While all eyes were rightfully on names like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, mine were on Donald Miller.
Miller is the author of “Blue Like Jazz”, a best-selling collection of essays about Christianity from non-Christian perspectives, according to Amazon.com. He is a controversial figure among evangelical Christians; some praising him for making Christianity relevant to a new generation, others claiming he is diluting the Gospel message. Adding fuel to this fire, he accepted the invitation of the Democratic Party to deliver the closing prayer on the first night of the convention.
Yes, the Democratic Party. This party, in the highly-paraphrased and exaggerated words of my former fundamentalist Christian home-schooling curriculum, is Satan’s tool to spread non-Biblical values such as abortion, gay marriage and the welfare on our country.
No one political party in this or any country has the market cornered on Christian voters, and I would never suggest that all Christians are a homogenous group. Still, it’s admirable for Democrats to make efforts such as inviting Miller in order to reach out to evangelicals. More importantly, it was a political-savvy thing to do, since the media heavily trumpeted “moral values” in 2004 as the reason Bush won re-election.
This year could be particularly strategic for the Democrats, as evangelicals are still wary of McCain, though the Saddleback forum and the selection of Sarah Palin might have done much to temper those anxieties. Plus, for perhaps the first time since Jimmy Carter, the Democrats have a candidate who talks openly about his faith (although that doesn’t dissuade some people from thinking he’s Muslim).
In the interest of disclosure, I am not in any way a Republican, or would even want to identify myself as one. But from the perspective of at least this evangelical Christian, most of the Republican Party’s stances on social issues, particularly opposing abortion and upholding the traditional family, have been closer to mine than those of the Democrats. At the same time, I believe that social justice and evangelism go hand in hand. There is simply no way you can expect one to be promoted without the other. On that count, our country and its government as of late have failed horribly, both here and abroad.
As probably expected, social justice was mostly the focus of Miller’s prayer, with statements such as “Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left” and “Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.”
It was probably Miller’s closing, however, that provoked the most reaction from bloggers. “I make these requests in the name of your Son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice,” Miller prayed. Comments on a Youtube video of Miller’s prayer showed this was a point of contention for some Christians.
“I know there is a new movement ‘within’ Christianity to recast it as a social movement,” one poster on the site read. “I cannot say how wrong this is. Jesus did not give His life for injustice. He gave His life for our sin.”
“It’s not about the cause for giving,” read another poster. “It’s about the method of delivery. The Dems have you fooled.”
Inviting Miller may have been a good attempt by the Democratic Party to encourage young Christians to give the party a second look. But, if the Democratic Party really wants to win conservative Christians to their side, it is clear that the change needs to be internal, not just a display like Miller and the other religious figures who attended.
There is really no “secret formula” to figuring out what evangelical Christian voters want; we just want strong moral leaders who will make the foundations this country was built on strong again so it does not collapse from within. In the end, it is what we do that matters more than what we say.
Valerie Hannon is a senior news editorial journalism major from Allen.