The first time the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell took the stage at the close of a presidential inauguration, his prayer caused more of a stir than he intended.
That was 2001 and the official start of President Bush’s first term. Caldwell called on a God of "peace, prudent policy and nonpartisanship," and asked for an end to inequities of wealth and education.
He offered his "humble prayer in the name that’s above all other names, Jesus the Christ."
And he ended by saying:
"Let all who agree say, Amen."
For some, that was the rub.
What about those who don’t consider Jesus as the name above all others, the critics asked?
"I did take some flak for that and, quite frankly, rightfully so," said Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church. "It was never my intention to exclude or insult anyone. I chalk it up to public prayer naiveté."
I would have thought that using "Let all who agree say, Amen" to be a fairly good compromise in public prayer. This just goes to show that some critics of public prayer can just never be satisfied.
For Charlotte Coffelt, vice president of the Houston Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the key to civic prayer is to remember that the inauguration is a secular event.
…However, Coffelt does feel that it is appropriate to call for blessings on the people of the country as long as it is done with an understanding that many of those people are not Christian, but Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish, too.
How exclusive of her to leave out agnostics and atheists who could be offended by even a blessing. You can not really write a prayer or a blessing that will include everyone since either invokes a belief in God or some deity.
We [call upon] / [deny the existence] of [God] / [Gods] / [blind chance] to confer upon our country a [blessing] / [more randomness] one nation under [God] / [Gods] / [blind chance]. Can I hear an [Amen] / [Acceptance of our earthly existence]