“Say Amen!”

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A few faith-based thoughts on Inauguration day:

Joseph Lowery just made everyone forget about Rick Warren. And in a good way.

– Obama’s shout-out to “non-believers” was, as far as I can tell, the first such acknowledgment in an Inaugural address. It’s not unusual for him (see his 2006 speech at the Call to Renewal gathering) and I suspect it’s a formulation, along with “those of all faiths and no faith” that we’ll get used to hearing. Remember that this is the first U.S. president who grew up in a secular home and became a Christian in adulthood. That gives him a sensitivity to secularists that is rare in politics.

– The implicit and explicit rebukes of the Bush Administration that packed Obama’s speech included this line from I Corinthians 13:11: “The time has come to set aside childish things.” The verse certainly fit with Obama’s theme of calling the country to grow up, stop bickering, and get to work fixing things. But it’s part of an ongoing critique he has developed of Bush’s theology, what I’ve referred to as “the theology of certainty.” According to Obama, the kind of faith that permits people to have no doubts because they’re certain they know God’s will is an easy–even childish–faith.

– As I wrote in this Time.com piece, Catholic and Jewish clergy, who for years had reliable spots in Inauguration programs, were again unrepresented this year. But it is interesting that Rick Warren led off with the Jewish Shema prayer.

– Obama started the day with a small prayer service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, a tradition started by FDR. These services tend to be much closer reflections of a president’s religious and spiritual tastes than the other religiously-tinged Inauguration events. Bill Clinton micro-managed his, down to picking out the Scripture verses, hymns, and the Arkansas Pentecostal choir he wanted to perform. At Obama’s service, a church choir sang “This Little Light of Mine” and T.D. Jakes preached, while a variety of Catholic, Jewish, and evangelical religious leaders offered prayers or read Scripture.

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