Sep 07, 2012

Is God a Republican or a Democrat?

The United States is facing a difficult economy, a high jobless rate, a large budget deficit, potential financial problems with Social Security and Medicare and perilous situations overseas. But this week, instead of focusing exclusively on those concerns, a discussion broke out about the place of God in party platforms.

The Democratic platform draft celebrated the “central role” of faith in American life and endorsed “faith-based” partnerships between government and religion.

“We believe,” it said, “in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests.” Drafting of the document was led by former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, a Methodist minister.

But the draft didn’t mention the G-word, and the Religious Right pounced.

In a blog post headlined “Exclusive: Democrats Drop 'God' From Party Platform,” Christian Broadcasting Network “Chief Political Correspondent” David Brody breathlessly announced that “God’s name has been removed from the Democratic National Committee platform.”

Brody added, “The Brody File has calls into [the Democratic National Committee] to explain why God’s name has been dropped from the platform. Some critics will suggest that when you have planks in your platform that support abortion rights and gay marriage then it's no wonder that God's name would be dropped as well.”

Brody’s boss, TV preacher Pat Robertson, quickly piled on. On the Sept. 5 episode of his nationally televised “700 Club,” the Christian Coalition founder insisted that the Democrats have become the party of “gays, godlessness and whatever else.”

Other Religious Right forces, the “fair and balanced” Fox News Network and partisan political operatives seized the meme as well.

Some Democrats tried to challenge the allegations.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told a Fox interviewer, “[I]f the narrative that is being presenting on your station and through your channel and your network is that that Democrats are godless people, they ought to know better. God is not a franchise of the Republican Party.

“Those of us who believe in God and those of us who have dedicated our lives to helping others in the name of God,” he continued, “don't want to take a second seat to anyone who is suggesting that one word out of the platform means that the Democrats across America are godless.”

In fact, of course, some Democrats are godless, just as some Republicans are. And some members of both parties are Christians, Jews, Muslims and adherents of dozens of other faiths. This is America; we’re all about diversity and equality.

But Democratic leaders soon decided the safest course out of the quagmire was to shoehorn a mention of God into the platform. Language was added asserting that "we need a government that stands up for the hopes, values and interests of working people and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential."

What do we make of all this? To me, it shows the ominous ongoing power of the Religious Right and its disproportionate influence in American political life. The theocratic movement’s money, media machine and massive squadrons of foot soldiers are alarming. And they do not hesitate to introduce religion into the public square in the most divisive, partisan and negative ways.

CBN’s Brody even boasted about how much trouble he had caused.

“The Brody File first pointed it out,” he said, “and the media followed, making this a story that the DNC wants to make go away. The problem is it’s not going away. Expect the Romney campaign to push this until Election Day. These last second changes really just make the issue worse and make the Democrat Party look bad.”

Robertson and his fundamentalist cronies may not – yet – have the clout to implement all of their oppressive agenda, but they look for every opportunity to advance their goals.

Those of us who support individual freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state must remain ever on the alert.

PS: I hope nobody tells the Religious Right honchos that there’s no mention of God in the U.S. Constitution. They’ll start a drive for a constitutional amendment. Fortunately, amendments are a lot harder to achieve than changes in party platforms.