GOD: And the Political Platforms
With the Republican National Conference done, and the Democratic National Conference closing, everyone is all astir with the real meat and potatoes of what these two parties stand for…
Or, if you were paying attention, the DNC also removed “God” from their platform and “refuses” to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel! Ahhhhh! Armageddon!
Oh, but then they “re-inserted” both references. Smooth, Dems. Really.
But really, in a secular, democratic government, why is there all this hubbub about God in a political party platform anyway? Comparing the two platforms reveals quite a lot about how each party is positioning itself concerning the religious and non-religious voters of America.
THE GOP PLATFORM
Here it is in all it’s glory: http://www.gop.com/2012-republican-platform_home/
It’s fancy, colorful — it’s got pictures! It’s 62 pages loooooong. It mentions God A LOT! Evangelicals might be dismayed that Jesus is never mentioned once. But a careful reading shows that — except for one lone mention of God shedding “his grace on the United States of America” — God is only a hyphenated modifier in this platform. The document discusses protecting our “God-given rights,” using our “God-given talents,” and reaping from our “God-given resources.” Theologically this is very appealing to the old-school “Tri-Faith American” understanding of religious diversity: Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. But it would certainly be very uncomfortable for any American Hindus, Buddhists, and certainly American Atheists. These “outlier” religions (or non-religions) are certainly no concern for the GOP. They want nothing but the mainstream.
They are also very status-quo oriented when it comes to Israel:
“We support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with secure, defensible borders; and we envision two democratic states—Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine—living in peace and security.”
You can almost HEAR the uncomfortability in their voice with the question of who gets Jerusalem: “… and Palestine… lives in peace and security… however they like, just not in Jerusalem. We don’t care, have whatever capital you like.” This is basically a non-solution, it’s just expecting peace without offering solutions. Upholding the status-quo of the Middle-East crisis and expecting something to change. Non-solution.
But seeing how seriously they take God and Israel, it’s understandable that they’d be bothered that the Dems don’t care about religion or Israel… that is unless they actually read the DNC Platform.
The Democratic National Platform
If you want to see a before/after of the debaucle, hurry and download these two different versions (I have a feeling the NYTimes will update their version soon):
This is pretty bland reading, I have to say. It’s all grey-scale, no pictures. Totally in line with the old “No drama, Obama” motto.
The Democrats favor the language of “faith and religion” as opposed to directly appealing to God. The only change in the “with God” version of the platform is the insertion of this sentence: “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.” Again with the hyphenated modifier God?!
But their section on Faith is actually really striking:
“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. Faithbased organizations will always be critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world … People of faith and religious organizations do amazing work in communities across this country and the world… 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.”
Let me be honest: I’m in love with that paragraph. It’s a beautifully expressed affirmation of the importance and significance of “faith” while maintaining a strong First Amendment understanding of the limits of religion in politics. It’s really strikingly well-said. The Dems are actually affirming the “acts of justice and mercy” that faith inspires. As a registered Independent, and someone who has fairly strong Anabaptist leanings (meaning religious non-involvement with secular society), I have to say that the Dems totally nailed this issue. It makes the hyphenated God of the GOP platform look strikingly like tokenism.
On Israel and Jerusalem the Dems also provide a bit more insight than the GOP platform. The equally hold up the status-quo that Israel must defend its borders, is threatened on every side, the U.S. must defend it and support it, etc. Then it lists all the ways Obama has physically supported Israel in the region (worth reading if you have your doubts, it’s very detailed). But the new Jerusalem insertion is where the major differences are:
“Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”
The Dems say that Jerusalem should be undivided and accessible to people of all faiths. That is not the whole solution, but it’s a step towards a solution that the GOP platform doesn’t even touch. There have long been suggestions that Jerusalem should become a United Nations protected city, belonging to no one and everyone all at the same time. I think that idea has merit, and the DNC platform makes that suggestion.
Obama has continually and consistently advocated on behalf of Israel and has consistently said that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital. If you’d like to comment in disagreement, please do so with reliable citations — (but don’t blame me when you can’t find them). The first iteration of the DNC platform did not suggest that Jerusalem was NOT the capital, it simply did not acknowledge it specifically. As any historian or scientist would say: you cannot make an affirmation out of absence, or the absence of evidence is not evidence.
This was a marathon post for me, but there was a lot of meat to sift through. I hope that at the least anyone reading this can discuss the actual platforms with more confident information than previously — regardless of whether you agree with my assessment or not.
If you haven’t read enough already, here’s some handy stuff too: