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Interfaith liberals

Campaign 2008 | Denver may be a signal of things to come

Issue: "Northern light," Sept. 20, 2008

Democrats are going all out for the "God vote." And they aren't even particular as to which god.

The 2004 convention in Boston had a secular tone, but the Democratic Convention in Denver opened with worship. It was an interfaith service, with Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and adherents to any other religion they could find all worshipping together.

Mollie Z. Hemingway was there, reporting for National Review Online. She described the spectacle:

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Rather than a reading from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the New Testament, and a Gospel-as you would hear in a liturgical Christian service-there were readings from the Torah, the Sutra Nipata, the Koran, and more from the Old Testament. No New Testament. It is unsurprising that no reading contained a claim of exclusivity or, for that matter, any claim that adherents of a different religion would disagree with. Rather than using proper names to refer to prophets or deities, clergy tend to overload on pronouns and nondescript names. "Lord," rather than "Jesus." "The God of Leviticus" becomes "Holy One of Blessing."

Protests from both pro-life activists and atheists interrupted the service. One of the main speakers was Sister Helen Prejean, the Roman Catholic nun who wrote the anti-death-penalty book Dead Man Walking that was later made into an Oscar-nominated movie. In her sermon, Sister Prejean did mention Jesus by name: While lambasting America for its racism, oppression, and violence, Hemingway said that "she wondered whether the biblical account of Jesus's crucifixion was a 'projection of our violent society.'"

Sister Prejean then attacked the central teaching of Christianity, that God allowed His Son to die as a sacrifice for our sins. "Is this a God," she asked, "or is this an ogre?"

This kind of interfaith service-with its inclusiveness, diversity, and polytheism-represents the new civil religion in America. This is not just a Democratic phenomenon. Republicans such as President Bush have also participated in interfaith worship services.

Politicians from both parties are right to pursue the votes of citizens of all faiths. Adherents of all religions can be good citizens. But interfaith services and the theology behind them are intrinsically anti-Christian. The first commandment says, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3), with the word before literally meaning "in My presence." No one can approach God except through Jesus (John 14:6). The Old Testament saints opposed religious syncretism in ancient Israel, and the early Christians refused to take part in the polytheistic diversity of the Roman Pantheon.

If today's religiously diverse America requires a polytheistic civil religion, Christians should politely refuse to participate. This may mean Christians will end up agreeing with the atheist who protested the proceedings in Denver. A naked public square may be preferable to the Areopagus of Athens, crowded with idols and its single altar to an unknown God (Acts 17:22-24).

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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