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Saturday, January 19, 2013

US inaugurations: Church and state too cozy?

(Clinton's 1993 Inauguration)
Reverend Billy Graham, who gave the invocation at a number of US presidential inaugurations, was known to use words like these on such occasions:  Our Father and our God, we thank You today for the privilege of coming into Your presence on this historic and solemn occasion.  We thank You for Your gracious hand which has preserved us as a nation.  We praise You for the peaceful continuity of government that this Inauguration represents… We ask that as a people we may humble ourselves before You, and seek Your will for our lives and for this great nation…  This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

There are a number of presuppositions within these inaugural words.  One:  There is a Fatherly God. Two:  This Fatherly God has preserved the United States as a nation.  Three:  United States citizens seek to humble themselves before this Fatherly God.   Four:  United States citizens seek His will for their lives and nation.  Five:  This Fatherly God is also identified with the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

Although these presuppositions are well matched with modern-day Western Christianity, they do not
necessarily resonate with Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Neo-Paganism, and – oh, yeah – atheism.  They have also somehow penetrated Jefferson's Great Wall of Separation between Church and State.

This could be why concerns regarding the insertion of religious ritual into governmental affairs have been repeatedly raised.  Brad Williams, in a Patheos article titled "It's Time to Abolish the Inaugural Prayer," writes about Louis Giglio's recently-rescinded invitation to pray at President Obama's second inauguration.  Williams asks:  …are the inaugural prayers going to continue?  And if so, who will do them?Evangelicals who believe that homosexuality is a sin are no longer welcome.  So who is going to pray?

Who is going to pray, indeed?  A great question - but perhaps one not best answered within an inaugural context…


Copyright January 19, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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