Gay Bishop’s Prayer Is Cut From Broadcast

Tomorrow, millions of people around the world will get to hear Rick Warren, mega-church pastor and notorious anti-gay advocate, deliver the invocation before Barack Obama becomes our next president.

The outrage from the gay and lesbian community at this selection led to the selection of Rev. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, to give the invocation at the “We are One” event at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday. (Even though the Obama camp says he was selected for that honor all along but the timing of the announcement of his selection was unfortunately timed.)

I was coming home from a weekend book tour trip to Asheville, North Carolina yesterday (thanks to Malaprop’s for a fabulous time!), listening to NPR, waiting for someone to tell me about the good bishop’s prayer. I never heard a thing about it, though the musical performances were covered in depth.

Now, I discover that Bishop Robinson’s prayer was heard by tens of people – mainly those closest to the stage at the time because of “technical difficulties” that prevented the broadcast of his words to the some 300,000 people gathered for the event. In addition, his invocation was not carried by HBO which broadcast the event live. It was also not included in a re-broadcast of the event later in the day.

AfterElton.com reports that the slight was apparently intentional:

Contacted Sunday night by AfterElton.com concerning the exclusion of Robinson’s prayer, HBO said via email, “The producer of the concert has said that the Presidential Inaugural Committee made the decision to keep the invocation as part of the pre-show.”

Pay close attention to that—Obama’s people requested that Robinson’s prayer not be included in the broadcast. They had no intention, at any point, to allow Robinson to pray to a wide audience. The skeptic in me is even ready to believe the “technical difficulties” were a sham as well – meant to give Bishop Robinson as little audience as possible.

It’s a shame, too, because the world could benefit greatly from hearing the words of this gentle shepherd. Here is an excerpt. The full text is here.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

I know far too many liberals, especially among gays and lesbians, who believe Obama is their messiah—sent to right the many wrongs perpetuated on this country over the last eight years. I have no such illusions about the man. He is a politician—a master rhetorician—and, in the end, I feel he will do what is expedient, even if it goes against his own beliefs. Many a good person has been corrupted by the power they are given in Washington. Obama, I believe, is no different.

I invite everyone to judge Obama by his actions and not his words—and yes, even by the actions of his people. Obama has sworn that he is a “fierce advocate of gay and lesbian rights.” So far, I have seen no action to confirm that lip service. I have seen him choose a virulently anti-gay pastor to open the most historic inauguration this country has ever seen. I have seen him toss a bone to our community in the form of an incredible man like Bishop Gene Robinson, then promptly toss him under the bus—denying him the same kind of platform he has generously given someone who compares our lives to pedophilia and incest. I have even seen him back away from previous support for same-sex marriage. So far, his actions have disproved his words.

I suppose I should not be surprised. As a lesbian, I am a pariah to my church, a thorn in the side to my government and a complete afterthought to my president. It’s hard to keep your head held high when you know all those around you who have any sort of power wish you would simply shut up or disappear altogether.

I’m trying to not be bitter about all of this. Even though I’ve always had doubts about Obama’s sincerity, I had hoped that he would at least be a different kind of politician – one who actually backed up his words with actions. I have yet to see that when it relates to the gay and lesbian community.

I hope Obama was listening when Bishop Robinson was praying – especially while he was praying for Obama and his presidency. I hope he was paying close attention to this passage in particular:

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Speaking as someone who is still a victim of oppression, I can only reply, “Amen.”

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)