Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery Yesterday: Offensive or A-Okay?

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Obama aims high.
Obama aims high. Photo: Getty Images

The main event of yesterday's inaugural ceremonies may have been the half-accurate oath of office, but religious prayers served as the bookends. Reverend Warren delivered his invocation over objections from many Obama supporters (a vocal Rachel Maddow among them), and though he managed to avoid comparing gay people to pedophiles, not everyone approved of his use of the Lord's Prayer. Meanwhile, civil-rights icon Reverend Joseph Lowery stirred up some controversy of his own, believe it or not, with the humorous rhyming ending to his benediction — particularly, the hope for a day "when white will embrace what is right."

• Amy Sullivan says Lowery "made everyone forget about Rick Warren. And in a good way." [Swampland/Time]

• Michelle Malkin claims Lowery's "eloquence was marred by glib racialism." The hope that “white would embrace the right" — "Who wrote that line? Jeremiah Wright? And what would Obama’s grandparents and mother have to say?" [Michelle Malkin]

• Glenn Beck, referring to the same line, claims, "Even at the inauguration of a black president, we are being called racist." [Fox News]

• Susan Jacoby tells critics of Lowery's "traditional rhyming chant" to "stop being so sensitive." [On Faith]

• Michael Tomasky thinks Warren "was perfectly fine and even quite good," until he went into the Lord's Prayer, which probably made people of all faiths besides Protestants uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Lowery "was great in his benediction … [e]specially the humor at the end." [Guardian UK]

• Michael Paulson writes that Warren "was inclusive at first, and explicitly Christian in the end." He also may have alluded "to the controversy over his selection, a call to reconciliation, saying, 'when we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us.'" [Articles of Faith/Boston Globe]

• Reverend Barry W. Lynn thinks Warren's use of the Lord's Prayer "was really over the top, since this is such a well-known Christian intercession." And Warren's "prattling on about 'our commitment to freedom and justice for all'" was hypocritical considering "his support for passage of California's notoriously discriminatory Proposition 8." [Lynn v. Sekulow/Beliefnet]

• Dan Gilgoff reasons that "Warren's recitation of the Lord's Prayer will disappoint those calling for a truly ecumenical invocation," but since it "unites all Christians, not just evangelicals … that's probably as ecumenical as Warren gets." [God & Country/US News]

• Jennifer Skalka writes that by "invoking the name of Jesus in four languages, Warren's message is that Jesus is his God but also the God of many, no matter race or nationality. It seems a modest outreach perhaps from a man who has used divisive, inflammatory language to describe the lifestyles of gay Americans." [Hotline On Call/National Journal]

• Steven Waldman says Warren "managed to offer a prayer that was broadly inclusive yet true to his faith." During the Lord's Prayer, "hundreds of thousands of people on the Mall reverently recited these words together with Warren, creating a powerful sense of unity among many attending." [Beliefnet]

• Naftali Bendavid and Greg Hitt suspect that Lowery's "appeal to 'help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate' might have been intended as a counterpoint to Mr. Warren's stance on gay marriage." [WSJ]

• Gabriel Winant believes Warren opponents "can still be mad at his presence … but it’s hard to get mad at the specific content of a prayer as stock as it gets." [War Room/Salon]

• George Pitcher contends that, though Warren gave a "barnstorming invocation," the less political, reserved British way of public prayer may be superior to the American way. [Telegraph UK]