Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Was anybody else shocked that Rick Warren recited the Lord's Prayer at the inauguration? Can he do that?? What happened to separation of church and state??

As a pleasant contrast, here's Sunday's opening invocation from the Right Reverend Gene V. Robinson, who "is best-known for being the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be ordained a bishop in a major Christian denomination believing in the historic episcopate." (Wikipedia)

can anybody else figure out what is going on in the backdrop of this photo?

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people existon less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands arebeaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian,bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to riseto the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Amazing update (thanks to Jonathan Rowson for pointing this out): Robinson is on the Daily Show and they make a chess joke!!!

Stewart: Washington was so crowded today; you as a bishop are sort of doubly-handicapped in that situation -- only being able to move diagonally. How is that with negotiating the crowds?

Robinson: Jon, you have to understand, there is a queen on the board as well.


Anonymous said...

It's not always easy to tell when you're joking and when you're being serious. If indeed you were being serious with your question regarding the separation of church and state then allow me to provide a partial answer. To wit, if you were to read the constitution from front to back, including the bill of rights, you would not find the phrase "separation of church and state" contained anywhere contained therein. The constitution speaks only of "freedom of {NOT 'from} religion". If civics were still taught in schools you would probably already know this.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked too; also, part of the ritual seems to involve swearing on a Christian bible.

I didn't think the US was supposed to have an official state religion, but it was made clear today that Christianity is it.

Anonymous said...

"The constitution speaks only of "freedom of {NOT 'from} religion". If civics were still taught in schools you would probably already know this."

Actually, if you were listening at any point in the civics classes you imply were taught when you were in school, you would know that the Constitution forbids the establishment of religion.

You would also know that Thomas Jefferson wrote "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their "legislature" should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State" in 1802. But what did he know, right?

You would also know that Article 6 says "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

You would also know that the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797 says that "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

But all this would interfere with your precious sense of victimhood, so forget I said any of it and keep on whining.

Rick Massimo

Anonymous said...


Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

And, yeah, what Rick Massimo said about "no religious test."

Enough of the founders were freethinkers that to assume they intended it to be mandatory that everyone have some religion, though it didn't matter which one, is absurd.

Anonymous said...

Your chess team being mentioned (in a somewhat backhanded and slightly offensive way):http://www.halfsigma.com/2009/01/the-gloading-of-chess-and-painting.html

Elizabeth Vicary said...

not my chess team, someone else's

Anonymous said...

I did feel like it was slightly more religiously influenced than I expected; perhaps Obama was pressured a little bit to indicate that some crazy Muslim wasn't about to take over so as to sate the retirement community's fears.

That said, the whole inauguration ceremony is precisely that, a ceremony - a show of tradition and entertainment.

I don't really see the problem with religious displays occuring so long as they are not forced upon people, and I don't understand why people feel the opposite. Preventing people from participating in religious activities seems every bit as wrong as forcing them.

Anonymous said...

If we restrict ourselves to what is actually written in the constitution (as opposed to what Jefferson wrote in a personal letter many years later) we have the following:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

So, unless you believe that

1.) by reading a prayer Rick Warren was establishing a religion, and

2.) that Rick Warren is "congress"

then I don't see what the problem is.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I myself couldn't care less what the founding fathers wanted. What do they know? A bunch of random people in the right place at the right time.

But why should Christianity get center stage? It's inappropriate and marginalizes members of other religions and atheists.

(Although I appreciated his shout out to Yeshua and Issa, and I guess there isn't really anything he can offer to atheists.)

Anonymous said...


Since you were the one who raised the issue of the separation of church and state in the first place I think you are being disingenuous now claiming to not care what the founding fathers thought.

As for your tiresome notions on Christianity I suggest you address your complaint to President Obama himself who invited the pastor to speak.

As to your notions about the significance of the founding fathers all I can say is that I think it's a shame that you're in a position to influence children, but there's nothing that can be done about that. The education system in the country is broken beyond repair so one more America hating teacher more or less won't make a difference.

Also, for whatever it's worth, yesterday was inauguration day.
The guy you supported whole-heartedly won, and yet all you can think to post about is the one thing that pissed you off? Has it ever been suggested to you that perhaps you spend too much time focusing on the negative?

es_trick said...

Seems there are a number of people who had never watched a presidential inauguration before yesterday. The invocation and benediction, spoken by Christian ministers, as well as the swearing in with one hand on the Bible, are all part of tradition.

Obama had to overcome many, many obstacles to get elected President, including one part of his name that rhymes with Osama, and another part that’s the same as that of the despised former dictator of Iraq. Contrary to what Geraldine Ferraro said, I do not believe that being black (or half black) was an advantage. Rumors that he is a Muslim and that he had been sworn in as a Senator holding a copy of the Koran were not intended to make ‘mainstream America’ fall in love with him. Nor were claims that ‘he had the most liberal voting record in the Senate,’ or that he “pals around with terrorists.”

Breaking long established tradition at the very moment he officially became President, would not have been the recommended way to get off to a good start. The ‘honeymoon’ is short enough without going out of your way to alienate a whole bunch of people you need on your side. He has much bigger fish to fry than to tinker with the cherished rituals of our nation’s public ceremonies.

While Article 6 does state that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" there is a de facto test, nonetheless.

As far as I know, no publicly avowed atheist has ever succeeded in rising to the highest office in the land. It’s still not possible in this day and age. And why were the rumors about Obama being a Muslim spread, and why do they persist? It’s obvious that a great many Americans, no doubt a majority, would not have voted for him if he had in fact been a Muslim. Although Colin Powell rightly said “So what if he were a Muslim?” the sad fact is it would have de facto “disqualified” him from becoming President of the US in 2009.

Obama was not a Christian until about 20 years ago. The cynic in me wonders if one of the reasons he became one is because he recognized the powerful implications it would have on his future political ambitions.

Many people are confused about the meaning of the concept “separation of church and state.” In the UK, Queen Elizabeth is not only the titular head of state, but also head of the Church of England. So it has been since the time of Henry VIII. Before that, you had the Pope in Rome and his bishops and archbishops meddling in the affairs of state. At the founding of our republic, the intention was to keep that kind of religious interference out of the affairs of government.

Incorporating religious (Christian) rituals in public ceremonies does not mean that a state religion has been established. To those who feel marginalized by this, “boo-hoo.”

FYI, Yeshua and Issa are pronunciations of Jesus in other languages (Aramaic & Hindi, I think).

es_trick said...


Sorry about the "boo-hoo" line. I was aiming that at "anonymous" posters, and didn't realize /remember that it was the host of this site who made the comment about marginalization.


Elizabeth Vicary said...

no worries, thanks though

Bill Brock said...

Per the Founding Fathers, the U.S. is not a Christian nation:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Bill Brock said...

There was a time when dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth together--if only on Saddleback's website.

Sadly, the dinosaurs have disappeared.

Both links also discuss homophobia, an equally stupid belief. But I'm not sure of the causal linkage in Pastor Rick's noggin.

Bill Brock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Brock said...

Thank you, Wayback Machine! Check out question 29....

Anonymous said...

I'm very interested that many complaints are aimed at Christianity rather than the new President who (through his church attendance) professes that faith. As has been pointed out, the separation prevents the government from establishing an official religion, and never restricted religious elements. That everyone toes so lightly around this shows how thin-skinned we are as a nation (or media, as the papers played the Warren thing out); personally I cannot take offense every time someone not of my faith prays in an "official" setting...I'd be a very angry individual.

Invoking God's blessing occurs every day on Capitol Hill, and a tolerant attitude must accept the the majority of the country believe in Something or Someone, even if it's not the Christian archetype. For the inauguration, it's the choice of the incoming President. I believe that the new President could always choose to rest his hand on the holy scriptures of his choosing.

For now, I'll look forward to what the new President has in store for the nation in the coming weeks...