Albert Mohler has a short article on Rick Warren’s decision to pray at the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. At the end, Mohler explains why he would not accept such an invitation:
“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. 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.
“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.”
The issue is not whether one should pray for the president. We all agree that we should be praying for our president no matter who he is or what his views are (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Nor is the issue a question of Warren’s views on life and the family. The issue is whether or not a public prayer might have symbolic ramifications that undermine a biblical view of life and the family. I’m not saying this is an easy question to answer, but I am saying that it is a necessary one to consider before participating in such an event.
The only way I could in good conscience participate is to make clear that I do not endorse the president-elect’s views on life and the family. But the only opportunity to make that known would be within the prayer itself. But if one were to make that point within the prayer itself, the prayer would then have the ring of hypocrisy–that is, praying to be seen by men and not by God. King Jesus told us not to do this (Matthew 6:5-6). So absent an opportunity to clarify my non-endorsement of Obama’s policies on the family and life, I think I would have to decline this invitation as well.
I do not think that Rick Warren intends to endorse Obama’s views on these matters. I am just saying that there may be some unintended consequences that may not be all the helpful.