Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Give Me That Old-Time Separation

I thought Barack Obama’s speech was very good. I like his intellect. I like that his words don’t sound like beads on a string but are clear conveyors of actual thought. I thought the whole inauguration ceremony was moving and inspiring.

Except for the Rev. Rick Warren. I find Evangelicals as annoying as the next person (well, except other Evangelicals). Here he crossed a line that I don’t ever want crossed by reciting “The Lord’s Prayer” in his overly long invocation.

I understand that he had small quotes from Judaism and a reference to Allah in “the compassionate and merciful one.” And I respect that he himself is a Christian, and Barack Obama is a Christian, and so most of his prayer is going to be Christian.

But as a practicing Catholic, I have to say that “The Lord’s Prayer” is too deeply sacred, too special to be invoked at a GOVERNMENT EXERCISE. It is the only specific prayer that Jesus left. Jesus whose kingdom is outside of the government structure, who said specifically, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

Christians bring Jesus into their workplace every day in how they act and how the treat people. That’s the testament. Not the recitation of the prayer of prayers for Christians in a GOVERNMENT ceremony, where God’s presence is acknowledged from the swearing in on a Bible to the great benediction from the Reverend Lowery, which are just barely reasonable. It’s the “Our Father” that really crossed the line for me.

After watching much of the day’s coverage, I went to the 5:30 Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I am happy to say there was not a single mention of the inauguration. The homily had to do with the day’s readings, the prayers of the faithful listed the ill of the parish, and we said “The Lord’s Prayer,” because we were worshipping in communion with each other, not transferring the power of the presidency from one man to another.

Knowing who and where you are is important. The Founding Fathers knew this, and so created the brilliance of the separation of church and state. It's a separation that is crucial to the very fabric of this country and it holds us together as Americans.

(photo Doug Mills, The New York Times)