Invocations delivered by humanists could stand out from most religious invocations by emphasizing human potential rather than human abasement. The standard religious invocation calls upon a god to have mercy and to offer strength, guidance, and wisdom that people are supposedly incapable of attaining on their own. Secular folks recognize that the invoking of such fatalism and subservience undermines people’s ingenuity and determination by inviting them to doubt their abilities. People should instead be reminded that they are capable of great things and be encouraged to believe in the potential within themselves and in each other to overcome challenges. Given that invocations often mark the beginning of a new public endeavor, it seems totally appropriate to reserve a moment for inviting people to reflect on that kind of message.
Frank Bellamy argues that we should not take part in a ritual that is meant to exclude us:
The invocation that Andrew Lovley… gave in December 2009 at the South Portland, Maine, mayor’s inauguration ceremony is an example of what a humanist invocation should not be: abstract, largely devoid of meaning, and more a step away from the objective than towards it… What Mr. Lovley gave was actually an invocation in content if not in form (he didn’t actually invoke anything): it was meant to inspire, not to raise consciousness or protest the practice of invocations in inauguration ceremonies. As such, it did absolutely nothing to advance the ultimate goal of doing away with such invocations entirely.
It’s a tricky situation when the goal is to get rid of invocations to higher powers altogether. You want to take advantage of the situation when it’s offered to you (better you than another religious person, right?) but you also want to push back and urge them to get rid of the whole practice in the first place. Many secular invocations end up being “anti-invocations,” a message that we should all stand above calling out to a higher power.
Where do you stand on the matter — should we allow invocations and work to be among those delivering them? Or should we continue to fight against the practice altogether?