From Name-Dropping God, to Dropping God’s Name

In case you haven’t heard, Democrats are godless s.o.b.’s.

Headlines this week were quick to announce: DEMOCRATS DROP GOD FROM PLATFORM! Leaving readers to gasp in horror at the audacity that some Americans would commit such an atrocity. Conservatives for years have accused Dems of wanting to destroy Christianity and run America into the godless-ground.

And this week we got confirmation that those liberal hippies once and for all declared their anti-religious sentiment, and just ripped the Divine right out of the very document that communicates who they are and what they stand for.

Yes, they took God out of their platform.

Last election season, in 2008, God got name dropped one time.

This election, God’s name just got dropped.

In case you haven’t actually seen it yet, here’s how the paragraph from the 2008 platform read that contained the single reference to “God.”

“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.”

Hmmm… I’m curious. Was your reaction the same as mine?

Based on the headlines and the talking heads, I was expecting something, I don’t know, much more substantial. A statement that, perhaps, clearly indicated that the Democrats were firm believers in and acknowledgers of “God.”

I was expecting something more along the lines of, “we as democrats believe in the Almighty God.”

Because then I could understand why people would express such an outrage that a sentiment like that was dropped.

That would be significant and worth discussion.

One election season the party states in its platform that it believes in God.

And then the following election season the party no longer states such a thing. It drops it completely.

Okay, at THAT point, it makes sense to wonder if Democrats are truly the godless party.

But THIS is not THAT.

Last election’s platform only mentioned God one time, and even then it was almost in passing. It was acknowledgment that humans have potential to do stuff, and that potential comes from God. “God” was used more as an adjective than as an object of belief and surrender. And isn’t it true, anyways, that not everyone in American even believes that our talents are God-given?

Nonetheless, here is that same section as it was rewritten for this year:

“We gather to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth – the simple principle that in America, hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us.”

This time around the section just says, “our talent and drive,” instead of something similar to last year like, “our God-given talents and drive.”

The word “God” was dropped.

But let me ask you this: if you had just stumbled upon this second paragraph in any blog or piece of literature, would you AT ALL think to yourself, “wow, this sentence really is missing something… it’s really missing a God-component. Whoever wrote this must be a godless person.”

Not a chance.

It’s actually a very nice sentence. Pretty much every person would see value in it, and possibly even agree with it.

The only problem people have (or “problem they are creating”) is that this section in the Platform previously acknowledged God as the supplier of talents. It used to have the word “God” in it. And that word is very important to many people.

But still, the point remains. Ultimately this “dropping” of God is hardly a momentous thing when you consider the context that it even existed in the first place.

Furthermore, it’s not like “God” was mentioned 10 or 15 times and then all of sudden nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Again, THAT would be understandably jarring. But just going from one very casual mention of the name “God” to no mention at all (even though the exact same sentiment is communicated) is hardly worth the nationwide freak out that ensued.

To make matters worse, though, the Democratic Convention Chair awkwardly tried to poll the delegates on Wednesday in an attempt to possibly put the word “God” BACK in the platform language. Three times Antonio Villaraigosa wielded the gavel and attempted to discern the “ayes” from the “nos” before finally deciding that the majority was voting in favor of reinserting “God,” even though evidently it wasn’t clear at all. All of this was because of the backlash they received from dropping “God.” (and the ensuing pressure put on them by the White House BECAUSE of the ridiculous backlash)

Sigh.

I wish they would have simply taken the time to A) anticipate the ridiculous overreaction, and B) actually have an articulate reason WHY they chose to word this one section differently.

Instead we had to watch awkward and cringe-inducing moments like this, because the party wasn’t adequately prepared to handle the backlash.

But, the world we live in is all about headlines and news cycles. And the headline “GOD DROPPED FROM THE PLATFORM” is really, really interesting. The shock factor works. And the majority of people won’t bother considering what it actually means.

For me, I have no problem with the original wording (God-given talents), nor do I have any problem with the re-write. The language of the Democratic Platform is ripe with values and principles that clearly indicate a shared value with the Creator. Needing to have the word “God” put in there is sort of trivial in my mind. And to freak out just because it wasn’t “used” this year is even more petulant. (Sidenote: anytime you talk about “using the word God,” you should probably hesitate. Perhaps God’s name isn’t meant to be “used.” For what it’s worth.)

What I have a problem with is how the conservatives freaked out and decided that this was proof, once and for all, that Democrats are godless people who want to destroy faith in America.

What I have a problem with is how we are addicted to creating problems and making mountains out of mole hills.

What I have a problem with is the fact that this following statement is ALSO in the Democratic Platform, and it’s beautiful, and full of God language and faith language, but it is completely ignored because a certain three-letter word was left out of a different section. Read this and tell me if you think it is written by godless people who want to destroy faith in our country:

“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. Faith- based 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.”

If you read all that and STILL think it’s the end of the world that the English word “God” is not listed somewhere at some point, then I’m not sure what to tell you. Perhaps your own insecurities and fear are the real issue.

What do you think?

Were you bothered by the “dropping” of God?

If so, does it make a difference to you now that you know HOW it was even used last year?

Were you glad that they didn’t “use” God this year, and bummed that they were pressured back in to it?

Fire off in the comment section.

Changed for Good: Move Toward the Other

Wicked

Last week Kate and I went up to Portland’s Keller Auditorium to experience the Broadway show, Wicked. And believe you me, it’s as good as people tell you it is!

If you don’t know much about Wicked (which I did not), it tells the backstory of some of the characters from The Wizard of Oz. The story focuses on the Wicked Witch and Glinda the Good Witch. We learn that these two, before becoming witches, met one another as young girls at school. And they could not be more different from each other, and yet they develop a relationship that blooms into a friendship.

Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) is a social pariah. People strive to stay away from her.
Glinda is the most popular girl in school. People strive to be in her company.

Elphaba’s skin is a strange shade of green. The only one in her school.
Glinda’s skin is perfect and white. Just like every one else in school, but better.

Elphaba is super smart.
Glinda is… well… super pretty.

Elphaba comes from a life where she grew up being despised by her father.
Glinda was the prize jewel of her family.

Elphaba grew up with the primary responsibility to serve her sister’s every need.
Glinda grew up where people served her every need.

I could go on and on. But it is clear that these two are dissimilar in just about every way. If you were to imagine the opposite of one, you’d picture the other.

And that’s precisely what they were: the OTHER.

I Have Been Changed For Good

The show was ripe with brilliant  music, but my favorite came towards the end. During the climactic moment, when it looked like Elphaba’s doom was just around the corner, Glenda and Elphaba share a moment together and sing the song “For Good.”

Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made from what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

(Elphaba):
And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done you blame me for

(Glinda):
But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share

(Both):
And none of it seems to matter anymore

Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

Because I knew you…
i belive I have been changed for good…
i have been changed, for good

Both witches came to this place of realization that their lives had been greatly affected by each other. That they both believe they are now better people because of their friendship. That they have been changed for the better because they know one another.

And isn’t that one of the most beautiful things that happens when we engage with the OTHER?

When we step outside of what’s “normal” to us.
When we intentionally seek out those who are different from us.
When we move towards the other.

Jesus Knew This

As much as some of you would prefer there to be a Bible verse that says, “and God declares it good that you shall move toward the other” (preferably by Paul, but we’d take it if it were Jesus), nothing really comes to mind.

But what DOES come to mind is, I believe, even better.

Rather than Jesus just TELLING us that there is value in moving toward the other, he SHOWS us.

He moved toward the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
He moved toward the woman caught in adultery in John 8.
He moved toward fisherman and a tax collector in Luke 5.
He moved toward a leper and a Roman centurion in Matt 8.
And the list goes on…

We see in Jesus what the Way of Love looks like, and it involves (in part) our willingness to seek out those who are different from us. But not so that we can change THEM, not with some ulterior motive or agenda, but because something beautiful emerges when two people who are so very different from each other learn to see each other as something more than just a label or a stereotype. When they are no longer the “them,” or “those people.” When we move toward the other, we make an effort to tear down the superficial walls that separate us and we open ourselves up to learn so much about who they are, what makes them tick, why they are so different… and in turn, we learn that much more about ourselves.

Wicked tells the story of two people who couldn’t be more different from each other, and yet the closer they moved toward one another the more changed they both become FOR THE GOOD.

Democrats, move toward Republicans and see them for who they are.
Whites, move towards Latinos and Asians.
Straights, move towards a gay person.
Young people, move towards an older person.
Rich, move towards the poor.
Healthy, move towards the sick.

You will be changed for the better. I promise you.

“You’re changing that boy’s life.”
“No… he’s changing mine.”
-Leigh Anne Tuoy, to her friend, talking about Michael Oher, in The Blind Side