We’re Still Around

This morning Amy Sullivan offered an interesting tweet about the Inaugural benediction:

When Rev Luis Leon gives the benediction at the Inauguration today, he’ll be the first mainline Protestant to pray at the event since 1989.

Without going to the effort of tracking down the prior record of benedictions, I’d hazard the guess that a very high percentage of those given prior to 1989 were mainline Protestants. So perhaps others should have the opportunity to catch up.

But I suspect Amy–like me, and like Barack Obama, a mainline Protestant–is alluding to the fact that “liberal Protestants” have become remarkably invisible in public life of late, derided by conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics alike as a dying breed of spiritually compromised unbelievers and half-believers (if not, as Rick Santorum called us, people who are “gone from= the world of Christianity” entirely). Yeah, there are about 45 million Americans belonging to denominations affiliated with the mainline National Council of Churches, but you wouldn’t much know that from the dismissive contempt (also applied to liberal Catholics) of conservatives and the indifference of secular media, who often buy the idea that only conservatives are “real Christians.”

I understand the feelings of some, perhaps many, readers that inaugurations should be secular events, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they were. But if we have to have a benediction, it’s nice to see one delivered by someone who can listen to Obama’s speech without feeling horror at all the equality-talk.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.