I had commented on the selection of Pastor Rick Warren to do the invocation at President Obama's inauguration, so it seemed only right to also comment on how it turned out. It turned out just fine. (You can see it here, or read the full text here.)
Many media outlets (U.S News & World Report and Newsweek, among others) had commented on the obvious gestures of inclusion: opening with the Jewish Shema ("Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.") and echoing the Koran ("compassionate and merciful"). I say "obvious," but actually it was subtle enough that the average rank-and-file Christian probably wouldn't even have noticed. (Heck, the average American Christian can't even list the Ten Commandments, much less recognize key phrases of other faiths.)
And most commentators congratulated Warren for navigating the trickiest bit of his prayer: invoking the name of Jesus, but in the most inclusive way possible. "I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life: Yeshua, Essa (ph), Jesus, Jesus, who taught us to pray, "Our Father …" His invocation is clearly given as a personal testimony, rather than speaking for all present, and he names Jesus in the languages of the major religions, which all recognize him to some degree. Warren knew clearly that not to mention Jesus would be wussing out, and would lose the respect of his evangelical followers. But since Obama had set the tone of inclusion by inviting him in the first place, Warren was wise enough to keep the love-fest going.
Also notice that he invoked Jesus, not as the object of the prayer, but as the one "who taught us to pray, 'Our Father . . .'" This emphasizes Jesus' role as a teacher, rather than a divine being; a prophet rather than a Messiah. Most religious people are willing to acknowledge Jesus' status as a teacher of peace and humility. Thus, Warren stays true to his evangelical roots while staying within the bounds of the most universal aspects of his faith.
I was a little surprised to hear Warren roll into the Lord's Prayer at the end. The Lord's Prayer is pretty universal among all kinds of Christians, but it is also absolutely, undeniably Christian. No universalism here. Or is there? Stop and think about the text of that prayer. Maybe you said it in Sunday school a bazillion times, and you've come to think of it as uniquely Christian, but the actual text is about as inclusive as they come. It acknowledges the authority of a supreme being, asks for his blessing and guidance, and humbly acknowledges our sins and limitations. That's the essence of nearly every prayer. All the rest of Warren's prayer is just a gloss. So, again, Warren manages to be solidly Christian, not by subduing his Christianity, but by highlighting the inclusiveness of his faith.