A Naturalist Inauguration Invocation
Ever since FDR first introduced prayer at the inaugural ceremonies in 1933, they have each and every one invoked a monotheistic god. A strong case can be made to say that including such prayers is inappropriate at one of our chief secular rituals. Nevertheless, they are here to stay for the foreseeable future. This year, with Rick Warren, the anti-gay pastor of the Saddleback mega-church, set to give the opening prayer at Obama’s inauguration, the issue has grown in significance. His support of California’s Prop 8, which strips the right of marriage from gays and lesbians, makes his participation especially abhorrent.
Since it is safe to assume that his prayer (and those of the other religious speakers) will again call on a personal Father-God, I wanted to write my own benediction from a naturalistic orientation. The following is hardly poetic or memory-worthy, but I will be reading it during Warren’s invocation, dreaming of a time when supernatural beliefs no longer have a place in our secular life.
On this historic day we inaugurate our new President and Vice-President, that solemn ceremony epitomizing the secular process of our enduring democracy. We offer our gratitude to those great minds that courageously embarked upon the American experiment, who had faith in the essential goodness of humanity and envisioned a country whose every citizen might equally enjoy the freedom, security, and opportunity that the rule of law might provide. We further give thanks to all those individuals, both civic and military, who have sacrificed all they have to forward the fortunes of our nation.
On this day, we grant unto President-elect Obama, Vice-President-elect Biden, as well as their families and members of their administration our support and our hope that they will find the strength and wisdom they will need in the coming years. In light of the challenges we as a nation face, may they never fall short of the fierce courage, unwavering integrity, compassionate beneficence, and broad open-mindedness they must have to fulfill the potential of their profound duties.
Despite the darkness of these days, we recognize that this can also be a wondrous time, a time of great renewal and revitalization. We must now reaffirm our dedication to a culture of social responsibility and environmental stewardship. Once again we must look to our own resources to refill the national vault, not only with economic prosperity, but just as importantly with our wealth of humanity—education, the arts, science and green technology, health care, and a new age of justice, liberty, and progress. The world is ready to look to us once again, not only as moral leaders, but as a partner in the struggle for a healthy planet and a lasting peace, and we must not, we shall not fall short of these sacred obligations.
Let us mark this day as a turning point in the journey towards the splendor that is our potential, a potential measured by our dedication to a world without poverty, injustice, or fear. A world where all humankind can embrace each other as the Great Family we truly are, and live as one on this divine earth as virtuous and responsible citizens.