Lost opportunity: What the Philly Voice puff piece on Leah Daughtry could have been

It must be getting close to election time, as fawning articles about Democratic politicians and God are getting more numerous.

Not so with GOP candidates. Their religious practices, whether it be Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum or Ted Cruz, are always treated as worthy of a wacko-meter. But the Democrats get treated with respect, whether it’s Bernie Sanders’ Judaism or Hillary Clinton’s United Methodist beliefs. They are mainstream.

Recently, the Philly Voice decided to scrutinize the Pentecostal beliefs of one such official; someone we’ve written about in the past because of the anemic reporting on her.  Sadly, this most recent piece doesn’t fail to disappoint:

The Rev. Leah Daughtry, the woman tapped to oversee the Democratic National Convention, first scrutinized her Pentecostal upbringing while a student at Dartmouth College. The act was not unlike many young adults who weigh the lessons of their youth.
Far from her childhood home of Brooklyn, New York, Daughtry posed herself a couple of questions: Is there a God and, if so, what is her relationship to the divine?
"Those college years are when it crystallized for me that I believe what I believe because I believe it -- not because of what my father or my mom or anybody else in my family believes," Daughtry said. "This faith was real to me and for me. I knew from that point that it would be a foundational part of my life and upon which everything else was built." Indeed, Daughtry's Pentecostal Christian faith has served as the bedrock for a political career now in its fourth decade…

The article, sadly, does not go on to explain why being Pentecostal, as opposed to being, say, Reformed Presbyterian, has carried her through 40 years of politics. And then we hear that she pastors a church, albeit nothing about its name and how many members it has.

I learned from elsewhere that it's called House of the Lord Church. Also, what variety of Pentecostal is it? There are numerous brands:

Meanwhile, Daughtry also pastors a small Pentecostal congregation in Washington, continuing her family's calling through the fifth generation. It's a role her family has long combined with political activism. And it's essential to her politics.
"Part of our faith system is that we are encouraged – we think mandated – to be engaged in the community around us," Daughtry said. "One of the ways that we chose to do that is through community activism on social justice issues. Part of that was an understanding that who is in office affects the quality of people's lives."
As a Pentecostal Christian, Daughtry believes that God's spirit dwells within everyone, connecting everyone to the divine. Therefore, she said, it is paramount to treat people's needs as holy. That includes everything from safe communities to clean air and drinking water.

Last I looked at Pentecostal beliefs, they held that born-again Christians must have a separate experience of the Holy Spirit, subsequent to conversion, known as being "baptized in the Holy Spirit." That’s not the same as "connecting everyone to the divine," whatever that means.

Another point: The Pentecostal believers I run into mention Jesus Christ quite often in connection with their faith. But Daughtry does not in this piece. Later, the article adds that living out her faith sent her in the direction of the Democratic Party,

Still, she recognizes that many white Christians vote Republican, though she finds many GOP values to be at odds with her interpretation of Biblical scripture.

Why is it when some folks spout reverse racist remarks, they’re never called on the carpet?

Daughtry certainly gets a free pass in this piece (no white Christians are Democrats?) and the writer of this puff piece doesn’t challenge her one whit.

I remember back when Obama was first elected and journalists were trying to size up Joshua DuBois, Obama’s first faith adviser. DuBois had a Pentecostal background, too, and I was one of reporters trying to chase after that story. DuBois was supposed to be a Pentecostal minister as well, but it was very foggy as to when and where that was.

At the most, he was an associate pastor at a Massachusetts church while a student at Boston University, which is how Time magazine explained it, but I could never get anyone to be quoted as to exactly what he did.

Such kid glove treatment was 180 degrees from how Sarah Palin’s Pentecostal faith was treated. Time magazine, whose above link gave respectful distance to DuBois’ beliefs, noted Palin’s "Pentecostal problem" in this piece. Being Pentecostal is a quaint curiosity if you’re a Democrat but it’s a huge liability if you’re GOP.

What are the crucial moral and political issues that make a political leader a good Pentecostal Christian, as opposed to a bad Pentecostal Christian. Anyone want to guess?

I wish someone had told the Philly Voice that many folks have covered Daughtry before and that now might be a nice time to ask how her Pentecostalism affects her life these days. Did she have an experience of the Holy Spirit that changed her life? How does her faith help her to forgive her enemies? Think more kindly of the GOP? Does she think her "Faith in Action" group really worked?

Anyone like Daughtry who keeps a "swear jar" on her desk has to be a colorful personality but this piece does not show it. It’s possible to get other than bromides from people but it helps to first ask the right questions.

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