‘My Whole Soul Is in This': Biden's Religion-Infused Inauguration | Sojourners

‘My Whole Soul Is in This': Biden's Religion-Infused Inauguration

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

Before President Joe Biden was sworn in to serve as the 46th president of the United States, he reaffirmed his commitment to serve God in a morning Mass.

The service, held at Saint Matthew the Apostle, Mother Church of the Washington Diocese, represented two elements close to Biden’s heart: faith and bipartisanship. The service, which was attended by political leaders from both parties, is part of Biden’s lifelong pattern of attending to God before his duties as a civil servant.

Religion and faith was also woven throughout the Inauguration Day ceremonies.

The inaugural prayer was given by Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a Jesuit priest and former president of Georgetown University. O’Donovan and Biden have had a close relationship through the years, and O’Donovan’s invocation emphasized the theme of a united America.

“Today we confess our past failures to live according to our vision of equality, inclusion, and freedom for all,” O’Donovan prayed. “Yet we resolutely commit still more now to renewing the vision, to caring for one another in word and deed, especially the least fortunate among us and so becoming a light for the world.”

The national anthem was sung by Lady Gaga, a Christian with Catholic roots who was critical of the past administration’s expression of faith. Jennifer Lopez performed “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” after Harris was sworn in.

Biden quoted scripture and church fathers in his speech, pulling from his own Catholic faith. He emphasized the need for unity, saying that “disagreement must not lead to disunion.”

“Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was ‘a multitude defined by the common objects of their love,’” Biden said. “What are the common objects we, as Americans, love, that define us as Americans? I think we know: opportunity, security, liberty, respect, honor, and, yes, the truth.”

The president encouraged Americans to find common ground despite their differences, and requested their support in overcoming polarization.

“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation,” Biden said. “And I ask every American to join me in this cause.”

Acknowledging the fears that many Americans have surrounding the pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis, Biden quoted Psalm 30:5.

“I promise you this, as the Bible says: ‘Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.’”

Immediately after Biden’s swearing in, country music singer Garth Brooks sang the hymn “Amazing Grace,” and the first national Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman recited "The Hill We Climb," quoting Micah 4:4

“Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid,” Gorman said.

The ceremony ended with a benediction read by Rev. Silvester Beaman, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Biden’s home state of Delaware. Beaman has been a close spiritual guide for the Bidens since 1993, and Beaman participated in the funeral service for Biden’s son Beau in 2015.

“We need you [God], for in you we discover our common humanity,” Beaman prayed. “In our common humanity we will seek out the wounded and bind their wounds, we will seek healing for those who are sick and diseased, we will mourn our dead, we will befriend the lonely, the least, and the left out. We will share our abundance with those who are hungry. We will do justly to the oppressed, acknowledge sin, and seek forgiveness, thus grasping reconciliation.”