Jesus.Posted: January 20, 2009
A billion words will be written about Barack Obama’s strong, sinewy inaugural address, so I’d like to write about how pleasantly surprised I was by Rick Warren’s invocation.
As an evangelical and a favorite of the right wing, he came to this moment surrounded by controversy. As a Jew and a Democrat, I was prepared to hear his speech with a jaundiced ear. But I was moved. He cut to the heart of the moment. In fact, judged only by my own tears, he provided the most moving and profound portion of the morning, which is saying something.
As Warren neared the end of his speech, I was glad not to have heard the name of Jesus invoked. That name, in a speech addressed to all Americans, excludes all Americans who don’t accept him as their savior. But then he did. I don’t know whether it is traditional to say Jesus’s name in Presidential inaugural ceremonies (I expect that if I look far back enough in history, I will find it a common occurence), but it sounded a slightly troubling note. On the other hand, Warren earlier in his speech invoked the words of the Sh’ma, the central prayer of the Jewish faith: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One.” So I guess fair is fair. In any case, the Jesus moment was at worst a single instant in a speech that otherwise remarkably struck just the right notes (unless you are an atheist, in which case, you can take heart from the words in Obama’s speech when he gave an inclusionary shout-out to you), so I forgive him.