The Democratic National Convention kicked off yesterday, and I couldn't help but notice the opening invocation. Polly Baca, a former Colorado state senator, led off with a prayer that mentioned Jesus Christ and ended with her crossing herself "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
That's how Roman Catholics pray. Others do things differently – and, of course, some people don't pray at all. It surprised me to see such a sectarian invocation before what was surely a very diverse audience.
There's been a lot of talk about the increased religiosity at the Democratic Convention. Over at the Religion Clause Blog, Howard M. Friedman raises some provocative questions about whether the First Amendment's Establishment Clause applies to political parties. Are they government entities or private associations?
Don Byrd at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty's blog is also looking at the issue, laying down a series of recommendations for how both parties ought to deal with religion.
But the most interesting reaction came from Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery. For years, Minnery and other FOF honchos have carped that the Democrats are too secular, that the party lacks an outreach to religious voters and that it is even hostile to faith.
Now that the Democrats are adding a hefty dose of religion to their plate, how does Minnery react? He attacks the party for adopting a "gloss of prayer and God-talk" and criticizes it for including non-Christian faiths!
Minnery also grouses that the Democrats are not pro-life on abortion and don't oppose same-sex marriage. In other words, it's not enough to reach out to religious leaders and add interfaith services to the convention. If the Democrats don't adopt the specific policy positions favored by FOF, they'll never be truly "religious."
It's a shame, really. Every weekend, millions of Christians all over America who support legal abortion, the rights of gay people and other policies not favored by FOF attend churches. I suppose they are wasting their time. Minnery has spoken, and you can't be a true Christian if you don't agree with him and his boss James Dobson.
One can certainly debate the wisdom of the religious outreach at the Democratic Convention, and it's true that some people think party leaders have gone too far. But the alternative offered by Minnery and his ilk – a narrow version of faith handed down from on high by latter-day Torquemadas, a faith yoked forever to an unyielding set of right-right political opinions – is also most unsatisfying. More and more Americans are telling pollsters that is not what they want.
I suspect that's what's really bothering Minnery.