Politics of Prayer
Byline: Franklin Graham, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
For the last month, the nation's editorial pages and blog sites have been filled with commentary representing every religious and political stripe, offering mostly opposing views on President-elect Barack Obama's invitation to California pastor Rick Warren to offer a prayer of invocation at his Inauguration.
A visitor to America might assume this issue to be the most pressing matter facing a country currently waging two wars and fighting for its financial life. Since controversy about Inaugural prayers may have begun following a prayer I gave at the 2001 Inauguration of George W. Bush, I thought I would add my voice to the others we've been reading and hearing in recent weeks.
In fact, my connection to Inaugurations and prayer dates back not to 2001, but to 1965. For my father, evangelist Billy Graham, has prayed at more Inauguration ceremonies than any person in history - eight Inaugurations from Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton. Though he and I believe in and pray to the same God, it was my prayer eight years ago that triggered the modern prayer wars.
Against a backdrop of a freezing drizzle, I offered to God a prayer asking for His blessing upon the incoming and outgoing presidents and their families. I quoted Abraham Lincoln, asked for healing for political wounds and help to rise above partisan politics, and pleaded for wisdom for those who lead us.
But in a 433-word prayer, it was four words in my concluding lines that lit a fuse. I ended my prayer with these words: We pray this prayer in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The transfer of American power continued seamlessly, as it always seems to do, until days later when we were told by Alan Dershowitz (in a Los Angeles Times op-ed) that my prayer had excluded tens of millions of Americans who are Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Unitarians, agnostics and atheists.
Noted atheist Michael Newdow (who once sued to remove the words under God from the Pledge of Allegiance) went a step further and filed a lawsuit against the government for allowing the prayer and against George W. Bush for inviting me.
There are several ironies and problems with all of this fuss. First, even Alan Dershowitz could not offer a prayer that would not exclude someone. For a generic ending like in thy name, Amen would exclude the atheist. …