Warren-less Wiretap

It’s sleeting outside and very cold. We’ve got a fire in the hearth, and are assuming that, at the very least life will be delayed a few hours tomorrow morning. The dogs are grateful for their position under the kitchen table, and we had a nice night of turkey chili and Merlot.

The perfect time for some blogging. So, just a few thoughts about Rick Warren.

Lots of folks have been asking me, first, what I thought of Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Secondly, they’ve asked what I thought of the prayer itself.

Let me start with the latter.

I though the prayer was kind of dull, actually. There wasn’t a lot to quibble with in the prayer, as far as I could hear. I agree with John Stewart’s analysis that he pronounced “Sasha” and “Malia” in a very STRANGE way. (Actually, Dennise, Maria and I all noticed this creepy moment…)

The biggest goof I thought he made was including the Lord’s Prayer at the end. I didn’t find it as offensive as I found it colossally tone deaf.

Even in exclusively Christian settings, most pastors can tell you that that you have to use some discretion about the Lord’s Prayer. Frankly, you can’t assume anymore that everybody is always going to know it! And even if they do, you can’t assume they all know the same version!

At weddings, for example, you typically try to discern whether or not the worshippers will mostly be from your own church or tradition. It’s become very common to print the version you’re going to use in a bulletin.

Warren used the Lord’s Prayer as if it was the ending of a pastoral prayer, not an invocation. At many churches, including my own, the pastoral prayer transitions into the congregation reciting the Lord’s Prayer together. But, as I’ve just noted, there is an assumption made that *most* of the folks know the prayer, are ready for the prayer, and under that they’re being asked to pray together.

For an inaugural invocation –an event that is public and, at best, can be described as interfaith– using the Lord’s Prayer didn’t strike me as making a bold statement about Warren’s faith.

It just sounded pastorally tone deaf in way I find surprising from a guy who I would think would know better.

But as to the prior question of Obama picking Warren in the first place…

I find myself disagreeing with many of my progressive brothers and sisters

Basically, I feel much as I did back during the controversy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright: Obama has the the right to get religious/spiritual guidance from any leader he chooses.

He does not owe us any explanation for the place he chooses to go to church, the sermons he chooses to listen to, or the people who do the praying in his presence.

He is not responsible for all of their beliefs, nor is there a credible way to argue that he shares the views of all of them.

That’s the heart of religious freedom in our country. During the firestorm of the Rev. Wright controversy, I blogged as delicately as I could about this. I feel even more strongly about it now.

It’s HIS inauguration. He’s the one getting sworn in. He gets to choose whom he wants to be a part of it and for what reason. And he does not owe us an explanation for it.

Yes, I know this sounds harsh. Yes, I know all about Rick Warren’s views of homosexuality, Yes, I personally believe he espouses a wrongheaded and sinful way of looking at the issue. Yes, I know what he’s compared gay and lesbian people too.
It’s deeply troubling.

But from the perspective of Obama’s choice of Warren: it’s his choice, period. I may not like Warren. Others may not like Wright. I’ve heard from some who didn’t care for Lowery’s prayer.
Fine.

Frankly, had Obama chosen Jeremiah Wright, I absolutely would have supported that choice, just as during that scandal I argued that the church Obama attends was nobody’s business either.

To some, Sarah Palin has a scary religious background. I think we got so enamored with her many other issues that we never really explored those issues. But even if we had, I would have, again, supported the idea that she has the right to get spiritual support from anywhere she chooses.

Frankly –and I say this with all love and respect to everyone who feels differently– to argue anything else gives us clergy far more credit than we deserve. To imagine that we’d be able to totally influence the moral and political views of politicians who worship with us, defies credulity.

I am not nearly so egocentric as to imagine that anyone who has ever worshipped with me will blindly follow the words I speak and the values I espouse.

And if you think a candidate out there would, then you certainly shouldn’t vote for him or her for public office.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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