As this blog articulates, the Inaugural ceremony and President Obama’s strong speech was a blessed joining of policy, our nation’s future, social justice values and Biblical themes. The celebration of freewill and separation of church and state was in great harmony with our values as a nation, our Godly heritage and traditions. We are in support of President Obama’s progressive agenda outlined, which includes attention to the working poor, low wages, the need for increased strength in our social safety net programs, equality for all under the law and hope for the millions in poverty in America.
A presidential inauguration is by tradition the grandest ritual of America’s civil religion, but President Obama took the oath of office on Monday in a ceremony that was explicit in joining theology to the nation’s destiny and setting out a biblical vision of equality that includes race, gender, class, and, most controversially, sexual orientation.
Obama’s speech, his second inaugural address, repeatedly cited civic and religious doctrines — namely the God-given equality extolled by the “founding creed” of the Declaration of Independence — to essentially reconsecrate the country to the common good and to the dignity of each person.
It was a faith-infused event that recognized both the original sins as well as the later atonements of America’s history, especially on race, which was front and center as the nation’s first African-American president took the oath on the holiday commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The religious language and symbols of the day could also be read as a direct rejoinder to the president’s die-hard opponents, many of whom insist that he is not a Christian and that he does not believe in America’s divine mantle.
Obama instead embraced American exceptionalism and repeatedly cited God’s will. The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and icons of popular culture performed. “American Idol” star Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and Beyonce the national anthem.
The other traditional elements of a presidential inauguration were also on display: Obama swore on historic Bibles used by King and Abraham Lincoln, and of course used the phrase “So help me God” at the conclusion of the oath of office, a later and unofficial addition.
The Obamas began the day in church on Monday — after attending services, as did Vice President Biden — on Sunday, and the religious ceremonies were to continue on Tuesday with a prayer service at Washington National Cathedral, led by Methodist preacher Adam Hamilton.
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