Sunday, January 18, 2009

If I Were Invited

God's Politics Blog has a piece called "Look Who's Praying at the Inauguration" that is worth reading. Here's a taste:

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop.

The first female president of the Disciples of Christ.

The president of the Islamic Society of North America (who also happens to be a woman).

Three rabbis.


And one Hawaiian shirt-wearing mega-church pastor.

What do they have in common, besides taking part in the official festivities surrounding Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th president of the United States?

They’re all praying.

All of them...

When I look at the lineup and design of the faith-infused events around Obama’s inaugural, I see a new story — one of radical inclusion that echoes the plurality of our new president’s spiritual and social formation as a child. His mother, a secular humanist for lack of a better no-size-fits-all label, exposed her children to Christianity as well as Islam and other world religions, cultures, and philosophies. She was a student of the world and her children were, too.

When Obama embraced Christianity, he did it as an adult. The choice was his, and he chose the historic black church and the United Church of Christ denomination. (According Associated Press reports today, Obama also has asked the Rev. T.D. Jakes, pastor of the 28,000-strong Potter’s Church in Dallas, to deliver the sermon at the private worship service he plans to attend at St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. on the morning of his inaugural.) He also lives next door to a synagogue in Kenwood and knew the rabbi there well enough to call him his own.

If the religious voices involved in celebrating his inauguration are a harbinger of his political style, they say to me that the Obama administration will be one marked by collaboration and cooperation, not coercion or mandate (divine or otherwise). (Read the whole thing here)

I agree with the author of this post that inclusion of such a diverse representation of religious Americans is an encouraging sign. The only sour note in this otherwise beautiful song is the absence of representatives of the American Baha'i Community among those praying for our new President and his administration. This is puzzling as the Baha'i Faith is well known and respected within the Federal government. I suppose it is impractical to expect that every faith community would have a prominent role in the inaugural (Hindus and Buddhists also appear to be absent from the proceedings), but it would have been nice. Maybe next time, right?

If by some improbable act of the Almighty I had been invited to offer a prayer at the inauguration, I think it would have been this one:

"O Divine Providence! This assemblage is composed of Thy friends who are attracted to Thy beauty and are set ablaze by the fire of Thy love. Turn these souls into heavenly angels, resuscitate them through the breath of Thy Holy Spirit, grant them eloquent tongues and resolute hearts, bestow upon them heavenly power and merciful susceptibilities, cause them to become the promulgators of the oneness of mankind and the cause of love and concord in the world of humanity, so that the perilous darkness of ignorant prejudice may vanish through the light of the Sun of Truth, this dreary world may become illumined, this material realm may absorb the rays of the world of spirit, these different colours may merge into one colour and the melody of praise may rise to the kingdom of Thy sanctity. Verily, Thou art the Omnipotent and the Almighty!"
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 105)

Here's a question for you readers, what prayer would you say if you were invited to give one at the inauguration? I'd love to hear from you.