On Thursday, September 20, only hours before
his speech before Congress, President George W. Bush spent over an hour
talking and praying with a group of twenty some leaders of America's
diverse religious communities. I was surprised and honored to be
included in the meeting — this despite the fact that I can by no means
be described as a leader of a particular religious community. I would
like to give readers of Sightings a sense of how the event unfolded.
My hunch is that someone on the White House staff decided that they needed a representative from one of America's leading divinity schools, and chose me because I have in the past addressed the ethics of war and war-making. I did not know most of those included. I recognized Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, from media sightings. I greeted Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston by name because he was, in fact, the one person I had met in the past.
We gathered, as requested, at 12:15 p.m. at the northwest appointments gate of the White House. We cleared security, and were then ushered into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across from the White House. There we gathered together, greeted one another, and shared expressions of peace and concern. I found it rather extraordinary that the single most ecumenical event I have ever attended had been put together by the White House. All Christian orientations were represented, as were members from the Orthodox, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim communities.
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