I'm sitting here at work on this historic Tuesday morning, with my radio tuned to a live broadcast from Washington D.C. to hear the Inauguration ceremony as it happens. Like many in this country, I'm excited about today and the possibility of what could be in the next several few months and years. My previous post talked a bit about the controversy of Rick Warren doing the invocation today and now I wanted to add just a little bit of follow up to that situation. Many of you probably know that Biship Gene Robinson (Episcopal from New Hampshire) was invited to do an invocation as well, but his was scheduled for Sunday before the Inaugural Concert. Bishop Robinson is the first openly gay bishop and there was a lot of talk about his invitation coming to help calm Obama's GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) supporters who were so disappointed with the Rick Warren invitation.
Yesterday on Talk of the Nation (an NPR call in show), Gene Robinson was interviewed about his experience doing the invocation at the concert. For anyone not in Washington this weekend, the concert could be seen on HBO and heard live on NPR. I listened to it, but tuned in a little bit late and thought I had missed the invocation (beginning prayer). As it turns out, the prayer was not broadcast - AND it wasn't heard through the sound system on the national mall. Somehow, there were some technical problems on the site and the programming schedule didn't allow for the prayer to be included on the live broadcast. Some people are wondering if this was an accident/coincidence or intentional. Honestly, I don't know what happened and I would really like to think that the Bishop wasn't silenced intentionally, but it's an odd coincidence. His invocation (which wasn't played on NPR's live broadcast of the concert either since they shared the feed with HBO) was anything but a traditional "feel good" prayer. He didn't just ask for God to watch over us and the new President - he asked for God to send us tears and anger for a variety of situations in our own country and around the world, including injustices based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status, etc. The pieces of it that I heard during yesterday's interview (which you can hear if you go to the link above) were great if a bit shocking to hear in a time when everything else has been focused on how great this whole event is. Since the only people who could hear it were the people sitting up front at the concert, there hasn't been a lot of response to what the prayer said - the reaction has mostly been about the prayer's not being heard.
I don't know Bishop Robinson at all, but after hearing his interview yeserday and the way he responded to callers' questions, I'm very impressed with him and think it's sad that so much of the focus of his ministry is based on his sexual orienatation and controversy that is perceived as being related to that. To paraphrase MLK Jr. (who has been drawn on a lot more this year that the recent past), I have a dream that one day ministers will not be judged on their sexual orientation but on the content of their theology and the actions that they take in their ministries. I think it's sad that his prayer wasn't heard, but not because it's part of a conspiracy to shut down the gay man. I'm sad because so many people didn't get to hear the prayer itself, a message that people would likely be shocked to hear and perhaps NEEDED to hear. While I am an Obama supporter (and a little jealous of my friends who are in D.C. right now), I think perhaps the most important statement the Bishop said in his prayer related to Barack himself. He prayed that we would remember that Barack Obama is a man and a leader, NOT a Messiah. In the wake of all of this excitement and possibility, I think it's important that we not forget that. Obama appears to be a great man, but that doesn't make him a superhero or messiah or the answer to all of our problems. We're all going to need to have patience, a spirit of cooperation, and allow some time for the possibilities to take shape. May God grant us all of those things.