There's no reason religious talks shouldn't be subjected to the same critical standards as any other piece of writing. So here's my take on Rick Warren's invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration last Tuesday.
I'm viewing what Warren wrote and spoke as non-fiction. From his point of view. Naturally I see religiosity in general, and Christianity in particular, as being decidedly fictional.
But Warren, and billions of like-minded believers, consider what he said to be gospel truth. Most of it, at least, depending on what brand of Christianity someone subscribes to.
So let's see how the invocation stacks up against reality. My comments are in red.
Let us pray.
Should have added, "if you feel like it." Doesn't the constitutional right to worship, or not, as you see fit apply at an inauguration ceremony?
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.
Absolutely no evidence of this. So all the Christian'ist assumptions that follow are based on a foundation of nothing.
History is your story. The Scripture tells us, ‘Hear, Oh 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.
Good ecumenical try, throwing in a dash of Judaism and a bit of Islam. How about throwing a bone to us non-believers, along with Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Sikhs, and other heathens? In addition, what's with this "loving to everyone you have made"? Ever noticed how much pain and suffering there is in the world, Rick? You just said that everything comes from God. Where's the compassion and mercy in allowing innocent children to be blown to bits or burned to death?
Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African-American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King, and a great cloud of witnesses, are shouting in heaven.
Up until the last sentence I was giving a thumbs-up to this entire paragraph. But how does anyone know that Dr. King and a bunch of witnesses (who are they, anyway?) are raising hell in heaven during the inauguration? Should have said, "And it gives us joy to imagine today..."
Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice-President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.
First sentence, fine. Second sentence makes me wonder why it's necessary to ask God to give special attention to some people, and not to others. This contradicts the earlier statement that God is loving to everyone.
Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom, and justice for all.
Leave out the "oh God" and you've got a nice sentiment that doesn't let people off the hook to do their own remembering. If I don't remember my commitment to freedom and justice for all I guess God didn't help me enough.
When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.
Ooh, my ex-Catholic soul, which experienced confession in my youth, likes the forgiveness talk. It's cool to be able to screw up, then simply be forgiven by God. But from a more mature perspective, it'd be better to put the responsibility on individuals to be humble and respectful to other people and all the earth, omitting the option of being forgiven if they don't do this.
And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes -- even when we differ.
Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation, and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day, all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.
Once again, you get a nice universal message ball rolling, then smash it into a dogmatic religious wall. You lost me, Rick, with the standing accountable crap. Cause and effect, yes, that's real. Judgment by a personal God, that's just your imagination.
We now commit our new president, and his wife Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.
Who the heck are you to commit anyone into anything? And what's with "we"? You were standing in front of more than a million people, many of whom don't share your Christian beliefs. Say "I" when you spout a personal opinion or desire.
I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life -- Yeshua, Isa, Jesús, Jesus -- who taught us to pray:
Well, I like that you finally said "I" instead of "We." And it's fine that you feel Jesus changed your life. Just recognize that countless other people have had their lives changed by Buddha, an angelic presence, whiskey, golf, motorcycles, a good book, heart-pounding sex, and any number of other influences.
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.