Why I Don’t Tally the “God” References at Political Conventions

I’m seeing a number of comparisons of the RNC and the DNC regarding the number of “God” references, and references to “Scripture” in speeches. Then there was that kurfuffle at the DNC about taking “God” out of the party platform, then re-inserting the language after it was put to the convention floor. I think God must have gone through a bit of an identity crisis there. At the very least, I’m sure he felt a bit self-conscious. (Do they like me? Do they not?).

On a CNN blog, a commenter posted this brief dialogue from the movie Spartacus, between politicians:

“I thought you had reservations about the gods.”

“Privately, I believe in none. Neither do you.
Publicly, I believe in them all.”

Our assessment of political discourse should be about issues, and their potential impact on human flourishing, the common good, and justice, etc., not about how many times God’s name is invoked or how many times “Scripture” is mentioned or cited. We know that every word in every speech is carefully measured and judged, by multiple people, for its potential political impact. Our God-talk is a matter of the heart–and only God knows how authentically–and for what reasons–we use it. So I guess I’m enough of a skeptic to neither be overly anxious nor overly impressed by the use of it in public, political discourse.

In sm, I’m more comforted when politicians talk about the freedom of religion as a sacred, American right, than when they talk about “God.”

About Kyle Roberts

(PhD) is Schilling Professor of Public Theology and Church and Economic Life at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Roberts has published Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God (Cascade, 2013) and is currently co-authoring a theological commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans) and A Complicated Pregnancy: Was Jesus Really Born of a Virgin? (Fortress Press, Theology for the People)