Since God didn’t vote for President, why should he get a seat on the inauguration platform? In the midst of controversy over picking Rick Warren to offer an invocation, it’s been overlooked that reality is shifting in America. We are a largely secular society where the vast majority of people do not attend church. When religion enters the picture, we are a pluralistic society, not a Christian one. The right wing may posture as if Christianity deserves special privilege and pride of place. Their posturing has convinced a lot of people for the past twenty years, but it’s high time we threw the whole charade out the window.

Barack Obama got in trouble with Jeremiah Wright and now he’s in more trouble with Rick Warren. He should take this as a lager lesson. Anyone he chooses to invoke God at his inauguration will be divisive, either overtly or covertly. For two generations Billy Graham seemed safe enough for any President to touch without getting shocked. But if all of Billy Graham’s private views were aired publicly, I doubt that many non-Christians would feel welcomed by him, and probably not a great many Catholics and Jews. The essence of evangelism is to save the lost and fallen, which means every person in the world who doesn’t adhere to your (usually narrow) conception of God.
If Obama can’t bring himself to do the right thing and keep God away on Jan. 20, he should be as ecumenical as those moving services at Yankee Stadium in the wake of 9/11. They were ecumenical because when the going really gets rough, petty differences about God fade away. Aren’t we in crisis mode now? Everyone seems to think so. I understand Obama’s justification for inviting Warren — it’s a gesture of non-divisiveness, a chance to pull right-wing Christians closer to the center. Maybe that outweighs the wounded feelings of gay Americans, who looked to Obama (even though he opposed gay marriage himself during the campaign). But the larger point, I think, is that religion has been a toxic element in U.S. politics for so long that it would be a relief to clean house and reinstate this country’s secular virtues, chief among them being tolerance for all. Even God might be grateful.
This article appeared in the Washington Post On Faith section
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