Today my wife, Fairlight, received an email alerting her to the fact that prayer might be banned at the presidential inauguration. She was asked to sign a petition that would be forwarded to the court that would be trying the case. Below was her response, which immediately went to the top of my "things I wish I would have written or said myself" list:
While I appreciate the endeavor to combat secularism in our society, it seems to be that prayer at a civil affair is inappropriate. And you know me, I love Jesus. But I am also wary of invoking "God's" name and not knowing to which God we are praying and asking the entire nation to participate in a religious activity during a secular one. While "We were a nation founded by religious refugees", we are no longer. The signers of the constitution were mostly Deists (which is not by definition Christian.)
The idea that "our nation should not be steered in such a secular direction" is not up to us. People are moral agents. God is not a God of force. People choose to be ungodly. Why ask for folks to be nominaly Christian?
Perhaps the best thing for the Church today would not be to simply claim a religious tradition as a foundation on which to stand, but to rather claim Jesus Christ and his way of life--that would not include this complacency and nominal Christianity. The Church may need to let the civil realm be turned over to secularism, so that those who truly want a new way of life will find it in the Church--not in meaningless prayers at an inaugural civil ceremony. Let George Bush (or any other president) pray when and where he/she wants to pray, not force prayer into a civil ceremony. But more importantly, let him/her live out the ethics of Jesus and proclaim the values of the Kingdom in an inaugural speech.
Having said that, I cannot sign the petition. But I would like to begin a discussion around this.