Guest / Limited Access /

Shortly after he was asked to deliver a prayer at President Barack Obama's inaugural festivities, Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson proudly announced it wouldn't be a Christian one. He had been "horrified" at how "specifically and aggressively Christian" previous inaugural prayers were. Robinson, whose elevation as his church's first gay bishop has been a major factor in bringing the Anglican Communion to the brink of schism, ended up addressing his prayer to the "God of our many understandings."

The day after Obama became President, the Episcopal Church's National Cathedral hosted an interfaith worship service featuring Muslims, Jews, and Hindus. The service's liturgical framework was Christian while the content was strictly nonsectarian. The sermon cited Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Cherokee sources, avoided exclusive truth claims, and shied away from particular names for deities. Cathedral staff even rewrote the Book of Common Prayer's responsive prayers to avoid any overt Christian witness. The only way the service could have been more inclusive was if they had replaced the altar with a kitchen sink.

While many Christians might be alarmed by civil religion in the Obama era, the Bush era wasn't terribly different. In his second inaugural address, for instance, Bush praised the "truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran." And he told Arab news channel Al Arabiya, "I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God."

Still, the Obama era of religious inclusivity has new—and very exclusive—teeth that may leave some Christians wondering if they are welcome. Take Obama's proposal for changing the faith-based ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedHouston Drops Sermons from Subpoenas
Houston Drops Sermons from Subpoenas
Opponents still question relevance of pastor info to their case.
TrendingMark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill
Mark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill
"I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission."
Editor's PickYou Need a More Ordinary Jesus
You Need a More Ordinary Jesus
We are united with a Christ who seems not to have done much of note for most of his life.
Comments
Christianity Today
Civil Religion's Sharper Teeth
hide thisApril April

In the Magazine

April 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.