So I noticed on Facebook that a blogger with the Christian Broadcasting Network is making a bit of an issue of the fact that a plank in the proposed Democratic platform that mentioned God four years ago no longer does:
Guess what? God’s name has been removed from the Democratic National Committee platform.
This is the paragraph that was in the 2008 platform:
“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.”
Now the words “God-given” have been removed. The paragraph has been restructured to say this:
“We gather to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth – the simple principle that in America, hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us.”
Yes, that could have been the work of an overzealous secularizer, but it could also have been inadvertent. After all, “God-given” (something a Deist could well have said, by the way, not exactly a Bible-thumping sort of mention) wasn’t just deleted, as such; the whole sentence was recast.
I was more interested in what the blogger went on to cite as the platform’s only remaining mention of “faith:”
“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. We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires. Faith-based organizations will always be critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world – from domestic and global poverty, to climate change and human trafficking. People of faith and religious organizations do amazing work in communities across this country and the world, and we believe in lifting up and valuing that good work, and finding ways to support it where possible. We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests. 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.”
Anything strike you about that? Here’s what struck me: that the value of faith is set entirely in terms of how it furthers the political and social agenda of those writing the words. “a driving force of progress and justice… critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world… We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships…” In other words, there is no particular inherent value; religion is only useful insofar as it is, well, useful.
Which isn’t exactly the way most people of faith would look at it. In fact, they’d be more apt to evaluate a party in terms of the degree to which it further’s God’s, or Allah’s, will. This seems the other way around, more like, God is good, but only when he votes our way.
I in no way malign the Democrats by interpreting the paragraph this way, though. Does anyone doubt that Republicans try to use the Almighty in the same manner? The Dems are just being franker about it. The main difference is that Democrats feel that they have to go through all kinds of explanations as to why it is, too, constitutional for them to be talking about faith.