Does God Need a Shout-Out in the Democratic Platform?

Oh, God.

I can already feel the viral emails hitting a million inboxes on this one: Christian Right journalist David Brody seems to have done a word-search of the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions and found that a reference to the Almighty was taken out of the former in the latter.

The passage in question is one of those cliched references to helping Americans achieve their full potential. Said potential was described as “God-given” in 2008, but not in 2012. Some secular-socialist crept in and removed God from the Democratic Platform!

Aside from making the rather idiotic assumption that this was a conscious act (in a purely political document why would a throwaway adjective that would offend almost no one be deleted?), Brody does not note that the platform has a whole section on “faith,” which reads:

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 – 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.

So God wasn’t exactly expelled from the platform, it seems.

Now, turning to the GOP’s 2012 platform, we find a not-overwhelming seven references to the Deity. One is like the omitted 2008 Democratic Platform line, attributing talents to God. Two do the same with natural resources and the environment. Two repeat the Tea Party mantra that our rights and liberties (which they typically interpret as including the “rights of the unborn” and quasi-absolute private property rights) are “God-given,” which is their way of saying they can’t be modified by some New Deal or Great Society or egalitarian judge or popular majority. There is, believe it or not, a reference to God being the author of our right to use shootin’ irons to defend ourselves. And then there is a specific pledge to restore the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, “under God” included, in public schools.

As a believer myself, I dislike in particular the attribution to God of various secular ideas of “rights,” which are intended, frankly, to divinize political ideologies. I would, in fact, call that idolatry.

I’m very sure David Brody wouldn’t agree, but then we’re not talking about people who are using their God-given talents to fairly judge words and their actual implications.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.