Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

If I Were Invited to Offer the Inaugral Prayer

So when Rick Warren or some other religious figure offers a public prayer, what does it mean? Isn't the whole notion really kind of silly? I read Franklin Graham's prayer at Bush's inauguration. It is mostly superstition. As we have been discovering, Warren, like Graham, have objectionable views and have actively worked against basic freedoms and rights for American citizens.

Their actions against sexual and gender minorities, science, reproductive choice and so forth are connected with their superstition. Which comes first: religious superstition or ignorance? Hard to know, but they do feed off each other.

My real objection to the whole thing is the mixing of religious superstition with public ceremonies. Is the nation well-served by a bunch of preachers parading about at national events?

The political reality is that our nation is made up of superstitious people whose superstition compels them to foist it on others. We will have to live with this for some time to come. Perhaps having to endure the dangerous superstition of Warren will wake us up to the danger of superstition itself.

If Obama had done the right thing and invited me to give the invocation, here is what I would have said:

I offer no prayer to any deity. Those who wish to pray may do so on their own. Instead, I invite us to celebrate and to contemplate the virtues of reason, justice, equality, and compassion that are available to all human beings.

The challenges we face are immense.

May we put away selfishness, greed, and short-sightedness.

May we work together against all forms of tyranny.

May we seek as our highest and our common goal the well-being of future generations.

May we work as tirelessly for the rights of others as for our own.

May we find a way to live within our means, with one another, with our non-human relatives, and with Earth.

And may we discover the courage, intelligence, imagination, and compassion available within us and among us to face the great work that lies ahead.

7 comments:

  1. How beautiful. And appropriate to recognize that prayer is meant to bring us in line with God as He is already in line with us. The Rick Warrens of the world do not recognize that. My God is Love and I Love you for your stances (well most of them) and your willingness to stand up for others.

    I put this comment on my blog following your comment (In case you didn't see it)
    Yes John, I still admire 99% of your stance. Just not this one.

    We need more John Shuck's in the world and less Rick Warrens. Someday I would love to sit in your congregation and hear you preach. Have a wonderful blessed Christmas of Love. j

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  2. As a non-theist, this sounds far more inclusive to me than anything likely to come from Warren's lips.

    The creationists are likely to have a fit about 'non-human relatives'. I might have used 'fellow animals' except that does tend to exclude bacteria and plants that your wording includes.

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  3. Let’s just do away with prayer at the inauguration. Problem solved. We are pluralist society. Christian prayer or any prayer is inappropriate for this momentous event.

    John McNeese

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  4. Thanks Jay, 99% isn't too bad!

    Erp, never want to leave out a single bacterium.

    Johnm, this was really my point.

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  5. As a bit of research I looked up what I could find about prayers at
    inaugurations. I found this by Newdow which looks fairly reliable and
    I thought you might find it interesting (though I suspect our
    non-human relatives won't).

    http://www.restorethepledge.com/live/past_litigation/inaugural/docs/2004-12-17%20complaint.pdf
    (Appendix D. The whole thing includes notes such as on Cardinal
    Cushing taking 12 minutes for his Invocation in 1961 [I think some
    sermons have been shorter] or on Rev. Sherrill who apparently said
    afterwards that he thought the whole thing was bad for religion. He in
    turn cites Medhurst, Martin Jay "God Bless the President: The Rhetoric of
    Inaugural Prayer" PhD thesis (The Pennsylvania State University, 1980))

    Elsewhere I found something that indicated ministers started showing
    up in 1933. Note the balancing between a Catholic and a Protestant
    later expanded to include a Rabbi and then an Orthodox archbishop.
    Most recently it seems to be two Protestant ministers (or one
    Protestant minister doing two prayers). The last rabbi and Catholic
    seems to have been 1985 (which also includes, I think, the only one
    openly gay though he wasn't open then).


    INAUGURAL CLERGY

    January 20, 1937 inaugural of Franklin D. Roosevelt
    Invocation by:Chaplain ZeBarney Phillips
    Benediction by:Father John A. Ryan

    January 20, 1941 inaugural of Franklin D. Roosevelt
    Invocation by: Chaplain ZeBarney Phillips
    Benediction by: Father Michael J. Ready

    January 20, 1945 inaugural of Franklin D. Roosevelt
    Invocation by: Bishop Angus Dun
    Benediction by: Monsignor John A. Ryan

    January 20, 1949 inaugural of Harry S. Truman
    Invocation by: Rev. Edward Hughes Pruden
    Prayer by: Rabbi Samuel Thurman
    Benediction by: Father Patick A. O’Boyle

    January 20, 1953 inaugural of Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Invocation by: Father Patrick A. O’Boyle
    Prayer by: Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver
    Prayer by: President Eisenhower
    Benediction by: Rev. Henry Knox Sherrill

    January 21, 1957 inaugural of Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Invocation by: Rev. Edward L. R. Elson
    Prayer by: His Eminence Michael
    Prayer by Rabbi Louis Finkelstein
    Benediction by: Edward Cardinal Mooney

    January 20, 1961 inaugural of John F. Kennedy
    Invocation by: Richard Cardinal Cushing
    Prayer by: His Eminence Iakovos
    Prayer by John Barclay
    Benediction by: Rabbi Nelson Glueck

    January 20, 1965 inaugural of Lyndon B. Johnson
    Invocation by: Archbishop Robert E. Lucey
    Prayer by: Rabbi Hyman Judah Schachtel
    Prayer by Rev. Dr. George R. Davis
    Benediction by: His Eminence Iakovos

    January 20, 1969 inaugural of Richard M. Nixon
    Invocation by: Rev. Charles Ewbank Tucker
    Prayer by: Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin
    Prayer by His Eminence Iakovos
    Prayer by Rev. Billy Graham
    Benediction by: Archbishop Terence J. Cooke

    January 20, 1973 inaugural of Richard M. Nixon
    Invocation by: Rev. E.V. Hill
    Prayer by: Rabbi Seymour Siegel
    Prayer by His Eminence Iakovos
    Benediction by: Archbishop Terence J. Cooke

    January 20, 1977 inaugural of James E. Carter
    Invocation by: Rev. William Cannon
    Benediction by: Rev. John R. Roach

    January 20, 1981 inaugural of Ronald W. Reagan
    Invocation by: Rev. Donn. Moomaw
    Benediction by: Rev. Donn. Moomaw

    January 21, 1985 inaugural of Ronald W. Reagan
    Invocation by: Rev. Timothy S. Healy
    Prayer by: Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk
    Prayer by: Rev. Donn. Moomaw
    Benediction by: Rev. Peter Gomes

    January 20, 1989 inaugural of George H. W. Bush
    Invocation by: Rev. Billy Graham
    Benediction by: Rev. Billy Graham

    January 20, 1993 inaugural of William J. Clinton
    Invocation by: Rev. Billy Graham
    Benediction by: Rev. Billy Graham

    January 20, 1997 inaugural of William J. Clinton
    Invocation by: Rev. Billy Graham
    Benediction by: Rev. Gardner C. Taylor

    January 20, 2001 inaugural of George W. Bush
    Invocation by: Rev. Franklin Graham
    Benediction by: Pastor Kirbyjon H. Caldwell

    January 20, 2005 inaugural of George W. Bush
    Invocation by: Rev. Louis Leon
    Benediction by: Pastor Kirbyjon H. Caldwell

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  6. I don't have my copy of The Defining Moment available (quel scandale), but as I recall, FDR had the headmaster of his high school (Groton), The Rev. Endicott Peabody, do the invocation in 1933.

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  7. Erp,

    Thanks for all that! It seems that we have become less diverse in terms of religious presence as time passes.
    Probably less intelligent too.

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