The disappearance and subsequent reappearance of God, is a very old story. But it's not one I think many of us anticipated seeing play out at the Democratic National Convention!
After removing the only mention of God from their party's platform on Tuesday, Democrats voted the Lord back in late Wednesday. I guess that is a good thing, but the underlying issue of what often feels like party wide tone-deafness on the place of God in people's lives, remains.
To be sure, the initial removal of the single use of God in the platform was not exactly surprising. In fact, it could be thought of as the culmination of a trend which saw seven mentions of God in the '04 platform, and only one in the '08 platform. But this about more than counting the number of times a single three letter word appears. It's about something far bigger. It's about being in touch with what most Americans believe.
This about more than counting the number of times a single three letter word appears. It's about something far bigger. It's about being in touch with what most Americans believe.
Actually the issue is best understood through comments by Democratic star and Newark Mayor, Cory Booker, who has been questioning why this is even an issue. We should, Mayor Booker said, be focusing on issues which matter and which reflect what most American believe. I couldn't agree more, which is why this IS something about which people should be talking, and not only believers or critics, but committed Democrats who want to make good on their claim that they appreciate the "average American."
The vast majority of Americans believe in God, and when language of "higher power" is included, close to 90% of us are self-professed believers. So leaving any mention of God out, is not simply a theological issue, it reflects a kind of out of touch-ness with precisely the American mainstream to which Democrats say they best understand and represent.
And beware those who suggest that all of this is much ado about nothing given the fact that the platform mentioned faith numerous times even as it removed God from the platform. Faith, as mentioned and even celebrated in the Democratic platform, is simply a specific means to a narrowly defined end.
The platform praises the role of faith and faith-based organizations in motivating people to achieve the social goals of the Democratic party. In other words, there is no transcendent value to faith, no appreciation of its role in people's inner lives. It certainly plays no role in challenging other beliefs or widening believers' understanding of others.
Faith, as it is understood by the Democratic platform, is a footnote and not much more. It is simply one more way to justify what Democrats want to do anyway. Even for people who think that includes many good and important things, that's a pretty narrow and self-serving understanding of faith.
So yes, there has been a second coming, of sorts, in Charlotte, but the underlying appreciation of what faith is and how it works in most people's lives, is still missing. God doesn't belong to either party, but when Democrats function this way, they sure make many people wonder. That's not good for God, who is bigger than any party, and it's not good for the rest of either.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is the author of "You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism," and president of Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.