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First, let me assure every reader that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party and every other party can do anything they want or nothing at all to formally recognize the religious in their midst. Second, let me assure you that I am quite uncomfortable with this Sunday’s interfaith gathering at the Democratic Convention in Denver.
The Rev. Leah Daugtry, who just happens to be the CEO of the convention, told reporters today: “With all due respect to the commentators and the media, we didn’t need to bring faith to the party. It was already there.” I certainly believe that. I have known many Democratic members of Congress and state legislators who take their faith profoundly seriously–whether they talk about it in public or not. With all due respect to the Rev. Daugtry, though, the people who didn’t understand that before today may not get it now either. Why? Precisely because this looks so orchestrated and was so highly promoted that it had the whiff of pandering.
It was diverse and to some observers this showed how different the Democrats are from Republicans. This is a dangerous argument because even the late Jerry Falwell frequently shared the stage with rabbis, including the controversial Daniel Lapin. Other evangelicals in the Bush administration have made common ground with conservative Muslims at the United Nations on issues that harm womens’ equality here and around the world.
The diversity of “viewpoints” of the speakers also seemed a tad theatrical. Sure, let Rabbi Tzvi Hesch Weinreb suggest that the Democrats embrace “school choice” knowing that most in the party will always oppose school vouchers and tutiton tax credit schemes for no grander reason than that they don’t improve academic performance. Invite Bishop Charles E. Blake of The Church of God in Christ to assert his anti-choice position on abortion because even though it will be greeted with only a smattering of applause, it will lead to a standing ovation when he adds, predictably for him, that too many so-called “pro-life” politicians “refuse to recognize their responsibility and the responsibility of the nation, to those who have been born
As a political liberal I would have been a lot happier if I had heard some of the speakers take the party of which most are members to task for a few things. Sr. Helen Prejean, the world renowned advocate for abolition of the death penalty might have criticized even Senator Obama for his disagreement with the recent Supreme Court decision that struck down a Louisiana death sentence for a child rapist. If the state doesn’t have the moral authority to kill, it does not gain it by the heinousness of the crime. Other speakers might have chastized the party for squandering the political capital of 2006–and not voting time and again to stop the war in Iraq even if the President vetoed every one of its efforts. That’s the true prophetic voice from the pulpit–reminding not just the executive but the lawmakers when their efforts fall short of the call to justice.