God ‘didn’t give us this land,’ Jen Hatmaker says in apology for controversial inaugural prayer

Jen Hatmaker
Jen Hatmaker |

Christian author Jen Hatmaker, who on Thursday joined a progressive group of interfaith leaders for the National Prayer Service in honor of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, has apologized for the first line of a prayer she delivered at the event.

“Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage,” Hatmaker began in the prayer that she said was written by organizers of the event in her apology posted on Facebook shortly after the event.

“I was proud to offer the final liturgical prayer which was written by the organizers to serve as an anchor. I have one regret and thus apology. The very first sentence thanked God for giving us this land as our heritage. He didn't. He didn't give us this land,” she said.

“We took this land by force and trauma. It wasn't an innocent divine transaction in which God bestowed an empty continent to colonizers. This is a shiny version of our actual history. If God gave this land to anyone, it was to the Native community who always lived here,” Hatmaker continued.

She explained that as soon as she read the line from the prayer she began to regret it.

“I panicked and froze and then just kept going. I am so sorry, community. Primarily sorry to my Native friends. It MATTERS to me that we reckon with our history of white supremacy and the lies we surrounded it with, and I am filled with regret that I offered yet another hazy, exceptional rendition of the origin story of colonization. Ugh,” she lamented. “I can't go on without apologizing. My stomach hurt all day.”

Hatmaker, who is also a mother of five, said if she could change anything about the prayer she would have included a call for America to repent of things like the unjust systems the nation has built.

"God, may we continue to be a people who reckon with our violent history, repent from the unjust systems we built, denounce white supremacy in all its forms past and present, and continue to work together to form a more perfect union,” she said.

As for the rest of her prayer, she said she “meant every word” when she declared to God: “Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will. Bless our land with honest industry and an honorable way of life. Save us from violence, discord and confusion. From pride and arrogance and from every evil way. Make us who come from many nations and with many different languages a united people. Defend our liberties and give those with whom we have entrusted with the authority of government, the spirit of wisdom, that there might be justice and peace in our land. When times are prosperous. Let our hearts be thankful and in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail. In your holy name we pray. Amen.”

 Also among the speakers at the event was the Rev. William Barber II, the national co-chair of the Poor Peoples Campaign who delivered the homily at the virtual event.

He cited Isaiah 58, where the prophet calls on his people to "loose the bands of wickedness, …. let the oppressed go free," and become "the repairer of the breach."

"The breach is when we say, 'One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,' with our lips while we see the rich and the poor living in two different Americas," Barber said.

"The only way to establish domestic tranquility is to establish justice," he added. "Pretending that we can address the nation's wounds with simplistic calls for unity, that is not how we can close the breach. The breach is telling lies when we need truth, greed when we need compassion."

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