Democrats’ theology of togetherness

AP Sister Simone Campbell addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. “We believe,” thundered former … Continued


Sister Simone Campbell addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012.

“We believe,” thundered former President Bill Clinton in his epic, wonky, off-roading oration, “that ‘we’re all in this together’ is a far better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.’” True that, and it’s a far better theology than anything the Democrats have ever come up with–ever!–in their past few years of faith and values politicking.

In many ways night two of the Democratic National Convention was a coming out party for the New Democratic Theology, a liberal theology, a theology of togetherness (and a theology whose internal tensions were evident in a disastrous day two).

It was evident in the words of Sister Simone Campbell who, once she had finished thoroughly wrapping Wis. Congressman Paul Ryan’s knuckles (with a ruler of love, of course), then proceeded to declare: “our faith strongly affirms that we are all responsible for one another.”

But Campbell, who killed Wednesday night (again with a ruler of love) wasn’t done with the togetherness stuff. “I am my sister’s keeper, I am my brother’s keeper,” she averred. And, yes, the biblical scholar in me does draw your attention to the gendered gloss she placed on Genesis 4:9. That is to say, she feminized the verse in the context of a roiling conflict between many American nuns and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All of which is a nun’s polite and understated way, if you ask me, of saying “it’s on.”

She would continue to speak of “shared responsibility,” and “shared faith.” Lest some one out there miss the point, she invited her audience to “join us together” in the task of caring for the “one hundred percent.”

The togetherness theme pervaded and reinvigorated even the stalest clichés in the Blue Faith and Values Handbook. Massachusetts’ Democratic candidate for Senate Elizabeth Warren did what Democratic speakers have done for years and cited Matthew 25: 40. But then she did something different and offered this exegesis of the verse: “The passage teaches about God in each of us, that we are bound to each other and called to act. Not to sit, not to wait, but to act — all of us together.”

All of this nocturnal togetherness came on the heels of division in the light of day. The party, as I noted earlier, felt it might be a swell idea to revisit ructions concerning the absence of the terms “God” and “Jerusalem” in the platform. Interestingly, the floor fight that the Democrats helpfully staged (and filmed) for their Republican adversaries Wednesday afternoon, touches on a fault line all too well known to liberal theology.

As is noted in Gary Dorrien’s three-volume study, “The Making of American Liberal Theology,” liberal theologians have often been tarred as being shameful allies of nonbelievers (if not nonbelievers themselves) by their conservative brethren. As for Jerusalem, suffice it to say that recent liberal theological coalitions have been shattered by the anti-Zionist positions of groups who otherwise share every imaginable political position with pro-Israel Jews in the liberal denominations.

Perhaps the 2012 Democratic National Convention will be remembered as the moment that a liberal theological worldview roared. That it did so having to shout down longstanding divisions about godlessness and Israel is altogether fascinating.

Jacques Berlinerblau is associate professor and director of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University. His next book “How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom” will be released in September. He is also the host of SecularCenter. Follow him on Twitter @Berlinerblau

More on: ,
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.