Sunday's big Lincoln Memorial show was billed as the "We Are One" concert, intended to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama with a spirit of unity. But for those of us watching at home, one participant was excluded -- Gene Robinson, the "first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be ordained a bishop in a major Christian denomination." Robinson was on hand to deliver an opening prayer to the event, but this prayer went unseen by anyone watching on HBO, who provided and sponsored the coverage.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for HBO stated that decisions regarding the timing and presentation of Robinson's remarks were made by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and that Robinson was "not a part of our show from the start." Indeed, Robinson appeared minutes before the 2:30pm start time of the concert coverage. HBO's response to the matter has been uniform. A spokeperson offered AfterElton.com much the same response: "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."
HBO comes to this controversy without any sort of significant reputation for being a network or a workplace hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In fact, the network is responsible for airing the drama Six Feet Under, which depicted gays in complex relationships unflinchingly. The Obama camp, on the other hand, has courted controversy already with the decision to include in the inauguration Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, a supporter of Proposition 8 in California. The appearance of a snub in the case of Bishop Robinson has successfully raised the temperature among Democratic activists and in the liberal blogosphere, where outrage is being pointed mostly at the incoming administration and the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Calls for comment from the PIC have not been returned. Bishop Robinson is slated to be a guest on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" today at 2pm.
The PIC has responded to an inquiry from John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:
"We had always intended and planned for Rt. Rev. Robinson's invocation to be included in the televised portion of yesterday's program. We regret the error in executing this plan - but are gratified that hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the mall heard his eloquent prayer for our nation that was a fitting start to our event." -- PIC communications director Josh Earnest
Watch the prayer here:
[TEXT OF PRAYER]
Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.
"O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears - tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless this nation with anger - 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 our 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.
Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.
Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.
And God, we give you thanks for your child, Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for all people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.
Give him stirring words; We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
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.
Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace. Amen."
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