Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Praying in Jesus’s Name at the Democratic Convention

The Democratic convention displayed two new modes of public Christian prayer. Recall that Franklin Graham was criticized for closing his prayer at George W. Bush’s first inaugural by saying: “Now, O Lord, we dedicate this presidential inaugural ceremony to you. May this be the beginning of a new dawn for America as we humble ourselves before you and acknowledge you alone as our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer. We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”It was viewed by many as being insensitive to the religious diversity in America. Graham responded by saying he would have been untrue to his faith to have altered the prayer.The Democrats invited two prominent evangelical pastors to pray before the convention – and each took a different approach than Graham.Donald Miller, a popular Christian author, tried to solve the dilemma through intonation, closing his prayer with the words. “I make this request in name of Jesus Christ.” He put a strong emphasis on the first word.Joel Hunter, an evangelical pastor from Florida, closed the final prayer of the convention by asking the crowd to utter the words they usually do during prayer. At the count of three, Hunter then declared, “in the name of Jesus Christ” while the 80,000 other people offered a variety of different words.In both cases, the pastors stayed true to their own convictions, closing their prayers as they usually do, while allowing and celebrating the diversity of the audience.I think it worked well. To me, these approaches would have brought applause from the 18th century Baptists who championed religious freedom during the revolutionary period. They were ardent evangelicals but happily accepted that their faith existed and would thrive in a pluralistic context.

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