Religion gets prominent attention in convention speech

"Kerry found his faith voice," Beliefnet's Steven Waldman blogged last night. "Not surprisingly, the key that unlocked his spiritual closet was Vietnam." Indeed, as Max Cleland introduced the Democratic nominee, he said. "The Bible tells me that no greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friends." Then came a biographical film, where Kerry declared, "I am alive today because of the grace of a higher being."

Kerry's nomination acceptance speech also began with few references to faith and religion:

Home where my parents showed me the values of family, faith, and country. … [My mother] taught me to see trees as the cathedrals of nature. …
We believe in the family value expressed in one of the oldest Commandments: "Honor thy father and thy mother." As President, I will not privatize Social Security. …
We believe that what matters most is not narrow appeals masquerading as values, but the shared values that show the true face of America. Not narrow appeals that divide us, but shared values that unite us. Family and faith. Hard work and responsibility. Opportunity for all—so that every child, every parent, every worker has an equal shot at living up to their God-given potential.

But it was in the final moments of speech that Kerry went from vague references to faith to explicitly talking about religion.

When I am President, the government I lead will enlist people of talent, Republicans as well as Democrats, to find the common ground—so that no one who has something to contribute will be left on the sidelines. And let me say it plainly: in that cause, and in this campaign, we welcome people of faith. America is not us and them. I think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago, and I want to say this to you tonight: I don't wear my own faith on my sleeve. But faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side. And whatever our faith, one belief should bind us all: The measure of our character is our willingness to give of ourselves for others and for our country.

All pretty noncontroversial stuff. But then a few moments later, he vaguely referenced belief again:

What if we find a breakthrough to cure Parkinson's, diabetes, Alzheimer's and AIDS? What if we have a president who believes in science, so we can unleash the wonders of discovery like stem cell research to treat illness and save millions of lives?
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"A president who 'believes in science'—as opposed to what?" asks Waldman. "Ideology. Theology. That's the implication." But others point out that Kerry didn't say a word about abortion, a marked change from earlier campaign years.

What's important is that the Democrats have started to take back religion, says Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson. "It was about time the Democrats started fighting faith with faith," who notes that Kerry's quoting of Lincoln was one of the biggest crowd-pleasers. "The greatest hope that John Kerry offered last night was not so much anything he said in policy. It was in spirit," Jackson says. By referencing the Lincoln line, Kerry "held out the possibility of a less arrogant America."

Less arrogant than what? asks Matthew Continetti at The Weekly Standard. That Lincoln line is a standard in Bush speeches, too. "Some Democrats have argued cogently in recent months that their party suffers from a religion deficit," he writes. "In order to combat this deficit, the Kerry campaign has turned to American politics' most successful and prominent deployer of religious language: Bush."

Actually, Kerry and Bush are extremely different in their religious language, their connection to religious ritual, and their relationships with Jesus, says a profile of Kerry on Beliefnet. "John Kerry was never a Prodigal Son" like Bush, writes Deborah Caldwell. "His faith life illustrates not only the stylistic and theological differences between Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism, but also the differences between American Catholicism of an earlier generation and that which has grown in the last few decades." The full spiritual biography is worth a read.

Weblog hasn't seen reaction from the Christian pundits yet, but Concerned Women for America has an audio clip of spokeswoman Janice Crouse saying Kerry was "obviously very defensive about the fact that Bush is an evangelical Christian, and [he seems] to want to say, 'my faith is as good as your faith, so there.'"

The Globe has an article on the last words of the convention, the benediction of Kerry's pastor, John Ardis. As it turns out, he did make a vague reference to abortion, asking God to "guide every citizen of our United States to cherish all life." His reference to gay rights was more direct: "Give us the courage to embrace each person as our neighbor, regardless of gender, race, or ethnic origin, regardless of sexual orientation, religious tradition, or age."

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Other coverage of the Democratic National Convention:

  • Frank touts 'gay agenda' | Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank told a cheering Democratic National Convention last night that same-sex "marriage" is a primary goal of the homosexual wing of the Democratic Party (The Washington Times)
  • Pro-choice Catholics in Democratic delegation feel the heat | Some Catholic members of the Minnesota delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Boston, say bishops' report has put pressure on them to choose between their faith and their politics (Minnesota Public Radio)
  • Democrats make room for a display of religion | This week's Democratic convention featured invocations and benedictions from a Greek Orthodox archbishop, a Muslim imam, a rabbi, black preachers, a progressive Catholic priest and a few female pastors as well (The Washington Times)
  • Aborted language | Does the Democratic platform read pro-lifers out of the party? (World)
  • Hearts of stone | Millions of Americans accept that life begins at conception and still support legalized abortion (Gene Edward Veith, World)
  • Democrats are people of faith, too | The ballroom at the Sheraton Boston Hotel on Wednesday was filled with representatives from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths, including Evangelicals and Baptists, who said it was okay to mix politics and religion in an effort to fulfill long-standing goals of eradicating poverty and taking care of the most needy Americans (Fox News)

More articles


  • Governor approves abortion website | Some say he broke a promise not to change the state law (Anchorage Daily News)
  • Group opposes campaign limits | Right to Life fights ad constraints set by McCain-Feingold (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
  • Abortion group sues over campaign finance (Associated Press)

Alabama morning-after pill:

  • Alabama nurses quit over morning-after pill | Some nurses in Alabama's public health clinics have quit their jobs rather than administer the emergency contraception known as the morning-after pill. The nurses say they consider the drug to be the equivalent of abortion, and that goes against their beliefs (All Things Considered, NPR)
  • U.S. advises Alabama on contraception | The Alabama Department of Public Health is not required to distribute emergency contraceptives, also called "morning after pills," at its family planning clinics, the federal government said (Associated Press)

Life ethics:

  • Nanotechnology precaution is urged | Minuscule particles in cosmetics may pose health risk, British scientists say (The Washington Post)
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  • Faith and folly | The president's capitulation to the Christian right on stem cell research will cost him dearly among conservative-leaning Jewish voters (Rob Eshman, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles)

Church life:

  • Church rector handcuffed | Break-in call sparks encounter (The Boston Globe)
  • Singled out | The Presbyterian Church votes to pull funds from companies that do business with Israel (Jay Lefkowitz, The Wall Street Journal)
  • Church of England is losing millions | The church of England is losing millions of pounds because churches are increasingly unable or unwilling to pay their "taxes" into diocesan funds, figures show (The Telegraph, London)
  • Also: Churchgoers must give more or lose clergy | The Church of England is facing cuts in clergy numbers and new debts of millions of pounds because parishes are failing to put enough cash on the plate (The Times, London)
  • Fire-eating cleric amazes congregations | A Devon clergyman is proving to be hot stuff in the pulpit (PA, U.K.)
  • Peals of joy greet Braham church's lost bell | The church's bell, which rang out in the Isanti County town for worship, weddings, baptisms and funerals from 1922 until 1985, is back home (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
  • Also: Church bell is back after nearly 20 years | Many members of the Braham Evangelical Lutheran Church had thought their bell was long destroyed - after it had been sold for scrap metal to American Iron in Minneapolis when a 1985 fire burned the church (Associated Press)
  • Church uneasy about elected leader | Some LCMS community members are concerned about President Gerald Kieschnick (The News Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Ind.)
  • Sierra Leonean church leader absconds in US conference | Reverend Mondeh, superintendent of the United Methodist Church in Kono District is reported to have absconded in the United States of America while attending a conference (The Independent, Freetown, Sierra Leone)


  • Vatican reportedly criticizes feminism | An upcoming Vatican statement on the roles of men and women criticizes feminism for trying to ignore the biological differences between the sexes, German and Italian media reported Friday (Associated Press)
  • Vatican gags sex scandal bishop | An investigator sent by the Vatican to look into a sex scandal at seminary in Austria has banned the local bishop from talking to the media (BBC)
  • Malawi clerics caught canoodling | A Catholic priest and nun have been convicted in Malawi for making love in an airport car park (BBC)
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Church & state:

  • Church leaders under pressure | As the campaign for the upcoming election gets under way, Zanu PF is understood to be urging church leaders in Seke constituency to compel their congregations to attend a political rally scheduled for Sunday (Zimbabwe Independent)
  • Panel upholds ruling on Commandments | A federal appeals court judge in Cincinnati says a lower court's decision to remove a small poster of the Ten Commandments from a courthouse is an "absurdity" because the judge in that case rendered the decision in the shadow of a mural containing the commandments. But she was in the minority (The Washington Times)
  • Ruling puts prayers under renewed scrutiny | South Carolina case could change the way public-meeting invocations are delivered in South Hampton Roads and across the country (The Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads, Va.)
  • Humansville plaintiff to get $45,000 | A settlement was reached Wednesday in the federal lawsuit over the Humansville school district's Ten Commandments plaque and prayers at functions (News-Leader, Springfield, Mo.)
  • Also: Woman settles lawsuit over Ten Commandments plaque (Associated Press)
  • Council splits on atheist's invocation | In Tampa, three members walk out rather than listen. The mayor says the invocation should be reserved for believers in God (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)


  • Archeologists claim Essenes never wrote Dead Sea Scrolls | Israeli archaeologists now argue that Qumran "lacks any uniqueness" (Haaretz, Tel Aviv)
  • Tent revival lifts spirits in Evanston | To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Garrett Seminary returns to its roots, when churches of canvas spread the gospel on the frontier (Chicago Tribune)
  • Ancient find unearths past religious battles | A Roman font dating back more than 1,600 years has been unearthed in a Lincolnshire field. It is thought the find, which has been cut into pieces, reflects a period of religious tension in the country between Christianity and Paganism (Lincolnshire Echo, England)
  • Ceremony to mark 1704 end of Spanish missions | Chief Gilmer Bennett and about 30 other Apalachee Indians will return Saturday to Tallahassee to commemorate the 300th anniversary of their departure and the end of the Spanish missions in North Florida (Tallahassee Democrat, Fla.)

The Passion in Malaysia:

  • Restricted 'Passion' | Malaysia's Film Censorship Board has given "The Passion of the Christ" a U rating, uncut, opening it up to all ages, but has slapped on a surprise restriction: You have to be a Christian to see it (Variety)
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  • Malaysian censors say Passion is only for Christians | Officials have granted access to all ages when the picture opens in a few weeks by awarding the religious epic a U rating, but steered clear of opening it up to the south-east Asian country's non-Christian groups (The Guardian, London)


  • Taking God to the mat | An increasing number of folks are adding God to their health and fitness regimens (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Faith takes root and grows at biblical garden | The Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden has attracted gardeners and the faithful from across the country and the globe since it opened almost 20 years ago (Religion News Service)
  • Religion in the news: Sacred space | Why is it that the arches and open spaces of a cathedral inspire faith, yet so does the comfort and familiarity of a small country chapel? (Associated Press)


  • Gay group pressures congressman to return donation | Moderate Wolf took money from leader of anti-gay campaigns (Washington Blade, gay newspaper)
  • 'The Stops' marks a debut for DramaQueen | "Eric and I, two gay writers, actually end up showing theses characters more Christian compassion than some professed Christians show to gays. It's a real 'turn the other cheek' situation," says playwright Drew Emery (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
  • Psychologists to endorse gay marriage | Gay couples should be able to marry in civil ceremonies and, if they are parents, they deserve all the legal rights of straight parents, says a policy the American Psychological Association adopted Wednesday at its meeting here (USA Today)
  • Psychologists group backs gay marriage (Associated Press)

Social justice:

  • Doing well and doing good | Why a new golden age of philanthropy may be dawning (The Economist)
  • Empty bowls, heads and pockets | Malnutrition makes the poor less productive. To beat poverty, hunger must first be defeated (Editorial, The Economist)
  • 'Stigma has become a silent killer' | The Christian church must shoulder much of the blame for stigmatising those with HIV/Aids, says Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane (Sunday Times, South Africa)


  • Bill Cosby addresses black educators on Island | But this time the entertainer included Christians and educators in his tirade (The Beaufort Gazette, S.C., also in The Island Packet)
  • Former American hostage recounts ordeal | Gracia Burnham testified softly Thursday at the trial of eight al-Qaida-linked guerrillas (Associated Press)
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  • A redemption story | Youth ministry leader turns life around (The Herald, New York)
  • Beloved preacher's toughest challenge | "Giant in social justice" battling Lou Gehrig's disease (The Denver Post)


  • Guess who does all the work on the ark | In David Maine's The Preservationist, Noah's daughters-in-law put up with a lot to save the world (The Christian Science Monitor)
  • Problem isn't fictional book, but big picture | Some church leaders are aghast. Predictably, their problem with The Da Vinci Code is sex (Steve Gushee, Palm Beach Post)
  • "Book-burning" controversy | It's not your typical book-burning, but the meaning's the same. The Jesus Church in Cedar Rapids is getting rid of books, music, movies and clothing they say harms their relationship with God (KWWL, Waterloo, Ia.)


  • Jamming for Jesus | Though officially illegal, the capital's last Messianic Youth Ministry continues to recruit local Jewish teens (The Jerusalem Post)
  • Leap of faith | For today's Christian rockers, the music is the message (The Daily Camera, Boulder, Co.)
  • Mainstream airplay vaults Christian group to a higher place | Mainstream success has brought Christian rockers MercyMe a bumper crop of mainstream fans (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
  • Christian artist tries to reach people's hearts | He's not the Jonathan Jackson of "General Hospital" fame, but the 28-year-old contemporary Christian musician from Huntington might still have a prescription for an ailing heart (The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W. Va.)
  • Finding my religion | Hip-hop gets the Spirit (MTV)
  • Rock 'n' religion | Worlds co-exist, collide (The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wa.)

More articles:

  • University of Oklahoma changes policy on funding campus religious publications | Christian student newspaper had sued (The Oklahoman)
  • The best place for George W. Bush is back at the ranch | Back in 2000 I hailed the election to the presidency of George W. Bush, mainly because he was a Christian. I should have known better (Garth George, The New Zealand Herald)
  • Church brings Bible to the blind | Messiah Lutheran Church has a press that makes biblical tracts for blind people around the country and the world, and the church needs some fresh manpower a few hours per month to assemble books for the blind (McKinney Messenger, Tex.)
  • Keep the hate alive | Troubled water is just what Bishop Peric wants to flow between the Muslim and Christian parts of the sundered Herzegovinian capital (The Guardian, London)
  • Religion news in brief | Twin Cities' third openly gay ELCA pastor, some New Hampshire Episcopalians quit over gay bishop while others enlist, College students' views vary markedly by religion, and other stories (Associated Press)
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