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Jewish World Review
Dec. 24, 2008
/ 27 Kislev 5769
The politics of prayer
These days everything is political, or can be made so; even an inaugural prayer.
That isn't exactly correct. The inaugural prayer in question is not the Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction, but Rick Warren's invocation. Lowery favors same-sex "marriage" and Warren does not.
Homosexual activist groups and individuals such as Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) are angry, upset and hurt (and probably many other things, too) that Barack Obama would invite Warren to pray at the inaugural. Warren openly supported California's Proposition 8, which voters approved. The measure changed the state constitution to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples.
Obama, so far, has stood by his choice, noting he favors much of the gay-rights agenda (though not marriage). Warren, too, felt the need to say "some of my best friends are ..." at a Dec. 20 event in Long Beach, Calif., sponsored by a Muslim organization. Warren tried to pacify gays opposed to him by saying how much he loves singer Melissa Etheridge, who is a lesbian. He said he owns all of her albums. He also said he loves Muslims, Jews and everyone else.
Warren has been dubbed the successor to evangelist Billy Graham, who has known every president since Harry Truman and counseled several of them. Graham could serve as an example to Warren of how to (and how not to) relate to presidents should he become even closer to President Obama.
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All presidents want the cover of religion for their policies, and preachers, who are just as human as the rest of fallen humanity, are sometimes vain enough to think they can be unofficial advisors to the most powerful person on earth and not be compromised by him. The problem comes when the pastor and representative of another King and another Kingdom waters down his advice, or endorses bad decisions in order to maintain access to the president. People of different faiths or no faith and those with political objectives will seek to use the preacher not only to advance their agendas, but to get him to compromise his, which is primarily sharing a message not of this world.
Secretly recorded conversations between Graham and President Richard Nixon expose some of the dangers in such relationships. Graham told Nixon he thought the president should bomb the dikes in North Vietnam to help bring the war to an end.
In an embarrassing recording from early 1972, for which Graham later profusely apologized, the evangelist is heard volunteering to Nixon that the Jewish "stranglehold" on the media "has got to be broken or this country's going down the drain."
"You believe that?" asks Nixon.
"Yes, sir," replied Graham.
"Oh boy," said Nixon, "So do I. I can't ever say that but I believe it."
"If you get elected a second time," said Graham, "then we might be able to do something."
If Obama plans on having Warren as a presence in his presidency, Warren should seek to model himself more after Nathan the prophet. Nathan confronted King David over his affair with Bathsheba, whose husband, Uriah the Hittite, David sent to the front lines to ensure he would be killed so that David could have his wife. G-d sent Nathan to David. Nathan told David a story about a rich man who stole a poor man's lamb rather than take one from his own flock to feed a visitor. Nathan asked David what should happen to such a man. David replied, "that man should surely die." To which Nathan replied, "You are the man." (2 Samuel 12)
Nathan's confrontation led to David's repentance and one of the most beautiful Psalms ever written (Psalm 51). The point is that Nathan did not compromise Truth, but confronted David with what he had done wrong. How many modern preachers would confront a president like that? Probably not many if they wanted to maintain access.
I suspect Rick Warren knows these dangers, but what he could use are some people around him to say he's not as great as people might think. Checks and balances are not only good in government, they are also helpful to people who ascend to high places. No one is above the temptations of pride, including preachers who pray at inaugurals and possibly in the White House.
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JWR contributor Cal Thomas is co-author with Bob Beckel, a liberal Democratic Party strategist, of "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America". Comment by clicking here.
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