It was recently announced that Barack Obama has asked megachurch pastor Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration. Warren has accepted the invitation to deliver the Inaugural Invocation. He released a press statement saying this:
“I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony. Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America. The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God’s blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America’s leaders during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
Given the decidedly anti-Christian positions Obama holds on many issues, including abortion and homosexuality, what is a Christian to make of all this? Should Warren have said no? In his defence, Warren mentions the biblical obligation to pray for our leaders.
There is no question about that. We are told in no uncertain terms to do this very thing. Paul told Timothy this: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). So prayer for our leaders is essential.
But any believer can pray for Obama at any time, just as we can pray for any leader anytime. The real question is, by being involved in this activity, is Warren giving tacit support for, and endorsement of, the Obama agenda? Will he appear to condone and approve of the radically unbiblical ideology and policies of Obama?
These are not unimportant questions. Believers have a clear obligation to be involved in the social and political issues of the day. But the question arises as to how far we should align ourselves with politicians and political parties that are so at odds with the biblical worldview, especially on crucial issues like the sanctity of human life, and the God-sanctioned institutions of marriage and family.
Not all Christian leaders have been happy with this news. Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman had this to say about the decision: “Barack Obama not only supports the grievous sin of abortion, but has vowed to promote, subsidize, and protect it. The hands that shed innocent blood are among the things God particularly detests. As a minister of the Gospel, it is a betrayal of innocent children and, more importantly, betrayal of the God in whose image they are created to turn a blind eye to the shedding of innocent blood and join hands with those that are responsible for shedding it.”
He continues, “Instead of lending support to a man who clearly stands in opposition to God’s Law on the critical matter of child-killing, we fervently urge Pastor Warren to instead follow the examples of godly men who, throughout the Scriptures, boldly proclaimed God’s truth and exposed the sin of leaders in order to protect the people from that sin.”
Newman offers some biblical examples of ungodly kings being rebuked, not praised, by godly leaders: “Just as Elijah rebuked King Ahab and John the Baptist rebuked King Herod, we urge Pastor Warren to have nothing to do with Mr. Obama’s administration, but rather, expose him and his sin to the world, so there might be repentance.”
He concludes, “It is possible for Pastor Warren to pray for our leaders without giving his blessing to Mr. Obama’s administration with his participation in his Inaugural ceremonies. We urge Pastor Warren to, for the love of God, honor Jesus Christ instead of taking honor for himself, and decline to participate in Mr. Obama’s Inauguration.”
Another Christian leader offers similar sentiments. Says Albert Mohler: “Would I deliver the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States? Well, I have not been asked, but I can imagine that it would be difficult to turn down this invitation. After all, the inaugural ceremony is a national event, not a personal ceremony. Yet, in the end, the context of this inaugural ceremony would not allow me to accept.”
He explains why: “President-elect Obama has pledged to sign legislation including the Freedom of Choice Act, which would affect a pro-abortion revolution in this nation. He has also pledged to sign executive orders within hours of taking office that will lead directly to a vast increase in the destruction of human life. In particular, he has promised to reverse the Bush administration’s policy limiting federal funding of human embryonic stem-cell research. Sources inside the transition office have advised activists to expect a flurry of executive orders in the new administration’s first hours and days.”
Mohler concludes, “Knowing the intentions of this President-elect, I could not in good conscience offer a formal prayer at his inauguration. Even in the short term, I could not live in good conscience with what will come within hours. I could not accept a public role in the event of his inauguration nor offer there a public prayer, but I will certainly be praying for this new President and for the nation under his leadership.”
At the end of the day Warren must prayerfully decide what he does in such a situation. And he presumably thinks it is alright to participate in this event. But I must say, I have to side with Newman and Mohler here. Whatever his motivations, Warren is clearly sending the wrong message. He appears to be endorsing, condoning and blessing the Obama Presidency, which has blood on its hands.
Christian leaders can and should seek to have relationship with Obama, and seek to lead him away from his agenda of death, and lead him to a living relationship with Jesus Christ. But this sort of public participation seems to accomplish none of this, but instead makes the church look to be double minded: condemning abortion and the attack on marriage on the one hand, while publically sidling up to these sins by being involved in the Invocation on the other.
The church is already sending out too many mixed messages. I don’t think we need to be adding to the confusion. It is all too easy for people to seek the limelight, the spotlight, the praise of men. I hope this is not part of the motivation of Warren. But the time has come for Christian leaders to decide and declare who they will really serve. I hope I am wrong, but it is not altogether clear if Warren is doing this here.