The Spectacle Blog

Politics Shrouded in God Talk

By on 6.2.06 | 2:43PM

Rep. James Clyburn, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, is touting a letter to the editor in the Washington Post today, "How Faith Works for Democrats." The headline belies Clyburn's meaning: Democrats don't work for faith but vice-versa. Here it is:

...Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) created the Democratic Faith Working Group more than a year and a half ago to remind the wider faith community of the public and personal faith narratives of Democrats.

Ms. Pelosi asked me to chair this initiative because, as she explained to me, she had noticed in my actions and expressions a deep commitment to faith-based issues. Ending poverty, increasing the minimum wage, protecting the innocence of children, improving education, preserving God's creation by protecting the environment, and fighting for social and economic justice are all faith-based causes. The values expressed are solidly rooted in the faith of the American people and in the policies of Democrats.

Those values form my spiritual foundation as well. As the eldest son of a fundamentalist minister, I went off to college fully expecting to follow in my father's footsteps. During my junior year, however, I had a change of heart, and when I informed my father of my decision, he replied, "Well, son, I imagine the world would rather see a sermon than hear one." That admonition became a guiding principle for my life as a public servant and aptly describes the attitudes of many of my Democratic colleagues.

We stand together for opening wide the doors of government, as we do with our church doors on Sunday mornings, to all people who yearn to participate, have a voice and make a difference.

Democrats who studiously adhere to Thomas Jefferson's doctrine of the separation of church and state are also rooted in Matthew's directive to provide for the least among us and are guided by James's admonition that "faith without works is dead."

We believe that the federal budget is a moral document in which our values are demonstrated through our spending priorities.

Any budget that favors the wealthy over working Americans, cuts aid to schoolchildren, slashes health care for veterans, underfunds first responders and reduces opportunities for those who are the least in our society is a budget that fails to keep faith with America's values.

This is what the Democratic Faith Working Group is all about.

First, it is worth nothing that this group has existed only since the Democrats lost the values vote in the 2004 election. Give them credit for recognizing the problem, albeit belatedly.

Second, this platform is indistinguishable from old-line liberalism. Democrats seem to think they can talk about God, say faith matches liberalism, and call it a day. They even present a Congressman who once considered the ministry, who says, "Hey! We go to church too!"

Americans of faith will recognize these attempts as the window dressing they are. Especially revealing is Clyburn's citation of the "Matthew's directive to provide for the least among us." Perhaps Clyburn is thinking of the Gospel of Matthew, in which Christ may have provided that directive. (Or maybe Clyburn thinks Matthew made up the Gospel?)

But more important is the Democrats' application of providing for the least among us. It also means safeguarding and loving the least among us, from the womb to natural death. For a man with a 100 percent rating from NARAL who has twice voted against partial birth abortion bans to preach about the "least among us" insults the public's intelligence.

This isn't faith motivating politics. It is faith "working for" politics -- the same old package repackaged and rebranded.

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