Politicizing God

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll

Whatever their conception of God, some people seem ever intent on convincing others (and maybe themselves) that He is on their team. For if God is with them, their principles, policies, and practices must be right, and their competitors’ wrong.

So they invoke “God” publicly and often, especially in their corporate statements, in hopes of winning folks over. Given that the vast majority of people are believers, it’s a sure strategy (except when the other side politicizes God equally or better). I mean, who wants to be on a losing team?

While this sort of thing is all too common among religious sectarians, it is also regular fare among political partisans, as has been quite evident in this election season.

God at the Convention

At the Republican and Democratic conventions, both parties invited Cardinal Timothy Dolan to deliver the closing benediction. It was an unsurprising move for the RNC, but for the DNC, the invitation was like asking the president of PETA to preside over the ribbon-cutting of a new fur coat factory.

As the man some people call “America’s Pope,” Cardinal Dolan is staunchly opposed to abortion and same-sex “marriage”—causes that the Democrats have made defining policies for the Party. Predictably, the Cardinal’s prayer, which included clear pro-life and pro-natural marriage messages, received resounding “Amens” at the RNC, with a much more tepid response at the DNC.

Both conventions also made a point to “put” God in their platforms. Notably, the Dems put Him in only after taking Him out, and amid howls of protest by the rank-and-file for His modest re-insertion.

Speakers from both parties closed their remarks with divine codas, such as “Providence is with us,” “God bless you,” or “God bless our nation,” as if there were nothing about their party, their platform, or “their” nation for which God should not bestow favor.

But let’s be clear: “God” is either a Person who informs priorities, policies, and practices, or a three-letter filler in our airways and print. Considering the warning in the Decalogue against using the Lord’s name in vain, enthusiasts of both parties would be wise to be more thoughtful about their God-talk.


The kerfuffle over “God” in DNC platform became red meat for conservatives. Right-leaning bloggers, as if reporting on an “open mic” moment in the divine throne room, circulated a picture of Jesus framed with the slogan: “Before Bill Clinton crows, the Democrats will deny me three times.” The post elicited a number of comments expressing wonder at how any Christian could be a Democrat. I’ve personally known people who have emphatically stated that a person can’t be a Democrat and a Christian.

Such sentiments ignore the fact that there are Democrats (albeit few, and getting fewer) who are fiscally liberal but socially conservative, like the Democrats for Life. They are not unlike the remnant of faithful Christians (also few and getting fewer) in the Episcopal Church who choose to remain as flickers of light in an institution darkened by apostasy.

At the same time, there are Republicans who are fiscally conservative but socially liberal—the former mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is both pro-choice and pro-gay “marriage,” comes to mind—making it clear that political affiliation alone is no litmus for who is “in” and who is “out” of God’s favor.

And conservatives are not alone in fancying themselves as God’s proxy in partisan politics. Continue reading here.


Continue reading here.


Originally published October 12, 2012.

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