A New Time. A New President. A new beginning?

Here we are, the first full day of a new presidency, a history making new presidency. There are all kinds of thoughts that have and continue to run through my mind about this event. I watched a good part of the festivities and formalities on my computer, yesterday – CNN/Facebook, MSNBC, and C-SPAN. There were plenty of places in the proceedings where I got goose bumps. President Obama (that sounds so strange and good), President Obama’s inaugural speech was amazing. To the point, realistic in its laying out our problems, purposeful in its calling to us to our better selves and to the hard work ahead, and rousing.
Such hope, such expectation. I hope that there is not laid upon this single man a national expectation that is unrealistic and beyond the abilities of any single person, no matter how charismatic, intelligent, or well intentioned. He certainly needs our prayers, as have all presidents.
The world waits in eager anticipation to see whether America returns to that place that inspires the best in humanity, the best aspirations of the human soul for freedom and respect, or whether we continue the downward slide into a form of despotism, unilateralism, and the inevitable result of a declining empire. The question looms large: “What will we become?”
My sense or take on Pastor Rick Warren’s prayer is what it is. As a Christian priest, I have no problem whatsoever in a Christian praying a Christian prayer. I do not feel that it is disrespectful or exclusionary concerning those who disagree. If a Muslim prayed, I would expect a prayer that exemplifies the integrity of Muslim prayer. The same for Jewish, or Hindu, or Buddhist prayer. Why is it expected that a Christian prayer should not be prayed in the name of the very one Christians follow? It is a hypocritical demand that we do not. I don’t think any faithful Muslim, Jew, or anyone else would expect a faithful Christian to pray in a way that was not authentically Christian. Yet, there are certainly ways to pray that contribute to division and that contribute to respectful difference in our diverse culture.
Should Rick Warren have been chosen to prayer this prayer? Should Bishop Gene Robinson have been chosen to pray a prayer? I think those are more apt questions than whether a prayer should be offered in the name of Jesus or not. Each man prayed according to his conscience, and while I may or may not agree with either of them in the way they prayed, I certainly do respect their abiding by their own consciences.
There is an interesting analysis of Rich Warren’s prayer by the Editor-in-Chief of Beliefnet, Steve Waldman, entitled, “Rick Warren’s Deft Invocation.” It is worth a read.