So I watched all of the Democratic National Convention's first night last night and it included quite a bit of God talk. In fact, the speakers were far more likely to discuss God than at the Republican Convention -- one even mentioned making the sign of the cross -- even if they were also discussing abortion, which was the theme of the first part of the evening. But it was another religion story that interested many media outlets. First reported, I believe, by David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Democratic Party platform no longer includes any mention of God. Here were the references to God in the 2004 platform for instance:
That is the America we will build together – one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all... We can do it in a way that safeguards all the greatness of America by protecting our people, securing our homeland, and reinforcing our values – faith and family, duty and service, individual freedom and a common purpose to build one nation under God... No matter who you are, where you come from, or what you believe, as an American, you live in a land that offers you all the possibilities your hard work and God-given talent can bring... God gave America extraordinary natural gifts; it is our responsibility to protect them... That is how we will ensure that God's gifts of nature bless all of God's children for generations to come... This year, as we celebrate these anniversaries, we recommit to the spirit of service that secured these breakthroughs and the values they embody: all of our people should have the opportunity to fulfill all of their potential, and each of us should be as equal in the eyes of the law as we are in the eyes of God...
OK, so the story about religion and the Democratic Party is huge, and horribly undercovered, and a constant headache for religious adherents who are part of that party. I actually don't think whether the platform mentions God is the best story for representing what is going on as it relates to anything of substance regarding religion and religious adherents, but obviously we're in a campaign season where reporters go for the quick and dirty story rather than the one that takes time to research.
Religious activists in the Democratic Party after 2004 fought for greater inclusion and got it in 2008. They have been complaining about how the Party handles religious outreach and they would be willing to speak on the record and have done just that for interested reporters in recent years. I believe that they would look at this platform issue less as a major problem and more as indicative of how sometimes party leaders are tone deaf to how religious adherents feel they are treated.
The first line of the National Journal write up is:
The absence of one word from the Democratic Party platform could raise some conservative hackles.
Conservatives do not have the corner on God! And being conservative does not mean you care about whether God is mentioned in the Democratic Party. Lines such as this suggest that liberals do not care about God, which is a stereotype the media perpetuates particularly around political campaigns.
Or how about this from ABC News:
For Democrats, there is no God in 2012 — at least as far as the party’s platform is concerned.
Nor is there a Jerusalem.
Unfair! Yes, it's true that neither God nor Jerusalem are mentioned in the party platform. No one would deny that. And the removal of Jerusalem and a section on Hamas are quite interesting and probably have an interesting background that should have been reported. But just because God is not mentioned in the platform does not mean "there is no God" for Democrats in 2012. Just a listen to the speeches last night would tell you that God is regularly mentioned in campaign rhetoric.
And while it seems I'm always praising CNN's Belief Blog, let me give a word of praise for how it handled this story. CNN mentioned the removal of "God" but put it in context pretty quickly:
Democrats did include a section in their 2012 platform specifically devoted to faith, writing faith "has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history."
"There is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution, and a full commitment to both principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country," the document reads.
The headline for the piece did confuse me, however. It reads "'God' also absent from Democrats' platform." What's the "also" for?
Anyway, reporters are to be encouraged to dig into the DNC's religious outreach efforts in 2012, particularly relative to 2008. But let's tone down the hyperbole and get at the real story.
Pew image via Shutterstock.