God, as expected, played a big role in the inauguration.
President Obama, early in his speech, said this: “We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”
Later, he said: “For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.”
Non-believers. Has a president ever cited the role, even the existence, of non-believers in a major address?
He also spoke directly to the Muslim world:
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
And talking about the great challenges facing our nation, and the price and promise of citizenship, he said: “This is the source of our confidence – the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.”
And he closed his inaugural address with this: “Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”
No, Rick Warren did not mention gay marriage in his invocation.
He did close his prayer by stating that Jesus is his savior — and by saying the Lord’s Prayer. Some didn’t want to hear an explicitly Christian prayer, but most didn’t mind, I would guess.
Warren also prayed: “Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but by our commitment to freedom and justice for all.”
He also said: “One day, all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.”
And: “We know today that Dr. King and a great crowd of witnesses are shouting in heaven.”
I don’t know how many people kept their TVs on to hear the Rev. Joseph Lowery pray after Obama’s address. The 87-year-old civil rights leader from Atlanta offered a very universal vision: “Because we know that you have got the whole world in your hands, we pray not only for our nation but for the community of nations.”
And he said: “Help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate, on the side of inclusion, not exclusion, tolerance, not intolerance.”
At the end, he said “Say amen” several times. And the great crowd did.