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Warren courts non-Christians -- or does he?

January 21, 2009 | 10:24 am

As a Times editorial today notes, mega-evangelist Rick Warren steered clear of controversy  in his invocation at President Obama's inauguration. No mention of same-sex marriage, as an analogy to incest or otherwise. Warren also is receiving ecumenical Brownie points for salting his prayer with allusions to Jewish and Muslim tributes to the God of Abraham. But a friend of mine argued over drinks on Inauguration night that this amounted to "faux inclusiveness." I think he's right.

Unlike other clergymen called upon to sanctify public events, Warren didn't opt for a Judeo-Christian or even Judeo-Christian-Islamic lowest common denominator. The culmination of the invocation was the Lord's Prayer, which Warren prefaced with a prayer for the Obamas "in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, Jesus (the Spanish prounciation)." The use of Jesus' Hebrew or Aramaic name -- Yeshua -- might seem like a nod to Jews, but probably only Jews for Jesus were impressed.

Obama has every right to include an explicitly Christian prayer in his inauguration. Last year he told a Christian magazine: "Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been  a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals." But if Obama wanted to be inclusive, he might have passed over Warren for Daniel Coughlin, the Roman Catholic priest who serves as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Coughlin isn't above making veiled references to Christianity. Last week, in a prayer thanking God for safeguarding the US Airways plane that crashed in the Hudson River, the people's padre praised the crew for "drowning self–interest items as in a momentary baptism."  But at momentous state occasions he tends to be more circumspect than Warren was at the inauguration.

When Coughlin gave the invocation at a memorial service for former President Gerald Ford, he prayed: “{W]e  humbly ask You, Lord, to grant peace and reconciliation, healing and gentle civility to this nation, as this man so nobly tried to do in life’s singular moments by his efforts to close chapter upon chapter on America’s sadness." No mention of Jesus -- or Yeshua.

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