Warren vs. Robinson: Two Pastors, Two Prayers, Two Gods

I hope that you were able to see at least the important parts of the presidential inauguration on Tuesday. Since I couldn’t watch it live, I made a point to watch some of the extensive coverage available via the web on my iphone while at the gym the next morning. There is so much to say about both the events and the atmosphere of the day that it is terribly difficult to make one or two observations without feeling like you have passed over something very significant. Having recently read two books that I highly recommend: Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Pulitzer prize winning Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, my mind was filled with all the sacrifices that so many made to see this day arrive.

Yesterday, I was quizzing my 8th grader in preparation for a social studies test on the constitution when we came to the 3/5 compromise. Unlike me, he can learn about the past sins of our country (some have called slavery America’s original sin) while an African American is the sitting president. That’s pretty special.

Now to the religious stuff. One of the important decisions that a president-elect makes concerns who he asks to pray at his inaugural. As you probably know, Obama selected Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in southern California. Perhaps the invitation was due to Warren asking Obama to speak at a conference on Africa held at his church during the primary season or because Warren hosted a forum for Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain that some say gave both of them legitimacy in the evangelical world. Or perhaps it was more of a political move reaching out to a younger set of evangelicals. Or perhaps it is because Obama thought that pastor Warren would express his own sentiments on that profound day. The point is that we don’t know the motivation behind the choice.

What we do know is that the selection of Warren set off a political firestorm among some of the then President-elect’s supporters due to the fact that Warren supported California’s Proposition 8 which prohibited gay marriage.

In response to the uproar the inaugural team invited America’s best known openly gay pastor, Gene Robinson, to pray at another inaugual event. Mr. Robinson is the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) and his ordination is tearing the denomination apart. So here we have two pastors, two prayers, and two God’s.

Here is the video of Gene Robinson’s Prayer…

Here is the text.

Here is the video of Rick Warren’s Prayer…

Here is the text.

A few observations…

1. When Gene Robinson addresses his prayer to the “God of our many understandings,” he unmistakeably reveals that he doesn’t believe in the God of the Bible. The “god of our many understandings” is another way of saying that god is who you make him to be. Of course that’s just a religious way of saying that YOU are your own god and have the freedom to craft whatever idol you like.

It isn’t surprising to discover that there are many people in our country who are not Christians. What might be surprising to some is that some of these non-Christians masquerade as church bishops and flagrantly flaunt their unbelief. Flemming Rutledge, the first woman ordained in the Episcopal Church, seems to agree with this assessment.

The basic problem with Bishop Gene Robinson is not that he is openly and actively homosexual. The real problem is that he does not believe Christianity is a universal faith, nor does he believe that the Hebrew and Christian scriptures have a universal message. Why do I say that? Well, because of some things he said that are quoted in The New York Times. In an article about his being chosen to give a public prayer at the time of the inauguration (not at the inaugural ceremony itself), he said that he had been reading former inaugural prayers and was “horrified” at how “aggressively Christian” they are. He says that his prayer at the time of the inauguration will not be a Christian prayer at all, “and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that.” He said he might offer a prayer to the “God of our many understandings” (using AA language).

2. In light of these events, this quote from Clive James in The Dreaming Swimmer seems applicable to our situation: “The crisis in the Church of England, is that too many of its bishops, and some would say of its archbishops, don’t quite realize that they are atheists, but have begun to suspect it.”

I think that the crisis is spreading.

3. Thank God for Rick Warren. I’m not his biggest fan. In my opinion his ministry is a mixed bag. But then again so is mine. Warren was in a difficult position and he stuck to his convictions. Around the web, he’s being criticized on a number of fronts. If you are one of those people, stop yourself.

4. How come it is relatively non-controversial to have an explicitly Christian prayer like Rick Warren’s before an inauguration but the same kind of prayer is prohibited at high school graduations?

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>