Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Inaugural Prayer

Steve Waldman's got an essay up today, at the Wall Street Journal, on the changing practice and cultural significance of the inaugural prayer.


The Bible upon which President Abraham Lincoln was sworn in for his first inauguration is displayed at the Library of Congress in Washington December 23, 2008. On January 20, 2009, President-elect Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible Lincoln used.

I found two points of particular interest:

1) The interactive graphics include a discussion of the Bibles used by key presidents, and the scriptural passages upon which they laid their hands. President Dwight D. Eisenhower opened his Bibles (in 1953 and 1957) to Psalm 33:12: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance."

2) The discussion of Reverend Franklin Graham's decision to offer a less-inclusive prayer at the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001:

By 2001 conservative evangelicals had become a powerful force in American politics, instrumental to electing George W. Bush to the presidency. Part of the evangelical identity, increasingly, was a pugnacious sense that they were being persecuted and should not be cowed into suppressing their faith. "I knew stating that there is no other Name by which an individual can be saved grate on some ears and prick some hearts," Franklin Graham wrote about his inaugural prayer in his book, "The Name." "However, as a minister of the gospel, I was not there to stroke the egos of men. My role was to acknowledge the all powerful One and please Him....I want to please my Father in heaven no matter the cost." The country's growing religious diversity left evangelical Protestants feeling more defensive and inclined to strut their theological stuff.


repsac3 said...

A very interesting article indeed, Donald. Like you, I urge everyone interested to follow the link & read it in full.

My two points of interest were the accusations that John Adams was too religious (given that like me, he was a Unitarian), and Steven Waldman's conclusion. While I would prefer to see Presidents go back to either the "religious diversity" or "America's pastor" models discussed in the article, I believe that ultimately, it is the President's day, and I can "overlook" the use of celebrant[s] from his own faith, and messages that reflect his own beliefs, rather than the whole country's. I wouldn't want to lose the inaugural invocation &/or benediction based on what naysayers in the public think of a President-elect's choices. Who they choose & what is said tells us something about the leaders they intend to be of course, and I have no problem with anyone expressing their opinion of either, but those decisions should ultimately be the President's, rather than ours...

Gayle said...

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance." Many seem to be forgetting the truth of that statement, Donald.

I'm of two minds regarding Respac's comment. Perhaps by Obama's choices for the inauguration he will further show us who he is, but I still feel that Americans put him in office and he should respect that by following tradition. He is supposed to be working for the American people. We are the one's who will be paying his salary.

repsac3 said...

Gayle: My comments were meant to refer to all Presidents-elect going forward (and my opinion of the choices of those Presidents who went before, of course), but regarding Obama's choices in particular...

How is it his choice of religious celebrants is not in keeping with inaugural tradition? Do you feel that the American people should have veto power over a President-elect's--and here I mean EVERY President-elect's going forward, not just Obama's--choice of inaugural pastor(s)? Should we Americans also get to pre-approve the text of the blessings they offer?

I see it as the President's day, more in keeping with a wedding. In both cases, we're invited to attend the ceremony, but we don't get to pick the preacher or the vows... ...though we are free to express our opinions & otherwise gossip amongst ourselves about both.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute.

First, I thought he was a Muslim and would using the Koran. Boy, was I fooled.

Second, if he is Satan, the 666 beast, won't the bible burst into flames the second he touches it? Grace, I need some clarification here.

I think it is sad that religion has to play a part in this aspect, but that's just me. I'm a nihilist after all.

AmPowerBlog said...

Gayle: I'm most interesting in the relationship between church and state, and how the president's choices and prayers reflect on our traditions of religious culture. The points about Michael Newdow and the atheists were pretty interesting, but Franklin Graham's experience is telling when our diversity is so great as to be destroying the fabric of society.

AmPowerBlog said...

"I think it is sad that religion has to play a part in this aspect, but that's just me. I'm a nihilist after all."

I've never said that Obama is Muslim, Tim. I think it's good he's reaching back to tradition, as this is a Christian nation. Like I said in the comments above, I'm sick at the atheist's comments, and as you're atheist, I guess you make me sick as well...

repsac3 said...

I've never said that Obama is Muslim, Tim.

No, that was Grace, though not one conservative here said anything to disabuse her of the notion or defend the truth...

as this is a Christian nation

Which makes me wonder whether folks with your kinda mindset will insist that the first Jewish or Muslim President-elect "follow tradition" & have Protestant (or a Christian, at least) offering the invocation &/or benediction at his/her inauguration.

I'd think it far fetched, except for the right wing uproar over Rep. Keith Ellison's using the Koran in the photo-op following the swearing-in ceremony for the 110th Congress. The idea that there is anything offensive or untoward about an elected Muslim using the scripture of his faith in a photo-op, or that any right winger (like this person, for example: Keith Ellison - U.S. Congressman. What Next; a Muslim for President?) felt it was any of their business in the first place, is pretty disgusting.

I can appreciate that most believers (including myself, sometimes) think they have a lock on the One True Way, and that everyone who isn't a member of our faith/denomination is missing the boat, but America is built on religious freedom, and is in no way founded as a Christian nation. For most of us, this was pretty much cleared up back in 1797, when my aforementioned fellow Unitarian forebearer, John Adams, signed the Treaty of Tripoli, but for those who missed the memo:

"As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] ... it is declared ... that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries....
"The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."
-- Treaty of Tripoli (1797), carried unanimously by the Senate and signed into law by John Adams (the original language is by Joel Barlow, US Consul)

shoprat said...

I just wonder why some of these people are more afraid of the "Christian Right" who do not physically threaten bodily harm or death to them than they are the militant imams who have issued death fatwas against them.

Anonymous said...

Technically, this is not a "Christian nation" as it does not distinguish that anywhere in our constitution or any legal government document for that matter. In numbers, sure.

"and as you're atheist, I guess you make me sick as well..."

Yes, Donald. Once again, you embody the words of Jesus and the notion of respect for your fellow men who disagree with you. I don't even know why you pay lip service to Christianity. The Christians I know are much nicer, polite, and, um, Christ-like.

Given our disagreement on most things, not all, I must be doing something right.

AmPowerBlog said...

Shoprat: It's the radical secular left. They can't stand faith and Christian morals. There is no equivalent in history to the destruction of our culture we're seeing today, with postmodernism, nihilist demonization of tradition, and so forth.

It's pretty depressing for those of faith. But I believe that the good is eternal and the forces of darkness seeking the obliteration of the United States, our internal and external enemies, as Roger Gardner has mentioned, will be defeated.

AmPowerBlog said...

Tim: It's not un-Christian to be revolted by your lack of faith. You have stated to me personally that you prefer another social/economic system than what we have in the U.S. today, which you describe as "proto-fascist," or thereabouts.

Attack me as you want. Your diatribes don't do much except to demonstrate the forces of anti-tradition at work ideologically in this country.

Anonymous said...

Donald: Time doesn't allow me to deconstruct all of your misstatements.

Starters: I have never said I don't like our system. Or support a "proto-fascist" anything. Amending the system, for instance to have everyone covered by healthcare, I would venture is a Christian value. Your approach to healthcare, for instance, is not earning you any credits in heaven dear boy. Quite the opposite in fact. Read the sermon on the mount. You have a fundamental misreading of Christianity on any level. Sorry to break it to you.

"They can't stand faith and Christian morals."

The above statement is bullshit, plain and simple. Morals are not "Christian" and if you have ever studied sociology or world cultures you would be amazed at your own ignorance here. But in a nutshell, If I were Jewish, for instance, I would find that an extreme insult. But keep swinging away! You are whiffing here.

There is no groundswell of atheists seeking to tear apart the country. If anything, I/we would like America to take the approach the founding fathers took, and in this they treaded lightly with the idea of religion in politics. "Under God" was inserted into our national anthem DECADES after it was written to assuage the McCarthyists at the time. Which, for the record, you would have carried that man's water and led him to the trough when he got thirsty.

By the way, did you even read this piece that you posted? Seriously! Read it again. And see how the founding fathers approached this. You will be enlightened.

AmPowerBlog said...

Tim: It's funny how you back away from your own ideology. You're just like Repsac3 in that respect - when pinned down you deny your own statements. It's cowardly.

Anyway, make that "Judeo-Christian" morals. You don't adhere to any of it, since you have no faith. You can't just make up your own foundation of right hodgepodge. We have a system of universal good, derive from scriptural inspirations. Don't refer to the Bible for support, as you basically blaspheme.

P.S. Jesus did not call for a socialist state. He called for good works, and we can do that without taxing this country into ill-repute and insolvency. You don't raise taxes in a downturn, but the Democrats apparently didn't get the memo.

Anonymous said...

Donald: Those "statements" mysteriously never appear when you claim them. I'm have never advocated an overthrow of anything, just the Bush government. That's done now.

BTW: Do you not raise taxes to fund a war either? Guess not. Now look at us.

For the record, you do not get to claim ownership of a book you either have never read, or never comprehended.

Your conception of morals is infantile, at best. Your ownership of morals is intellectually strained. You need a philosophy course perhaps.

This is your blog, as I've stated before, and therefore you can claim black is white. Which you do repeatedly.

Bottom line, you can't even discern a moderate in your midst.

repsac3 said...

You're just like Repsac3 in that respect - when pinned down you deny your own statements. It's cowardly.

Bet you will not and cannot show my doing any such thing.

(One day, perhaps, it'll be more than just wisps of air behind your words... but I ain't holdin' my breath...)

Still, a good article. But I'm with Tim in suggesting that you read it through again, concentrating more closely on the meaning of the words in context, and paying particular attention to the traditions set forth by our earliest Presidents as regards religious expression. Ask yourself why the first invocations at inaugurations took place in 1937, rather than 160 or so years earlier. Given your thinkin' about our being a [judeo-]Christian nation, that's a bit curious, no?

Rich Casebolt said...

Amending the system, for instance to have everyone covered by healthcare, I would venture is a Christian value.

Not if the amendments reduce care to the least-common-denominator for everyone, regardless of need ... stifle innovation in the field ... and threaten civil liberties to a far greater degree than any of your worst fantasies about the Bush Administration.

The Big Gov cure is worse than the disease, Tim. Imposing that upon those you seek to help is hardly "Christian".

Why don't you trust We the People to handle this, instead? Places like St. Jude's in Memphis are well-supported ... people will rise to other needs in this area and support them, if they can keep control of the resources to do so.

Quit insisting that all our tax money is taken from us, and a relative few empowered to make the decisions for us all as to how we solve the healthcare challenges of our society. That is not only jamming your concepts of morality down all our throats ... it is counterproductive to your stated objectives.

Let We the People work, instead ... if you can stop believing in your own omniscience long enough to do so.

And BTW, if you want to end the cultural conflicts between those like you, and those like the Professor and myself ... quit trying to render the public discourse spiritrein and turning it into an exclusive playground for your own faith in yourselves, where only YOUR sense of morality is respected while all others are treated like the crazy aunt in the basement.

Open your mind ... while we may oppose many ideas of yours on their own (lack of) merits, I don't think no one here has called for your exclusion from the public discourse, have we?

Remember that we evangelicals are some of your best defense against theocracy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rich!

One constant you will hear from almost anyone in any other country on earth where they have health care, is that they are happy they have it! Sure, it's not perfect, but nothing is. But having it is better than not. And while I respect and contribute to various charities (because that is what we nihilists do, Donald) they are a great backup. However, what they simply do NOT do is guarantee coverage for all.

Other than that, I think you also slightly misinterpret my take on things. I am not trying to impose my belief system on anyone, merely trying to suggest that we non-theists are welcome at the table too. Donald, the Christian man that he is, says I and others have no morals, and therefore cannot even be allowed to quote from the bible.

If you want a lesson on what I truly believe, i.e. that you are free to believe as you like, (shock, horror) mixed with a bit of cynicism, I refer you to people like Benjamin Franklin and his take on religion.

"He consistently attacked religious dogma, arguing that morality depended more on virtue and benevolent actions than on strict obedience to religious orthodoxy: "I think opinions should be judged by their influences and effects; and if a man holds none that tend to make him less virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded that he holds none that are dangerous, which I hope is the case with me."

repsac3 said...

I constantly wonder who in the hell folks like Rich think the government is, if not We, the people, or why "Big Corp" (also made up of We, the people, but often with a more "me first, and screw you" bent) is any less scary than "Big Gov"...

Between that & the "everybody hates the Christians" victimology at play here, it's little wonder where these folks find the complaints they then project away from themselves & onto liberals...

AmPowerBlog said...

Tim: I teach Western poltical theory, having developed the intitial curriculum at my college under outside review.

You mostly resort to ad hominems in argumentation, and that lends no credibility to any claim you make. That is infantile, but you know little about formal debate, in any case, and you throw around throwaway lines like "I attended Catholic school" as if that's supposed to give you some authority.

You really should start a blog instead of hogging the comment threads elsewhere with self-claimed expertise on everything under the sun. Reppy's taking co-bloggers, so you'll be in good nihilist company if you take him up on it:

AmPowerBlog said...

Rich said:

" ... people will rise to other needs in this area and support them, if they can keep control of the resources to do so ... "

This is what people do in a free society. Tim and the leftists don't want freedom they want slavery to government, "to each according to need, from each according to ability."

Anonymous said...

"I teach Western poltical theory, having developed the intitial curriculum at my college under outside review."

OK, as if that gives your moral authority to condemn me for not thinking like you. Interesting. BTW, you throw this out there every time you hit a brick wall.

You should be happy I bring some eyeballs to your page. Normally it's Grace and her 666/Obama claptrap and you saying "Thanks for visiting Grace."

And yes, I have noticed a lot of your former commenters have abandoned this page. Hmmm.

AmPowerBlog said...

Tim: I'm not hitting a brick wall ...

It's a simple response to your personal attacks on me, Tim. The credibility any of us have is in our arguments, and I don't normally refer to credentials or having attended "Catholic schools" as if that gives any more weight to what I say.

Grace does her own thing. She's not threatening the way the nihilist left is, like Repsac3's crowd. I don't agree with much she says, but I respect her right to say it here.

You too, only that I do think your ideology is a threat to American traditions. You have said to me before we'd be better off with a European-style welfare state (socialism) and you've e-mailed me websites to "fascism in America," or some such stuff. It's boilerplate radicalism, but you don't admit to it. That's weak, and frankly I resist it, with all due respect.

P.S. I have gotten a number of e-mails from readers who have said they don't comment because they don't like the leftist ideology and the attacks, and they don't want to leave their blog URLs so the rabble won't follow them back to their places ...

American Power is more popular than ever, it turns out, obviously. We had over 60 comments in Norm's thread last week ...

JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

Don't worry about me leaving you Don. I feel we've developed a closeness that only really close people that have never met before can understand.

I think Rich is a good conservative like you Don. Loves his religion except when it supports things like healthcare for all. Then he abandons it in favor of some weird ideas about the wonderfulness of the free market allowing the poor and people unfortunate to not have health insurance suffer.

God bless you and your just and benevolent HMO Rich and Don. Especially Don cause the Governator may be doing some serious budget cutting. I hope your union contract gaurantees you health coverage Don. Solidarity Brother!

AmPowerBlog said...

Is that so, Truth101?

I see this from you at the "Swashzone":

"It's sad that deluded right wing fools like the Nutty Professor and his clique make up what they thought the Founding Fathers were thinking. Ironically, it was this same Nutty Professor that turned me on to this site."

I'm just trying to figure out if you're as nihilist as Reppy and Tim, but if you're happy with OCTUPUS' blog, that pretty much tells me everything.

JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

You want me to straighten you out here on your home court or at my site Professor?

Anonymous said...

Donald: the Catholic school thing is this: I had religion thrust down my throat for five years, every day. I think I have a handle on it. That simple really. You, however, continually tell me I cannot even comment on it as if I have no experience.

I have stuck up for you time and again, I have yet to see you ever stick up for my views, or even my right to say them. You continually belittle me for not arguing correctly, then when I throw evidence that contradicts you, you go silent or revert to the nihilist thing.

And you overstate the socialism thing, again. Yes, I have sent you links about fascism in America. So what? If there is an element of truth there, why not? Are you that afraid of a word? Or is it too close to home? And, for the record, that was many months ago now, right? Nothing recently.

If I had to objectively read the comments here, I would feel this: I like you, in spite of your politics. Yet you hate me because of mine. Because I don't subscribe to the Jesus school of faith (not thought, there is a difference), along with over half the planet, you condemn me Donald as not being able to have morals, etc. That is what gets my goat, that is what really rankles. And that is why I think you fail in certain respects here. You use the epithets way too easily. You should read what you write sometimes. It ain't nice either.

And you rely on traditionalism way too much to warrant a serious discussion. I've never said I was against it, only that it is mutable. You of all people should be able to understand that.

As for Grace being non-threatening...that's what we always hear just before they shoot up a church or blow up a building. Christians ain't perfect or non-violent. Don't perpetuate that myth.

Grace, for the record I don't think you are going to blow up a church or anything. I just think you are a bit whacky, that's all.

AmPowerBlog said...


I'm just saying you're talking out of both sides of your mouth.

I run a pretty clean shop around here, and you're welcome to comment, but I'm surprised you do if you hate me as much as OCTOPUS does and his ilk at the nihilist "Swashzone."

repsac3 said...

I'm just trying to figure out if you're as nihilist as Reppy and Tim, but if you're happy with OCTUPUS' blog, that pretty much tells me everything.

Meanwhile, pretty much everyone else is wondering whether you even know the meaning of the word. Contrary to (your) popular opinion, it really isn't "disagrees with me."

Speaking on behalf of your "nihilist" friends, I'm sorry we're driving any portion of your invisible readership away. We all enjoy vigorous commentary & debate, and we're sorry that so many (or "any") of your potential readership feel so intimidated as to be unable speak out here in public, especially given the changing of the guard as it were, and all the interest in right wing thought & commentary that should provoke, given your new "underdogs-fighting-our-way-back-into-the-majority" status you've all acquired.

Besides, think how boring it'd be if all you folks had to say was "Great post, Don", and "I agree completely." followed up with "Thanks for the great comment, ____." That's not a blog, it's mutual masturbation. (Speaking of which, has anyone checked in with AFTAH, yet? Whatever "freaky-freaky" may be going on, it's probably starting right about now... Set those imaginations on stun, kids. It's a long, cold night.)

AmPowerBlog said...

"And you overstate the socialism thing, again."

Actually, I don't think so, at all. You talk of your glory days in Britain as if that were Shangri-La.

I don't hate you, Tim. I hate the ideology that you so fervently defend. I routinely end my comments with "all due respect" and you and your family are welcome at my house any time.

This is a blog. We debate here.

Anonymous said...

Glory days in Britain? Did I ever say that, or was I talking about the convenience of having a local doctor, and not having to worry about being out of pocket for a major medical emergency.

As for glory days, there were some, absolutely. Some of the best times of my life. Britain, for all its faults, is still an amazing country. It would have to be--it started this one!

OK, see you tomorrow to watch the football.

JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

I respect you for the clean site you run Professor. I respect and appreciate that the commenters keep it clean. If one of my enemies from my old site finds me here and posts no opinions but plenty of four letter words, then out of respect for your operation, I'll go away.

But I don't pander. I'm on opposite sides with the enlightened crew of the Swashbuckle zone when it comes to Gaza. Your guys liked me then.

repsac3 said...

This is a blog. We debate here.

Only as long as you can delude yourself into thinkin' you're winning, apparently... Once you realize how bad you're lookin', its:

Roger Gardner: America Besieged: "This is not a debate, in any case, so save all your logic links. You haven't prevailed in a so-called debate with me yet, so you're trying to instigate something here."


Roger Gardner: America Besieged: "This thread is done.

I'm having the last word so folks may start a new thread above if they desire ..."

AmPowerBlog said...

I'm game. What time you coming, Tim?

AmPowerBlog said...

You're welcome to visit and comment, Truth101. I'm just taken back by your views of me on some of the other blogging outlets where I'm not so welcomed, despised even.

Anonymous said...

Do you have HD?

Actually, we have to go to Harry's old Catholic school to see some friends in a play at noon or 1. So I'm missing the Eagles game.

AmPowerBlog said...

Catholic school, eh? You brag a lot about that "expertise."

Have a good day, in any case.

JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

Relax Professor. If I can take being called a nihilist, a man of you superior education and societal status can most certainly take being called a deluded right wing fool.

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