Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gene Robinson on The Daily Show (1-20-09)

Here below is Jon Stewart's satellite interview with Bishop Gene Robinson. Elsewhere I've read that Robinson was unperturbed by the fact that his prayer on Sunday was not included in HBO's broadcast of the inauguration concert at Lincoln Memorial. His response was something to the effect that God heard it, even if HBO viewers did not.

It may seem that my admiration for the tone of Robinson's prayer is at odds with my conviction that state and church, and even political and religious rhetoric, don't mix. I don't think Robinson had any more (or less) right to speak at the inauguration than Rick Warren or Joseph Lowery, just as I respect Barack Obama's right to take his oath on the Bible or to add "so help me God" to his oath, if he wanted to, while not thinking that doing so was useful, generous, or commendable in any way. Further, I think everything Robinson, Warren, and Lowery had to say about the occasion could have been said just as well in a speech, rather than a blessing or prayer. As a form of discrimination, which they are, such tokens of Protestant religiosity are relatively benign.

I was, however, heartened by one particular passage of Obama's inaugural address, which I think beautifully embodies the hope of the new President's idea of inclusiveness, in which he includes the irreligious on more or less equal terms with the religious (one could quibble over whether the em-dash is for emphasis, dramatic effect, or segregation, but I won't):

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."


  1. The acknowledgment of the nonbelievers rocked my socks off.

    I have embraced your "irreligous" on Facebook. Cheers for teaching me that word.



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