Today I learned that Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, gave the invocation at the pre-inaugural “We are One” concert hosted by the Obama’s at the Lincoln Memorial. The fact that I didn’t know there was such a concert, and was not invited to attend the concert let alone offer a prayer at the concert probably doesn’t concern you. It should, but it probably doesn’t. The fact that Robinson’s prayer was cut from the broadcast of the concert does concern you. And it should.
With all the controversy surrounding the inaugural invocation given by Rev. Rick Warren, noted enemy of all things gay, one would think that Bishop Robinson would be big news. But it seems to have been, shall we say, kept in the closet. The HBO broadcast of the event chose not to include it (true), and Fox News refused to even mention it saying, “There is no such thing as a gay Gene” (not really true but you know it could be true if I hadn’t made it up).
This is troubling, but understandable. Rick Warren usually wears Hawaiian shirts and Obama’s grandmother lived in Hawaii, so featuring him makes sense. And Rev. Joseph Lowry, contrary to many who believe he was asked to pray because he was black, was invited because he could speak in rhyme (as opposed to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, also black, whose “God damn America” prayer is free verse). Obama prefers rhyme, that choice makes sense as well. But other than the fact that almost every gay person in America supported Obama with cash and votes, the President has no real ties to the gay community.
I get that our President (and every president) is a politician, so I understand why President Obama would want to snuggle up to the Evangelical Christian community who didn’t support him while taking the Gay community for granted. After all I watched every episode of West Wing. But, had he followed my advice, the President could have pleased both communities.
My suggestion to the Inaugural Planning Committee was to kill two birds with one stone and invite evangelical pastor Ted Haggard to speak. That way the President could kiss the butts of both pro-lifers and homosexuals at the same time. The fact that they once again failed to listen to me aside, Bishop Robinson’s prayer blew the other two out of the water.
Because most of us were prevented from seeing Bishop Robinson give his prayer, I am reprinting his text here. The prayer was taped by Sarah Pulliam, who is, ironically, a reporter for the notably not gay-friendly magazine Christianity Today. Here is Bishop Robinson’s prayer:
“O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…
Bless us with tears — tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless this nation with anger — anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort — at the easy, simplistic answers we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience — and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility — open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.
And bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.
And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for all people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain.
Give him stirring words — we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.
Now that’s a prayer! It almost makes me want to become an Episcopalian. Or at least gay.