I like Rick Warren. I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, but I like him. He is one of the voices moving evangelicalism away from personal piety and towards a more inclusive, universal view of Chrisitanity. His prayer for President Obama yesterday has elicited a quite a firestorm. And the the fact that he prayed “in the name of” Jesus Christ only served to convince the Left that he is a hopeless sectarian and on the Right that he is a traitor.
So I thought I would check out the question asked by a couple of readers (my only readers, alas) as to whether Warren’s invoking of Jesus was unusual in a Presidential prayer. I don’t think it is.
At George H.W. Bush’s 1989 inaugural, Billy Graham prayed, and never mentioned Jesus, Yeshua or Isa. But in 1993, at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, he prayed in the name of the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.” To Christians, that’s a clear reference to Jesus. To Jews, not so much. in 1997, Graham used a Trinitarian formulation, “In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” At George W. Bush’s inauguration, Franklin Graham prayed ” in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.”
In fact, that seems to be the rule, at least for Christian prayers, though Ronald Reagan had Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, President, Hebrew Union College who obviously didn’t use Jesus’ name. Jimmy Carter had a Methodist Bishop who did and a Catholic Archbishop who didn’t. Nixon had Billy Graham again who did. Johnson had two Protestants (one who did, one who didn’t) and a Catholic who didn’t and an Orthodox who did. Kennedy had a Protestant (nope), a Catholic (nope), an Orthodox (yes, kind of) and a Jew (what do you think?).
in 1957, Eisenhower had a Protestant (yes), Catholic (yes), Orthodox (yes) and Jew (I can’t find the transcript, but i think it’s safe to say no.) Truman (Jesus again) and Roosevelt (very Jesus). Check it out at Beliefnet.
So, sorry dear readers. Barack has not gone all fundie on you. It just that this time we were really listening.