Beliefnet
God-O-Meter

gotfaith.jpgA senior source at the Democratic Nation Convention Committee has just briefed God-o-Meter on how this convention will be more faith-friendly than those that have come before. For viewers watching the convention from their living rooms, the biggest change will probably be in the primetime speeches. Here’s that well-placed DNCC source, speaking on background:

The speeches will be more values laden, with a lot of talk about what we believe in and what motivates us. You’ll see a whole lot more of that kind of language and messaging than in the past. Instead of talking about all the wonderful things we’ve accomplished in the last 10 years–not that we won’t talk about that–but the overall convention will be more, I know this is not the right word, but on a higher plane. It will really ask about what motivates us and what drives us, about why we want to make change and why we support Obama and why we have faith in our country and why we have faith in what our country can be. It comes from who the speakers are, and allowing them to speak from their hearts. We are not writing everybody’s speech or telling them what to say but we really want people to talk about their own experience and what motivates them, why they believe in this campaign and in this party. That naturally comes from their own belief system, and you’ll see that in the speeches.

This might seem like a small shift, but it could be subtly tectonic. One of the major lessons that the Democrats took away from the 2004 election in the faith and values department is the need to tell voters who they are–about their character, values, and what motivates them–rather than merely telling what they stand for. The Bush v. Kerry contest nicely encapsulated these two different approaches. The Democrats believe that a central component of showcasing the characters of their party’s leaders is shining a light on their faith and how it drives them. The convention will be the biggest stage yet for testing this new approach.
The convention will also include a lot smaller “faith” touches that will be lost on TV viewers but which the Dems hope will impact the delegates, who will return home and spread the word to the faithful. These include installing a chapel in the convention hall and distributing faith directories in the delegates’ welcome bags. Here’s GOM’s source:

We did an interfaith directory for the delegates’ welcome bags. It lists local houses of worship if they are observant, or if they want to find halal food or a kosher place to eat. We’ve always given them directories of where to go shopping and cultural attractions and where to go hear good music. This is the first time we’re paying attention to their spiritual needs. It’s a very small thing but for people of faith coming as delegates it’s a big thing to be able to go to pray one night or to mass.

In the convention hall, were have a small chapel that is being staffed by local clergy, so people can sit quietly if they’re looking for a clergy person to sit with them. There’s a room for our Muslim brothers and sisters to do their daily prayers. It’s a small thing, but it acknowledges folks’ traditions and a fundamental need and how they have chosen to live their lives. It’s a small thing but an important thing. Even if a person never goes to the chapel, they’ll know that it’s there and that we thought about them.

Of course, the one faithy convention event that has received a good deal attention so far is today’s Interfaith Gathering, the first official event of convention week. Here’s some more details on that event–notice the emphasis on interfaith dialogue:

We took the four major faith traditions in our party: Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism and Islam, and we wanted to highlight those and we started with four keynote speakers to make sure nobody felt left out. And we asked who have we been working with from each tradition who has a great voice, who has something interesting to say, and who would other people find compelling, and we invited a keynote representative from each tradition.
Once we had those, we could sort out what we doing to honor and respect each individual tradition but also to highlight the ways in which we’re interconnected with each other. So we have each keynote speaker is going to be preceded with a reading from a sacred text that’s not from their tradition and that will focus on four themes: our sacred responsibility to our children, our sacred responsibility to our neighbor, our sacred responsibility to our nation, and our sacred responsibility to our world.

As of last week, the DNCC had distributed 3,000 tickets to the Interfaith Gathering.


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