- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2000

There were prayers for the unborn and declarations that homosexuals "all were created by God."
The Democratic National Convention last week included a wide appeal to religion, but it was a departure from a secular image that once aimed to harmonize the party's diverse interest groups.
This time, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony opened the four-day assembly with a pro-life prayer, and homosexual rights leader Elizabeth Birch declared that gays "all were created by God." She cited four persons who were killed, victims of hate crimes, including a young Christian girl shot at a Southern Baptist church.
Vice-presidential nominee Joseph I. Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, mentioned God eight times in his speech, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts extolled unselfishness, and Vice President Al Gore made clear his religious roots.
"My parents taught me that the real values in life aren't material, but spiritual," the Democratic presidential nominee said in his acceptance speech.
The bold embrace of religion at a Democratic National Convention has not been seen since Jimmy Carter, a Baptist governor and Sunday school teacher, was president. Moreover, the secular patina has been replaced by a culture interested in religious diversity, Democrats said.
"This is a positive development," said John Cranley, a Democrat with a Harvard Divinity School degree who is running for Congress in Cincinnati.
"With the diversity among Democrats, we never wanted to impose one particular vision," Mr. Cranley said of past secular mantras.
Today, the religious roots of liberal reform are being embraced and Democratic activists are more comfortable with religious symbols, said Mr. Cranley, a pro-life Roman Catholic.
"We'll always mix religious and secular symbols," he said. "American democracy has borrowed from religious faith the very reason we care about people, the God-given dignity of each person."
Prayers at the Democratic National Convention were said by Maher Hathout of the Islamic Center of Southern California; Robert Wexler, president of the University of Judaism; and Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
In addition to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, two other black clergy prayed aloud or spoke, including the Rev. Susan Johnson Cook of the Bronx Christian Fellowship in New York.
"I have never seen a convention that didn't show [silent] respect to each day's opening and closing prayers," said the Rev. James Wall, a United Methodist who has attended six Democratic assemblies.
He agreed that a religious voice has returned. "The culture is shifting," he said. "There's a greater acceptance of expression of religion."
When Cardinal Mahony prayed that lawmakers protect all life, "especially unborn children," he stirred comment among delegates.
"No one could recall a Catholic prelate doing something quite so overt," said Mr. Wall, a floor whip for the Illinois delegation.
In a prelude to Mr. Gore's acceptance speech, Episcopal Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon of Washington, wearing a clerical collar, moderated a panel of his friends, and Tipper Gore's video presentation spoke of her daily prayers when her husband served in Vietnam.
Those images included the spire on Vanderbilt Divinity School, where Mr. Gore studied, a cross against the sky, and Mr. Gore shaking hands with Pope John Paul II.
The main rhetoric of the week wove conventional faith with old-time liberalism, or what theologians call a "prophetic voice."
During one night showcasing liberals, Mr. Kennedy evoked the secular altruism of John F. Kennedy's "New Frontier." He quoted his brother that the health care fight was "between the public interest and private comfort."
"Will we comfort the comfortable, or will we strengthen the fabric of this country for all Americans?" Mr. Kennedy said.
Mr. Gore, for his part, said "bean-counters" at health maintenance organizations "don't have the right to play God."
As a Southern Baptist vowing to take on the powerful, he drew on a motto learned from Christian teachers at St. Albans Episcopal School in his youth: Choose the "hard right over the easy wrong."
"The white liberals were eager to make that case for the old Social Gospel, but without reference to the transcendent or to Jesus," Mr. Wall said. "You often have to do that in a secular, non-Christian setting."
When Sen. Bob Graham of Florida tied Democratic policy to the authority of "honor thy father and thy mother," he cited "the book of Exodus," not mentioning the Ten Commandments.
Mr. Jackson set a prophetic tone, warning that politics can compromise one's "morality and conscience" just to win.
"In the end, if it is morally right, politics and popularity have to adjust to the unyielding power of the moral center," he said.

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