Pastor Rick Warren will deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration. Pastor Joseph E. Lowery will deliver the benediction.
I suppose I could get irate about all this mingling of church and state. I could demand both preachers be replaced by secular humanist voices at the inaugural podium. But I won't. I can wish our new President well regardless of who's standing next to him on the Capitol steps or which deity those people invoke in their good wishes. We already know the words on which history will turn that day; the rest is dressing.
While I have little interest in contriving kerfufflery over Warren's invocation, I find something thought-worthy in Professor Blanchard's commentary on the matter. Blanchard views Obama's pick as "brilliant and courageous politics," but I am more interested in the good professor's brief digression on salvation. Blanchard says liberals are all a-fluster in part because Warren holds the unsurprising position that only Christians get salvation. The surprising position comes from Blanchard:
I don't believe it. In fact, I think that the idea that a perfectly loving, wise, and powerful Creator could allow a single soul to end up in Hell is logically self-refuting. For then He would have done something that turned out badly. That means, of course, that God has to obey the rules of logic. But Thomas Aquinas says the does, and I'm with Tom [Ken Blanchard, "Guess Who's Giving the Blessing?" South Dakota Politics, 2008.12.20].
Not a single soul ending up in Hell? Looks like it'll be Bob Ellis, not me, making the next declaration that a nocturnal Blanchard post has gone off the rails.
Blanchard's position on salvation resembles Obama's (cf. comments on his mother and the other four-fifths of the world). I mention this not to tease the good professor or indict his conservative credentials. It seems worth noting, though, that this lack of preoccupation with salvation and an exclusive heaven appears to incline both Blanchard and Obama to concentrate on understanding and solving the practical problems of this world. Maybe that's why I like both of them.
I skipped church again this Sunday... and it wasn't just because of the two feet of new snow in front of the door I shoveled last night. If I were a believer, though, I still wouldn't be worrying much about salvation. I've osmosed enough Lutheranism to dig that salvation, if there is such a thing, is beyond our efforts. There is nothing we do—no good deed, no ritual, no magic profession of faith—to earn salvation. We don't choose God; God chooses us (or so I hear). "Saved?" He/She/It/They chuckle. "Already got it covered. Get to work."
Get to work. There is work to do in Creation, and we ought to do it... not because we get a reward if we do it or lose that reward if we don't, but simply because that work is good.
Obama gets that. Revs. Warren and Lowery both appear to get that, too. On January 20, they will all three stand before us to remind us that, whatever we believe about salvation, we all live in this world, and we all have work to do to make it better.