The Rev. Rick Warren and the Rev Joseph Lowery were the prominent religious figures at the Presidential inauguration. But, when it comes to the Obama team engaging the diverse American religious community, they are only the tip of the iceberg.

To his credit, throughout the presidential campaign and now in his administration, President Obama appears refreshingly open to engaging diverse religious perspectives as he forges a new relationship between the White House and religious communities.

In policy and practice Mr. Obama is a pluralist, and this fact alone gives the diverse American religious community not only room to breathe but wafts like a refreshing breeze in a country that has been inhaling the toxic fumes of the religious right.

That said, I have continuing concerns about President Obama’s understanding of the role and scope of religion in American life.

Case in point—the invocation and benediction at the inauguration were offered by two Christians. It is true that the predominant religious narrative in this country is Judeo-Christian. It is also true that religion in American life in the 21st century is a rapidly changing landscape.

Diana Eck, scholar, author and founder of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University, says that the American Muslim population, while only a fraction of the American religious community, is roughly equivalent to the number of self identified American Jews. The Project estimates there are 2 to 3 million Buddhists and 1.3 million Hindus and Sikhs. When compared to the estimate of  160 million Christians, the percentage is small. But measured against the available data of the past twenty years, the ratio has shifted significantly.

As Ewert Cousins puts it in his provocative book  Christ of the 21st Century, “When Christians raise questions about Christ, they must now ask: How is Christ related to Hindu history, to Buddhist history—to the common global history that religions are beginning to share.”

The overwhelming majority of Americans may yet define themselves as Christians, but our national religious complexion is getting a makeover.

Much has been made of President Obama’s fidelity to President Lincoln’s understanding of governance as discussed by Doris Kearn Goodwin in her now well known book Team of Rivals:The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  She writes that Abraham Lincoln had a talent for getting along with “men” of opposing sensibilities.

That Barack Obama regards this approach to governing as not only preferred and pragmatic but a healthy way to govern in a democracy is a breath of fresh air.

But it wouldn’t hurt if Mr. Obama adapted and reshaped this principle to express his relationship with the growingly diverse religious community in America.

New York Times reporter Laurie Goodstein recently wrote an article called “Without A Pastor of His Own, Obama Turns to Five.”  She names five Christian clergy who now form what she calls the President’s “prayer caucus.”

Of these clergy, two are white and three are black.

Two are theologically conservative, the others more moderate. Yet it seems that in general they agree that Jesus was committed to peace and economic justice.   Nonetheless, as a group they are opposed to abortion rights and same sex marriage.  All are Christian conservatives (not necessarily the same thing as the religious right) or moderates.

Mr. Obama has every right to decide who will be his spiritual counselors, and they must be people he can trust.

It is not that Mr. Obama has turned a deaf ear to America’s religious minorities, not at all. But compared to the full throated voices of Christians who have his ear, it seems that religious minorities have only a whispering voice.  It’s especially noteworthy that there is not one imam on his White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

What if he applied the team of rivals concept not only to cabinet members but also his spiritual advisors?  I don’t mean “rival” in the strictly political sense.

The art of harmonious living in a religiously plural world is to recognize the unique contribution of each tradition. Diverse religious traditions are rivals because, when taken together, their differences point to a larger truth.

What if the openly gay Episcopal Bishop Eugene Robinson, Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus (head of the Central Conference of American Rabbis), Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid or interfaith advocate Dr. Hemlata Pokharna, an American Jain,  were members of his spiritual cabinet?

How about a lesbian or gay Christian plus a few non-Christian women as members of this prayer caucus?

I offer these names by way of suggesting that our religiously diverse world now manifesting itself as a religiously plural America is sorely in need representation not only in America’s policy but as an expression of the prayers of all the people.

“The times they are A-Changin’.” This is change we can believe in. Yes we can.

By identifying the President’s spiritual advisers as his “prayer caucus,” Laurie Goodstein points perhaps to an even deeper spiritual truth.

Most American Christians understand prayer to be a petition, an appeal, a request to find favor with God.  In other words, prayer is fundamentally an act of talking rather than opening up and listening. On the surface it seems this is how Mr. Obama’s prayer caucus understands the meaning of prayer.

In the Eastern spiritual traditions and even within the American Christian contemplative tradition there runs a deeper understanding of prayer than merely asking God to “give me what I want or need.”   Father Thomas Keating could advise our President on how to pray in a different way.

In the Eastern mystical and Christian contemplative traditions prayer is understood not as speaking but learning to quiet the chattering mind.

I can only hope that someone on the President’s prayer caucus will counsel our new President to, as the Psalmist put it, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Based on my experience, I suspect this and other profound spiritual truths may be something  conveyed only if he surrounds himself with a team of spiritual rivals.