On the contrary, I believe as Christians we need to be involved in the public square and our voice needs to be heard loud and clear. Kudos Pastor Warren for having the guts to put yourself forward on this.
The left is not a big fan of Pastor Warren due to his stance on gay rights, same-sex marriage and evolution just to name a few. The right has gone off the wall because they cannot understand how this preacher could accept an invitation from someone that the religious right finds so objectionable because of his stance on many of the same issues. This choice has caused leaders in the gay community and other liberal groups to speak about the choice. They said that choosing such an outspoken person on issues like gay marriage was tantamount to endorsing bigotry.
For his part, the President-elect has defended his decision because he has chosen another minister, Joseph Lowery, a Methodist minister to deliver the benediction. Pastor Lowery is a supporter of all of the above. “During the course of the entire inaugural festivities, there are going to be a wide range of viewpoints that are presented,” Obama said. “And that’s how it should be, because that’s what America’s about. That’s part of the magic of this country… We are diverse and noisy and opinionated.”
This past weekend Pastor Warren spoke out on the subject of being invited to pray at the Inauguration. “Three years ago I took enormous heat for inviting Barack Obama to my church because some of his views don’t agree with mine, now he’s inviting me.” Pastor Warren also said that he prays for the same things that Obama prays for, integrity, humility and generosity.
So I guess the question is what would I do if I was asked to pray at the Inauguration? Well I would start by saying that he has been elected president and we need to support him. We do not always have to agree but we need to support him. I have not always agreed with President Bush but each Sunday I pray for him during the Liturgy and I pray for him each and everyday. I would also say that I would not pass on the opportunity to pray with such a large group of people and we should never pass on an opportunity to pray. Why would anyone say no?
As an Orthodox Christian and a pastor of a church I am called upon to pray at all sorts of gatherings. Some of them are religious and some are secular. I always accept the opportunity to pray as it brings me closer to a group that I would not otherwise come in contact with. I am also asked by all sorts of people, religious and not so religious, to pray for them and I do so. We have a duty to pray for those who ask us to and I believe we have a duty to pray for those who govern us.
Near the end of the Orthodox Liturgy there is a little phrase the priest says quietly. The phrase is part of a larger prayer but says something like, “for our civil authorities so that we in their calmness may lead religious and reverent lives.” There it is religious and reverent lives. How bad is that?