Democrats and God

There is simply too much God-talk in politics these days.

It may surprise you to hear a bishop of the church say that there is too much God-talk in politics, but it seems that God is being used as a political football, and this borders on idolatry. The prophets thoughts so as well.

This week there was much press around the fact that the Democrats had removed the words “God” and “Jerusalem” from their platform. Then, after a lot of bad press, they reversed their decision and amended their platform to add them back in. In a textbook example of botched parliamentary procedure, it became clear that the amendment adding the words back in did not get the required 2/3 vote. The chair, who clearly wanted it to pass, and obviously didn’t want to embarrass himself or his party, was flustered, and didn’t know what to do. So he called for the voice vote again. And then again. It was impossible to call, sounding closer to 50-50, or 60-40, so instead of calling for an inconvenient division of the house, he announced it had passed and got booed.

More troubling than the absence of God-talk from public discourse is co-opting God-language to promote ones agenda. It is possible to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God without bandying about God-talk. One of the books of the Bible, Esther, doesn’t even mention God. It’s also possible to use a lot of God-talk and completely disregard the biblical message.

Anyone sitting and listening to both the Republican and Democratic conventions will notice there has been no small amount of God-talk. Everyone wants to invoke God to support their plan. Some people will say whatever they have to say to keep their constituents happy and assure reelection. If God-talk satisfies the masses, we use it, whether we mean it or not. We live in an era when politics trumps policy.

The Commandments warn us never to use God’s name in vain. The prophets would say God-talk doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if you aren’t establishing justice for the poor, for the orphan, widow and alien. The prophet Amos got sick of superficial God-talk. “Take away from me the noise of your songs… and instead let justice roll down like a mighty waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” There are a lot of people using God talk who have never read Amos. And there a lot of people working for justice who don’t throw around God talk recklessly.
The real issue is not proof texting talks for politically correct language that pleases the guardians of religious orthodoxy. The real issue is establishing policies that uphold the biblical vision for justice and righteousness. I’m more concerned about our parties’ policies than their God-talk. Anyone can talk God-talk. Isaiah said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

I’m a Lutheran, so I subscribe to Luther’s doctrine of the Two Kingdoms: The kingdom on the left is this broken world in need of temporal authority to govern it. The kingdom on the right is the reign of God, a spiritual realm that requires spiritual leadership. They are not to be confused. Luther was not in favor of a theocracy. Neither were the founding fathers. The founding fathers believed in God, but they did not want a theocracy. They clearly rejected the wedding of church and state. Luther said he’d rather be governed by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.

The New Testament letter of James says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Let’s not word-search all our government platforms, speeches, supreme court decisions and legislation for God-talk. Let’s establish good government, with liberty and justice for all.

Michael Rinehart,