I was going to watch HBO Sunday night to catch the pre-show invocation by the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, but it turns out I need not have bothered: Gene Robinson’s lengthy prayer did not make the broadcast. That prayer, which I have cut and pasted at the end of this blog was a numbing 4 minutes, 14 seconds long. That’s a sermon, folks! Here’s the YouTube link, shot by a reporter for Christianity Today.
The bishop opened by praying to a “God of our many understandings” (he had said he was not going to refer to the Bible because it is not sacred to all Americans). None of his address, however, made it onto either HBO or MSNBC broadcasts. Now is that because the cameras didn’t start rolling until 2:30 p.m. and Robinson said his prayer at 2:25? (I don’t know when he actually started, but our White House reporter, Jon Ward, who was there, said it was it was 10 minutes at the most between the onset of the prayer and the beginning of the broadcast).
Anyway, check out this interesting blog about HBO’s response as to why they left out the bishop. (Quick answer: they blame the inaugural committee for specifying that the prayer was “pre-show” and not part of the broadcast). Which is all very weird in that, doesn’t HBO get to decide what it will or will not run? Couldn’t it have started a few minutes early? Was this a calculated decision or just lousy timing?
Here is the prayer -
“O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears – tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless this nation with anger – anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort at the easy, simplistic answers we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.
Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.
And God, we give you thanks for your child, Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.
Give him stirring words; We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace. Amen.”
— Julia Duin, religion editor