21 January 2009
Rick Warren and Sectarianism
Traditionally, prayers offered by clergy at government-sponsored events have been decidedly non-sectarian, in that, if they invoke the name of “God” at all, it is the abstract, nebulous God of civil religion and not the God of a specific creed with which other religions might object. Rick Warren, the sometimes-controversial pastor of Saddleback Church, did not extend this courtesy in his invocation at the Inauguration of the 44th President. Then-president-elect Obama invited Warren in this capacity as a gesture to the kind of inclusiveness he desired for his administration and the country as a whole. By most accounts, Mr. Obama does not share Warren’s theology or politics. In spite of this—indeed, because of this—Mr. Obama invited Warren to give the invocation. Warren, however, chose to ignore the spirit of this invitation by invoking the Christian God by name—four names, in fact—and then reciting the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer that not even all Christians agree on. Democracy is not the uncompromising rule of the majority; it is the rule of the majority with respect for the minority. Even though the majority of Americans are Christian (nearly 80% according to the Pew Forum on Religion), we are not and never will be a Christian nation. Our Constitution demands both that the government let people freely choose their religious affiliation and that the people refrain from asking the government to establish a state religion. If we can ever truly hope to achieve the kinds of dialogue that President Obama promises will make our world a better place, we need to start taking these ideas of tolerance and respect more seriously. Shame on Pastor Warren.