While hosting a recent holiday party one of our guests, congresswoman  Jan Schakowsky asked me what I thought about Barack Obama’s decision to ask Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation.

I answered, “Jan, I think it’s the wrong call.”  She broke in, “To tell you the truth this decision breaks my heart.  And many people have also told me the same thing.”

Congresswoman Schakowsky’s words sum it up.  The choice of Rick Warren denied the pain of the very lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people who helped get Barack Obama elected.

But the angst around the selection of Rick Warren was not about political correctness.   It was not about public policy—or making a place at the table for those who have different perspectives.  Rick Warren’s support of Prop 8 and equating same sex marriage with incest and pedophilia  were the presenting symptoms. But resistance to same sex marriage was simply the lightning rod.  The protest was about same sex marriage but it was also about something deeper.

More than anything the controversy erupted because the choice of Warren to pray the invocation was about the power of a symbol.

The theologian Paul Tillich said that symbols are powerful because they are concrete (Rick Warren praying at the inauguration) while also pointing to a larger truth (Rick Warren’s ignorant statements on lesbians and gays).

To many, the selection of Rick Warren painfully lanced the unhealed wounds of LGBT people.   In ensuing weeks the raging protest gave way to the murmur of discontent.

Then, suddenly, the news broke that President-elect Obama had asked the openly gay Episcopal Bishop from New Hampshire, Eugene Robinson, to deliver the invocation at the opening inaugural event on Sunday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

This is not only a brilliant political move but is also reflective of Barack Obama’s deepest conviction that we are all interdependent and interrelated.

Some argue that it was only after feeling the heat from the left that Obama’s team decided to offer the invitation.  But in a recent New York Times article  Bishop Robinson said he believed the invitation had been under consideration for some time.

Added to the selection of Sharon E. Watkins of the Disciples of Christ denomination who will deliver the sermon at the inaugural breakfast and civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery who will offer the inaugural benediction, Bishop Robinson’s inclusion in the celebration completes the puzzle of unity within diversity.

Or does it?

Here is the problem.  They are all Christians.

Is this a Christian nation?   Is this a Christian world?

The power of a symbol is the power to create a new vision and version of reality.  It’s not only the LBGT community, or women, or African Americans who need healing.

At this very moment the carnage in the Middle East continues. How about an inaugural symbol that points to healing in the Middle East?

Is this a missed opportunity?

What if the Obama transition team had decided to use the inaugural invitation as an opportunity to symbolically heal the great wound in the Middle East?  What if the invocation to this inauguration was shared by a Jewish rabbi and a Muslim imam?  What a powerful statement it would have been had the newly minted Christian president call for a ceremonial prayer to be jointly offered by a rabbi and an imam.  Each could offer a prayer from their own tradition while standing in unity while the whole world watched.

In the presence of our wonderful diversity the ‘yes we can’ spirit calls us one and all to a deeper unity.  The ‘yes we can’ spirit includes women and African Americans.  It includes the LBGT community, all parties in the Middle East, Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, employed and unemployed—the list is endless—every human being belongs.

What if the opening prayer at the inauguration was used to symbolize that we are all a part of each other in the deepest and most profound way?  What if the invocation to the inauguration served as a profound reminder that unless we learn to live together, everything will fall apart?

It is true that the majority of religious devotees in America identify themselves as Christians. It’s also true that religious minorities are ever more present in American culture.  But in the global community religious pluralism is the rule.  What better time than a 21st century Presidential inauguration to symbolize that this is the change we must believe in.

Symbols in public observances are powerful.  Isn’t it time we acknowledged in our own country what is true in our world?

I agree when our new president says—Yes we can.