Interfaith Gathering the DNC
The Democratic National Convention got an early start with the partyâ€™s first-ever interfaith gathering.
Democrats stake a claim at the intersection of faith and politics. The CEO of the 2008 Democratic Convention is the Reverend Leah Daughtry -- who also happens to be Pastor of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church in Washington, DC.
This launch event came swathed in a vibrant array of vestments, with a spectrum of theologies to match. Christianity, Judaism, Islam: All voting Blue, says Daughtry: "Over the past few years, many have had much to say about our efforts to bring faith the to the Democratic party. With all due respect, we didn’t need to bring faith to the party. Faith was already here."
There was plenty of singing. And a little squirming. When gospel choirs were joined by Indian drummers, the effect was music. When Bishop Charles E. Blake of the Church of God in Christ took a stand as what he referred to as "a Pro-life Democrat," the affect was ... awkward: "Others loudly proclaim their advocacy for the unborn but they refuse to recognize their responsibility and the responsibility of our nation to those that have been born or the living."
Still, his preaching remained rooted in the politics of social justice
Catholic nun Sister Helen Prejean drew upon the language of a familiar hymn to patriotism: "Oh say, what do we see by the dawn's early light? We're a nation in crisis. Eight out of ten of us are sensing that we’re going down the wrong road as a nation. I speak today as a woman of faith, a woman in the Christian tradition, to address our sacred responsibilities."
If there is disagreement within Democratic ranks over certain points, no one expressed it openly at this event. Here, a common thread runs through nearly all faith traditions. Christians call it The Golden Rule. Orthodox Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb called it thus: "Our sacred responsibility to your neighbor…Hebrew words ... you should love your neighbor as yourself."
It’s no accident that Democrats are taking this approach now. Where Candidate Barack Obama gains some support by distancing himself from the so-called Secular Left, he loses others who take issue with the rants of his former minister, Jeremiah Wright.
But Obama's not the only driving force here, according to Dr. Patrick Whelan of Harvard Medical School. Whelan is also President of Catholic Democrats: "I think we have one person to thank for a display like this and that’s George Bush. I think there was a sense after 2004 that religion was exploited to cover a whole host of sins, and people of a more progressive bent really responded to that in a visceral way."
Another first for Democrats at this convention: the formation of the Faith Caucus – which has events scheduled throughout the week.
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