Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rick Warren's prayer - Why should the Muslims have all the good phrases?

Decades and decades ago, Larry Norman released a song "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?" that basically said that yes, Christian music can have loud guitars and stuff. And while there are some pockets of objection, most Christians have agreed that the existence of an amplified musical instrument does not necessarily mean that a Christian is prohibited from using said instrument.

Earlier today Rick Warren spoke a prayer at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Perpetua of Carthage linked to a YouTube video of the prayer.

While there are some who objected to the presence of anyone praying to God at a state event, and while there are probably some who don't really want to hear the Lord's Prayer, there was another thing that Rick Warren said that angered some.

The Scripture tells us, "Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God; the LORD is one." And you are the compassionate and merciful one....

Yes, Rick Warren used the "c" and "m" words. John at True Discernment points out the significance of the words:

“The compassionate, the merciful” is, of course, a reference to the invocation at the beginning of every chapter of the Qur’an except one: Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim, “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.”

Making sure everyone feels included — terrific. But the prayer indicates yet again that there is little general awareness of the reasons why the term “Judeo-Christian-Islamic values” is a misnomer.

John's point, which I believe is valid, is that the Muslim god is in no way to be equated with the Christian God.

And yes, I believe that Warren probably included the words "compassionate" and "merciful" to make the words sound inclusive.

But, in the old Lutheran phrase, "what does this mean?"

Personally, I have no problem using the words "compassionate" and "merciful" in prayers to my God, the Christian God. Just because someone came along a few hundred years later and applied them to his god doesn't mean that I have to quit using them. Or that I have to take verses such as this out of my Bible for fear that Christians may be offended by them:

Exodus 33:19 (New International Version) And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Psalm 51:1 (New International Version) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

James 5:11 (New International Version) As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Next thing you know, people are going to complain if Rick Warren uses the term "Christian." "Ah, an obvious attempt to incorporate the philosophy of Mary Baker Eddy," they will proclaim.

Of course, we need to ask the question - where is Rick Warren going? Over the past century, there have been several Christian pastors - Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell come to mind - who have tried to maneuver themselves into the role of "America's pastor." Rick Warren is apparently following in their footsteps. One can ask whether Warren, or Falwell, or Graham, or whoever is doing this to promote the kingdom of God, or to promote the kingdom of America, or perhaps both. I can't read Warren's heart, so I guess we'll have to see.

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