augur: seer, visionary, a diviner of omens
augury: sign of the future
inauguration: “The word inauguration stems from the Latin augur, which refers to the rituals of ancient Roman priests seeking to interpret if it was the will of the gods for a public official to be deemed worthy to assume office.” (Websters)
We well know that America wears a thin cloak of Religion often decorated in Red, Blue and White (embroidered with shiny silver stars). And we know American Religion thinks of itself as Christian, perhaps the purest form of Christianity. Many thinkers, from Frederick Douglass to James Baldwin and more have been our auguries, reading the signs, uncovering that threadbare cloak surrounding the body politic to reveal the naked truth: American Religion has essentially nothing to do with the life and essential teachings of the socialistic savior and liberal liberator of ancient Palestine.
Like most rational, liberal Americans with an appreciation for our nation’s history, Carol and I were captivated with the Inaugural events yesterday. Most of the words, music and tradition felt important and meaningful. We expected the perfunctory hand-on-bible swearing and “so help me God” oath. We’re not flag-wavers or pledge-sayers, but we have a strong sense of what it means to be an American in a christianized country that has massive issues to address, not least of which is that christianization.
While we certainly wish President Biden and Vice-President Harris all the best in the hard work ahead of them, work it will take all of us to achieve, it is easy to see a blind spot concerning religiosity in civic matters. Even in the celebratory spirit of these days (tempered of course by a raging pandemic and raging conspirators against truth), I find myself with a somewhat critical response to the ceremonies this week.
Since Carol and I have worked for many years in the Interfaith world, sensitive to include many voices in public events, we were disappointed to see there were only Christian voices in the main ceremony (even having a rabbi would have been welcomed). Personally, I found Garth Brooks singing the old, tired Amazing Grace … old, tired and unnecessary. Do we actually enjoy singing “saved a wretch like me”?
I noticed today’s Interfaith Prayer Service did have more inclusion, with a few odd choices (Hare Krishna representative but no mainline Hindus?). No Buddhists, no Pagans, no Humanists. And even the two Navajo tribal leaders offered a prayer “in Jesus’ name”! Once again, a service to “represent the faiths of the nation” is heavily Christian with lots of “Jesus” every few minutes.
It was a step in the right direction, but there are plenty of models for doing it better, more inclusively and creatively.
Carol and I, as religious leaders, have long experience creating truly welcoming community celebrations. We made it a point to include secular voices as well. This can be done, it is done, and it makes a lot of sense to truly represent the spectrum of beliefs across the nation. We trust the Biden administration will make progress as they listen to a larger chorus of voices.
And, I must say, at least Paula White and Deplorable Don’s whole circle of Pandering Preachers (many of whom predicted their divinely-appointed president would win in a landslide) have scurried back to their golden pulpits! Hallelujah, praise Reason!