When Rick Warren was introduced to give the invocation today, I heard a couple of discernible uh-ohs. Pretty soon, though, the African-Americans around me were responding as in church, and when he got around to saying the Lord’s Prayer, there was no shortage of people saying it with him. So, cool with them.
For me, not so much. Praying in Jesus’ name is pretty much what you’re going to get when you invite a white evangelical these days–it would have been considered a great scandal to his folks if Warren hadn’t. He could, however, have foregone the Lord’s Prayer, and the fact that no inaugural invocation has ever done that is eloquent enough on the point. But that in itself is not what got to me. What got to me was that the invocation was faux-inclusive. It makes a move towards inclusion with:
The Scripture tells us Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one. And you are the compassionate and merciful one.
The first sentence is the the Shm’a, Judaism’s central prayer. The second, as Dan Gilgoff points out, echoes the beginning of every chapter of the Koran but one; as in: “In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, the most merciful.”
But Warren concludes by saying that he is praying “in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, Jesus (hay-SOOS)”–which is to say, not just Jesus as named in English and Spanish but also in Hebrew and Arabic. For Jews, Yeshua is the name by which Jews for Jesus proselytizes among Jews, as in the pamphlet I was handed this very day by a member of the Rockville, MD Jews for Jesus chapter. Praying the Lord’s Prayer in the names of Yeshua and Isa (as far as Muslims as opposed to Arabic-speaking Christians are concerned), is an evangelistic strategy. It is not inclusive, as Gilgoff and ABC News’ Susan Donaldson James believe, but hegemonic.