Hillary Clinton delivered a resplendent, American Odyssey of a speech last night. In so doing, she may have finally reanimated the increasingly lifeless campaign of her one-time rival, Barack Obama. Too, her address made nary a mention of religion and faith.
Michelle Obama also laid off the God Talk in her remarks on Monday. That's two nights in a row! Two nights in a row of what Republicans would have once dubbed as "godlessness" emanating from the featured speakers at the Democratic National Convention.
But the GOP is going to have a hard time making that talking point stick in 2008. This has everything to do with the development that I and many others have been charting over the past year: the Democrats have labored mightily, and mostly successfully, to erase their image as cultured despisers of religion. In the past few days, those of you who have been reading my colleagues here at "On Faith" have also learned that the Party is reaching out to faith-based communities at the convention. Check out the recent posts of Susan Thistlethwaite
, David Waters
and Sally Quinn
and you will see that Democrats are praying, witnessing, tambourining, gospeling, and occasionally evicting (!) uppity agnostics. We still have two more nights to go but these reports as well as my columns may (emphasis on "may") point to an emerging pattern: for the Democrats Prime Time = Secular Time. Of course, prime time was also secular time in 2004. In fact, all of 2004 was secular time in 2004. In 2008, by contrast, the secularism of 10 p.m.-11 p.m. is set within the context of a party at peace with religion for the rest of the day. Insofar as it is my job to cover the intersection of religion and politics, this lack of faith tinged oratory has the added advantage of permitting me to compose a short post. But in closing let me point to one phrase which I found to be important. Senator Clinton made reference last night to her support for "gay rights" and the remark struck me as not only brave and warranted, but also unusual. For next to discussions of Church/State relations, no issue has been more marginalized in faith-based politicking as much as the question of gay rights. As a matter of electoral expedience the subject is routinely downplayed or politely avoided when addressing conservative religious constituencies. I am not claiming that discussions of civil rights for gay persons can only occur under the auspices of a secular government. Rather, I ask you to ponder what kinds of issues can and cannot be raised in Faith and Values outreach as currently practiced in the United States.