Obama's First Days According to Rev. Gene Robinson
BY Kerry Eleveld
January 30 2009 12:00 AM ET
New Hampshire’s Bishop Gene Robinson has had a busy month -- delivering the invocation at the inaugural opening ceremony, sitting on the President’s platform during the swearing in, and being the focal point of so much media fascination.
Besides the LGBT folks on President Obama's staff, Robinson probably has more insights about the new commander-in-chief's first couple weeks on the job than any gay politico, and here he shares his reflections with Advocate.com and tells us what he anticipates in the days ahead.
Advocate.com:I noticed that you addressed your opening ceremony invocation to the "God of our many understandings.” What inspired that approach?V. Gene Robinson: What I wanted this prayer to be was something that, really, Americans of every faith could pray along with me. I went back and read inaugural prayers for the last 30-40 years and was just horrified at how overtly and aggressively Christian they were and all I could think was, 'If I’m a Jew, If I’m a Muslim, If I’m a Sikh or Hindu, where am I in this prayer?'
So I addressed the prayer to “the God of our many understandings” -- it’s actually something I learned in the 12-step recovery program I’m in for alcoholism. My experience is, it’s a phrase that allows people to buy in, no matter what their understanding of God is, and is inclusive in a profound way. No one of us knows everything there is to know about God. I would say that no one religion or one denomination knows all that there is to know about God. And so each of us has our own perception, owns our own piece of God.
You also asked for certain things, such as “anger at discrimination” and “discomfort,” that are pretty atypical in prayers. There is a wonderful blessing that I use often in my ministry -- it’s called a four-fold Franciscan blessing. It prays for things that we wouldn’t normally consider to be blessings -- like tears, like discomfort. And the reason I love that blessing is that it takes people by surprise and they really perk up and listen. I took that as my inspiration.
The most amazing feedback that I got was from non-Christian people -- a number of Jews, a number of un-churched people, a number of people from different contexts who would not describe themselves as Christian -- who said to me that, for the first time ever at such an event, they felt included and felt as if they could, in fact, pray along with me. That really meant the world to me.
Also, on the other side, I have received hundreds -- maybe even as many as a thousand -- email messages and letters and so on from “good Christian people” literally just attacking me for not using Jesus’s name, not using the name of the trinity, saying that I abandoned my faith, that I had denied Christ. There’s almost more negative reaction to that than anything I’ve done in the last five years.