Focus On the Family: Invocation Trepidation

Ever since Obama chose evangelical leader Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, various camps have raised a battle cry, exercising their God-given right to feel offended:

Many liberals and gay-rights advocates are up in arms because Warren opposes gay marriage, and fear that Obama just pulled a little bait and switch, promising equal rights and giving more of the same.

Conservative evangelicals are in a tizzy because Obama is pro-choice, and they feel that Warren’s fraternization with him sends the wrong message.

Dan Barker and other offended atheists think there shouldn’t be prayer at political functions in the first place. Mr. Barker is filing a lawsuit against the formal invocation tradition, which has been around since FDR’s second inauguration.


This choice, in one fell swoop, has raised three of the hottest-button issues of our day: gay rights, abortion, and the separation of church and state.

I suppose being an Obama supporter and part of a queer-friendly church should make me want to set up camp with the first group of the offended. Really, though, when I think of Rick Warren being chosen as the token Christian, I have to suppress a yawn. Sure, he has made some uneducated (all be they Purpose Driven) remarks about our homosexual brothers and sisters, but he did not, as many would like to believe, spearhead a political effort to pass Proposal 8 in California, though he did release a short video message sharing his opinions on it at the request of his parishioners.

Can I suggest that conservative evangelicals chill out a bit as well? Obama and Warren are men who have different views, and they have once again chosen mutual respect and dialogue over finger-pointing. (Warren invited Obama to speak at an AIDS conference in his church in 2005.)

I acknowledge that there may be larger political and religious implications to this move, though I doubt each side will abandon their promises or beliefs because of their alliance.

I think the third camp might actually have the most credible reasons for being offended. Why is the constitutional separation of church and state seemingly disregarded in this once special instance? Could Obama, if he should choose to, start every State of the Union Address in prayer?

Don’t get me wrong; I am a fan of prayer. But even as a Christian, I find this prayer a bit, well, showy. And though some may yearn for the days of blissful homogeny when we didn’t have to consider other religions or viewpoints, this can and should no longer be the case.

I see the prayer at inaugurations similar to a Wimbledon player’s nod or curtsy to the box where the king and queen used to sit. The tradition was upheld so long not because it meant anything, but because it was tradition. And I predict, like the Wimbledon nod that died out in 2003, the inaugural prayer will soon bow out as well.

But that’s just my opinion. I’m just offended that you hadn’t asked me until now.


  1. Interesting that you use the very non-PC word "Queer" yet say in the next breath that Warren made some "uneducated remarks".

  2. In my community, that is how many of my friends self-identify instead of saying GLBT. Apologies if those in your community do not use that word, but no apologies for not following "PC" language.

  3. How about re-visiting the ANTI-CHRIST again....

  4. I, as a Christian, actually fall into the third camp of agreeing that separation of church and state should play a part in this. While I might not join a lawsuit, I would agree that it shouldn't be part of the formal tradition of the inauguration. If Obama chose that on his own, that's one this. It is his inauguration, after all. But I suspect this is more out of tradition than personal choice.

    You asked if Obama could start every State of the Union with a prayer, but in reality every SotU I've heard ends in a prayer of "God bless America." It's also important to note that every Senate session starts in prayer.

    The other thing that irks me about how the anger of many liberals and gay-rights advocates is that Obama is on record as saying he is also against gay marriage. At least I heard him say that in two debates/forums. So it doesn't seem like a bait and switch to me, unless he's baited and switched on other no-gay-marriage advocates. Personally, marriage is another separation of church and state issue. The state should allow and recognize civil unions and marriages should be left to the church - so that means those in the church may need to go through two steps instead of one. I'm pretty sure they do that in Britain, right?

  5. how dare people associate with people they don't 100% agree with!