Dispute Over Use Of Word "God" In Democratic Party Platform Ironic
Conservatives quickly jumped all over the Democrats' omission, declaring it evidence of “the hostility President Obama and the Democratic Party establishment have toward religion and people of faith,” and saying things like, “I think it's rather peculiar...but I guess you'd have to ask the Obama administration why they purged all this language from their platform” (so sniffed Paul Ryan). The narrative of the Democratic party as godless was back. The Democrats bravely, after much negative press, voted to cave in to their opponents and reinsert the word “God” into their platform.
But let’s back up. For one thing, the omission was clearly not an intentional move by the Democratic Party. Regardless of whether you believe that or not, however, this is an absurd debate to have because the number of mentions of the word “God” is wholly irrelevant to the actual content of both party's platforms. And, in fact, the platform that did not mention God is the one that is much more Godly.
It’s no secret that a large majority of Christians and Christian institutions unwaveringly, and often fanatically support the Republican Party. To them, every election is literally a life-or-death struggle against the sinful ways of the pro-gay marriage, pro-choice Democrats.
If a Christian were honestly and truly interested in voting based on his or her principles of faith, he or she would have to remember the actual message of Jesus and the Gospels, as opposed to two relatively minor, divisive issues in which Jesus would be, at best, peripherally interested. The central focus of Jesus’ message was to love and care for one another, particularly the least fortunate among us. Perhaps you can infer that He would have been anti-gay marriage and pro-life based on a few lines of text in the Bible, but a reading of any of the Gospels makes it clear that the overall focus of His work was helping the less fortunate.
How can a God-loving, American Christian look at a man who is on the record as saying he doesn’t care about the extremely poor, who is focused on cutting social services and raising taxes on the lower classes while lowering them for the super-rich, is opposed to universal healthcare and supports the deportation of illegal immigrants and their families, and decide “Yep, that’s the guy Jesus would want me to vote for”? The Jesus that I love, the one in the Gospels, surely would have no patience for so many of the ideas presented in the Republican platform.
The Democratic Party Platform and the Obama administration, on the other hand, are largely aligned with the message of the Gospels, namely helping the less fortunate. This is a party that passed a universal healthcare act in the president’s first term. Think Jesus would like that? I have a feeling the man who went around the countryside healing the sick and lame would be on the president’s side with that one. They also continually reaffirm their commitment to maintaining the social safety net while lowering taxes on lower income Americans throughout the platform. This is in direct opposition to the GOP platform, which is designed first and foremostwith for the interests of the wealthy.
The GOP has had an absurdly strong monopoly on the religious vote for a while now, and it truly is an impressive display of their marketing and strategic acumen, because on all but a few issues on which they focus their campaigns, they are diametrically opposed to the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Caring for the poor, sick and disabled among us would be far more important to Jesus than whether or not abortion should be legal, and certainly more important than whether or not gay marriage should be allowed; yet, year after year, the faithful in the pews are implored by their ministers to support Republican candidates. Many of them oblige.
Whether or not I am correct in my assessment of Jesus, I think it’s clear that He would not care at all about how many times He was mentioned in the party platform. If anything, He would not want to be mentioned at all. The Bible reads, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:5). It’s not about who can say “God” more often, it’s about who can live and govern like God would have actually wanted.
Still, this whole dustup is a wonderful analogy for the way religion is treated by both parties. We have the Republicans, who are focused on word choice (a trivial surface issue with no real meaning), and the Democrats, who, without beating their chests to show how much they love God, are focused on laying out a platform that is actually based on living out God’s Word.
What would Jesus do? This is a central question for most Christians, and one that many of them bring to the ballot box. If you are voting based on faith and on what you think Jesus would do, don’t look at a document's word choice - that's often only a distraction. Look at the issues. And if you can make it that far, look at all the issues Jesus cared about, not just the ones that are convenient for you.
Reach Contributor Daniel Lewin here.