Presidential Prayer

Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman gave the homily and closing prayer at Joseph Biden’s presidential inauguration on January 20, 20121. He closed the prayer with this:

To your glory, majesty, dominion, and power, forever. Hallelujah! Glory! Hallelujah! In the strong name of our collective faith, Amen.”

Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman, Presidential Inauguration Prayer

Just when we had stopped reeling from “Amen and A-woman,” we are greeted with something even worse—prayer not in the name of God, but “in the strong name of our collective faith.” What a reversal that is! Our faith in God is what causes us to pray in the name of God—more specifically, in the name of Jesus Christ if we are Christians. The name of our collective faith means nothing, since our collective faith does not rule the universe. God does. Faith is only as good as its object. Moreover, what we need is not collective or generic faith, but saving faith in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, the name that is above every name.

The priest who gave the opening prayer did not mention Jesus’ name, let alone pray in that name. This is what happens when biblical religion is diluted and distorted by the desire to not offend anyone and to please everyone. Well, it fails, since those of us who pray in Jesus’ name and who attribute our salvation to Jesus alone, are offended and not pleased by these kinds of prayers. But no matter, many of us will continue to pray in Jesus’ name, knowing that he is the one Mediator between God and humans and the one who will return to judge the living and the dead.


Invoking offense is taken to mean that person or group A has affronted person or group B because of an action or statement. That P is offensive to S says nothing about whether S should be offended by P. I may be offended by someone holds a sign saying, “If Jesus comes back, kill him again.” Strictly speaking, my response of offense does not mean that the sentiment of this sign is wrong. But even if it is wrong, my being offended by the sign does not make it wrong.

Thus, saying “P offends me” only indicates that I am offended by P. The question of note is whether S has a case that the offensive statement or action is morally wrong. Therefore, I suggest we drop the use of offense as having any logical or moral weight at all. Instead of shrieking in outrage or sulking in affront, perhaps a few logical arguments are in order.

Muslims throughout their history have been offended by anything that contradicts their religion. Event after event reveals that they usually make threats and harm or kill those who offend them. No one should be intellectually intimidated by this—although one may rightly fear harm. That Muslim M is offended by a crucifix in a Catholic school does not mean that

  1. M should be offended.
  2. The Catholic school should do anything to accommodate the offense.

Further, given the American legal system, freedom of speech and religion are guaranteed in the First Amendment. Being offensed does nothing to alter that.