Delegates Grapple with Faith Issue
Democrats Re-insert Word "God" into Party Platform; Convention Delegates Say Faith Matters
September 5, 2012 - With the Democratic National Convention in the hometown of Billy Graham—who has met with all 12 U.S. Presidents since Harry Truman—we shine the spotlight on how faith and the Democratic Party intersect: "The Democratic Party cares for all individuals," one pastor said. "We represent the love of God to the world."
"As people of faith in the Democratic Party, it is our responsibility to relieve the pain and suffering of the least of these."
— Rev. Derrick Harkins
By Janet Chismar
As part of our "America at the Crossroads" series, BGEA writers are reporting from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, as well as Republican National Convention last week in Tampa.
While some say that Charlotte, N.C., is an odd choice to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, others might argue that holding the event in Billy Graham's hometown is somehow fitting.
After all, Mr. Graham has met with every U.S. president since Harry Truman—including Democrats Kennedy, Carter, Clinton and Obama. Billy Graham is recognized for offering spiritual support to the man, not the party platform.
Delegate and New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-West Bronx) sees Billy Graham as a good example of faith in action. “What a man of God. I follow all of Mr. Graham’s principles—he’s been a role model. We need more Billy Grahams.”
But some vocal Democrats opposed coming to Charlotte, saying that conservative North Carolina, with its support for traditional marriage, should not be hosting this party.
The two points of view may just symbolize one of the most debated dichotomies of this election: The role of religious faith in a person's political leaning.
Speaking at the convention's morning prayer gathering, Rev. Derrick Harkins, the National Director of Faith and Outreach for the Democratic Party, said, "We begin every single morning of this 2012 convention in prayer because faith in God is not a strange concept to Democrats.
"It is woven into the fabric of who we are. There are Democrats who are people of faith—and yes, Christians. It is not a partisan distinction."
Discussing how he reconciles his faith with the party platform, Harkins said that for him being a Christian means being a good citizen. It means loving his neighbor and caring for the poor and needy.
"As people of faith in the Democratic Party, it is our responsibility to relieve the pain and suffering of the least of these," Harkins added.
Rev. Cynthia Hale, senior pastor of the Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Ga., said that as a Democrat, she believes in helping the poor, "not just with hand-outs or in soup kitchens, but by providing government assistance.
"The Democratic Party cares for all individuals," Hale added. "We represent the love of God to the world."
Maggie Finnerty, who is visiting Charlotte this week to care for her brother's children, said that although she opposes abortion and gay marriage—both key to the party's platform—she believes that loving thy neighbor is the overriding value that governs her thoughts.
"I am a Christian and a Democrat," said Finnerty. "While I would never choose to end a child's life, I understand why some women need to. I think Jesus would forgive a 'fallen' woman."
As for what had seemed to be missing from the platform, (the Democrats earlier took the word "God" out of their platform, though it was re-inserted Wednesday), Harkins said, "There is not a concerted effort to excise God deliberately. In fact, the importance of faith was mentioned 11 times last night and the name of God was mentioned 30 times during the evening."
In giving the benediction on the first night of the convention, Jena Lee Nardella, who is the founder of the non-profit blood: water mission said, "The Kingdom of God is not divided into red and blue states. "
She prayed for President Obama and also candidate Romney, for "understanding and wisdom across the political spectrum, and for this nation, to walk humbly before our God."
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