–Argh. I did love Aretha and her hat was fabulous!
–I loved Elizabeth Alexander’s poem. I didn’t think it was a great poem by any stretch, but I thought it was a perfect poem–the kind of poem people who aren’t all that into poetry can hear and get something from on that initial hearing. I don’t think it’s the kind of poem you want to mull over for five evenings straight, but it was a great poem for a public delivery like that and I love having public poets.
–I thought Obama’s speech was very good. I liked the sense of a wide and deep history of the United States that we are a part of and can draw on.
–And my last point. The difference between Rev. Warren and Rev. Lowery were so striking that I, who had previously been embarrassed by Warren am now embarrassed for him. Just from a secular stand-point he ended up looking like a doofus because everyone who followed him projects a love of language and words and their richness and power, how they feel in mouths, how they carry, with ease, great weight, and how, if you let your Self out of the way and let them come to life through you, the energy between you and your audience is crackly and palitable.
But let’s just turn to the sacred problems he had. An invocation should, by definition, invite people into a sacred space and, in turn, invite the presence of the Holy. The Holy is always ready, but the people are not. So, part of an invocation is shifting people’s perspectives. That should be the initial purpose. That’s why in any ceremony, the first movement is to address the people–“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” And then, you acknowledge God’s presense. And then, as an effective preacher, you have only two choices. You either act as the impetus for the congregation’s experience of the Holy or you act as the conduit for the congregation’s experience of the Holy. You are either out of the flow or standing small at the center of it.
But the point of an invocation is to ready the people for the the palpable presense of God and to make room for Him. Literally, you are preparing the people for the entrance of God. You are not, as Warren’s style seems to suggest, standing on God’s front lawn with a list of demands you have taken from the crowd, shouting them out at him, so that all of the people in the crowd will marvel at the fact that you know where God’s house is.
And then, when Lowery was all “God’s people say ‘amen'” and the people they showed on MSNBC looked tickled and delighted to be able to participate–not in some rote recitation of the Lord’s Prayer–but in a dynamic end to the moment? I wondered if Warren had sense enough to be embarrassed in his utter failure to connect the people with his God and Lowery’s effortless skill at it.
But still, the thing I keep coming back to is how obvious it is that Warren cannot project a love of words and/or Scripture and that, frankly, he failed at the one job he had today.
I wonder if he’s always that shitty a preacher and, if so, how’d he manage to grow his church so big?