All in all, I’m glad Barack Obama invited Rick Warren to lead the opening prayer at next month’s presidential inauguration. I say that even though I share some of the reservations raised by other evangelicals. Here’s how it shakes out for me:

1) A presidential inauguration necessarily involves a number of symbolic gestures. Inviting Rick Warren means that Barack Obama wants to reach out to the evangelical community, and that in itself is a good thing. 

2) The pastor and the president-elect have a prior friendship, which suggests that Rick Warren may have an opportunity behind the scenes to offer godly counsel.

3) Billy Graham traditionally prayed at these events. Perhaps Rick Warren can be seen as taking his place.

4) He can legitimately offer a public prayer for God to grant our new president wisdom, understanding, discretion, and the ability to lead our nation in the fear of the Lord. A prayer can be biblical without being aggressively offensive to a larger audience.

5) I am struck by the gay community’s fierce opposition. They are disappointed in Obama and angry because of Warren’s strong defense of traditional marriage and his support of Proposition 8 in California. The story has become a media firestorm in the last several days. Obama had to know this would happen and he asked Warren anyway. 

6) A man is known by his enemies as much as by his friends. Beware, Jesus said, when all men speak well of you. A friend once told me, “You don’t get flack until you’re flying over the target.” The whole gay rights debate represents Ground Zero in the ongoing culture wars. I’m glad for anyone to pray in public who openly represents traditional moral values and the historic understanding of marriage. 

I think it was a bold move by Obama and a good decision by Rick Warren to say yes. The stage is now set for what will be the most closely parsed prayer in the history of presidential inaugurations. I expect Rick Warren will offer a thoughtful, biblically-grounded prayer, and I’m glad he’s getting an opportunity to publicly ask God to bless and guide our new president.

You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.