Jesse Jackson’s prayer at Chavez funeral

An interesting instance of American religion abroad: According to the BBC, Jesse Jackson was one of “three religious leaders” who led “ecumenical prayers” during the state funeral for Hugo Chavez. I don’t know who the other two individuals were. But as a text in the study of American civil religion–in an international setting, and with African American inflections–here’s my transcript of Jesse Jackson’s prayer at the Chavez funeral, as broadcast by Al Jazeera English. The line breaks in my transcript correspond to where Jackson paused to allow spontaneous interpretation into Spanish.


We pray to God today
that the soul of Hugo Chavez will find peace
and accept service in the kingdom.
Grant him mercy and grace.

The Chavez family mourns today–
comfort them.
Venezuela cries today–
reassure them
Venezuela is not left alone.

[Nicolas] Maduro–
grant him wisdom
and support
as he keeps hopes and dreams alive,
as he picks up the baton
and makes a great nation greater.

We pray God today
that you will heal the breach
between the U.S. and Venezuela.
Yea, though we walk
through the valleys and shadows of death,
we fear no evil,
for thou art with us.
Help us forgive,
and move on to higher ground.

We are neighbors.
We share the same hemisphere.
We play ball together.
We trade resources together.
We fight drugs together.
We share dreams together.
We’re bound by culture and environment.

Even the death
of this leader–
not even death–
will separate us from your love, dear God.
Neither heights nor depths
shall separate us.

Now, Jesus,
remove our doubts and fears.
Dry our eyes.

Today a great nation mourns.
How do we measure a great leader?
By how he treats the least of these.
Hugo fed the hungry.
He lifted the poor.
He raised their hopes.
He helped them realize their dreams.

And so today we do mourn
because we’ve lost a lot.
But we have a lot left:
a stable government,
an orderly transition.

We pray the presidents of our great nation
will meet soon
and find common ground.
While it may be politically difficult,
it’s the morally right thing to do.

Nothing is too hard for God.
And so, let us rise.
We fall down sometimes
by our own errors.
We fall down sometimes
because of our fears.
But we get up again
because the ground
is no place for a champion,
The ground is no place for a champion.
The ground is no place for champions.

Let there be peace between nations.

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