Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Poet Considers Inaugural Prayers

For days now, I've been thinking about Inauguration Day, about the prayers and the poetry (go here to read my thoughts on poetry that day).

I wasn't as upset with the choice of Rick Warren as many other people were. He has some views I don't agree with, but ever since I heard him interviewed on Speaking of Faith, I've been impressed with him and the way he lives his faith. Go here to listen. I'm most impressed with his work in Africa (oh, how Africa changes people!) and his giving away most of what he earns. He's practicing reverse tithing, giving away 90% of what he earns and keeping 10%, and many months, it's all I can do to give away 10%.

I thought his prayer a bit too long, and without any sort of soaring rhetoric. I wasn't offended by his reference to Jesus Christ--you ask a Christian preacher to give a prayer, and a Christian preacher is likely to make reference to Jesus. But I didn't find his prayer offensive.

I keep thinking back to the benediction. Rev. Lowery started off with all of the rhetorical flourishes that I missed in Warren's prayer--and that reference to "Lift Every Voice and Sing"! That hymn has now been in my head for days.

I didn't like the jingoistic way he ended: "When the yellow will be mellow, . . . when white will embrace what is right." It had been such a marvelous benediction until then. I'm increasingly irritated by 60's syntax, but I did take a minute to remind myself that those folks in the 60's--some who worked tirelessly, some who were killed, some who just pretended that they did anything important--those actions really did pave the way for the inauguration of our first African-American president.

When I was young, I was so frustrated with the slow, slow pace of social change. My parents and elders would tell me that I needed to be patient. I'd tell them that we didn't have that kind of time--didn't they see this mess in the world. I'd stomp away, sure that I was surrounded by hypocrites. I, of course, was purely righteous in my motives and motivations. Ah, to be 19 and so sure of oneself again!

My younger self would have scoffed at the idea that some day we'd elect a minority person to high office or a woman. For that matter, so would my older self. I'm so happy to have been proven wrong!

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