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Strange Spirits & Alien Gods

The changing of the presidential guard was accomplished this past January with a measure of historical-political bluster and a mess of religious blather.

It is interesting to note that a Catholic cleric hasn’t been invited to speak at a presidential inauguration since 1985. Even George W. Bush, whom some would liken our “first Catholic president,” neglected to extend an invitation to a Catholic priest. Likewise Barack Obama. Instead, we were treated to the prayer-stylings of Southern Baptist mega-pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback fame, United Methodist minister and civil-rights veteran Joseph Lowery, and Sharon Watkins, president of the Disciples of Christ. Oh yeah, Obama also invited the openly homosexual Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson to deliver the invocation at the opening ceremonies of the inauguration on Sunday, January 19.

On that day, at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, before a crowd reputed to be a million strong, Robinson invoked the implausibly inclusive “God of our many understandings,” begging that He bless our nation with, among other things, tears, anger, and discomfort. Robinson’s presence on that grand stage ought to have accomplished that. Robinson also sought the blessing of freedom — but not just any freedom. Rather, he prayed for “freedom from mere tolerance,” which he wishes would be replaced with “a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.” That was assuredly what he hoped to accomplish with his presence.

On the big day, January 20, Rick Warren delivered the inaugural invocation before an international television audience and what some believed to be a record-breaking crowd for a Washington, D.C., event. Warren, the high-profile author of the best-selling Purpose Driven Life, finally got around to invoking, four minutes into his five-minute prayer, the “name of the one who changed my life.” That name — or names — in Warren’s parlance was: “Yeshua, Isa, Jesús [Spanish pronunciation: hey-soos], Jesus.” One is inclined to ask in what way Isa, the “Islamic Jesus”– you know, a mere “prophet” of Allah’s — has changed Warren’s life. And when did Warren become a Messianic Jew, bending his knee at the name of Yeshua? Or was this simply a more pious spin on the “God of our many understandings”?

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