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Posts Tagged ‘Democratic National Convention’

In the late ’90s, my wife and I spent almost four years living in Central Florida, where I was an editor for New Man magazine at Strang Communications. So, it’s been interesting this week to see two of our Florida acquaintances playing significant roles in the events of the just-concluded Democratic National Convention.

Cameron Strang, the founder of Relevant magazine, is the son of Christian publishing pioneer (and my old boss) Stephen Strang. Cameron was set to give the Monday-night benediction but later backed out and suggested a replacement in his friend, Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller. I think the attention that Cameron received from the national media for not praying at the convention was probably more significant than any closing prayer would have been, since he had opportunities to share his faith and ideas on major TV and radio broadcasts. The drama surrounding his decision to back out of the benediction (and to attend the DNC in the first place) was one of the big religion stories of the week. The bottom line: Barack Obama has struck a major chord with the younger generation of evangelical Christians that Cameron represents.

Then Pastor Joel Hunter had the honor and formidable task of leading the benediction on the closing night of the convention following Obama’s big speech. Joel is the senior pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Florida, a suburb of Orlando. My wife, Dana, and I attended Northland during our four-year tenure in the Sunshine State. We both came to know Joel as a thoughtful, authentic, and dynamic pastor/preacher who while clearly proclaiming the unadulterated Gospel of Christ also preached compassion, tolerance, and bridge-building to those who do not share our Christian faith. As far as pastors go, I wish I could’ve brought him back to Chicago with us when we moved home. 

Joel is a pro-life conservative who wrote an excellent book on the interaction of faith and politics called A New Kind of Conservative (earlier on he had self-published the book with the title Right Wing, Wrong Bird). Anyway, I’m sure Joel also heard from some conservative evangelicals who were upset about his participation in the DNC. And then, last night when he invited the audience to personalize their prayers by closing it in whichever way their faith tradition dictated (albeit Joel’s “In Jesus’ name” was the only closing that the TV audience could actually hear), I turned to my wife and said, “He’s gonna get flak for that one.” But that gracious gesture—and Joel’s confidence that his God is big enough to work through a prayer that respects the various beliefs of a pluralistic audience—is just like the Joel Hunter we remember.

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Tonight, exactly 45 years after Dr. King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, Barack Obama will officially accept the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. Quite heady stuff, given our nation’s bumpy history on the race-relations front. In commemoration, here are a few of the thought-provoking articles and reports I’ve encountered over the past week.

  • Does King+45=Obama? Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page connects the historic March on Washington to Barack Obama’s historic campaign and reflects on what it teaches Americans about themselves. 
  • Dr. King Goes to Washington. NPR’s Steve Innskeep interviews MLK biographer Taylor Branch and civil rights activist Roger Wilkins about that fateful day in which King flipped the script and declared, “I have a dream!”
  • From Washington to Denver. In this New York Times report by Michael Powell, veterans of the 1963 March on Washington who are in Denver this week for the Democratic convention reflect on the trials of the past and the hopes of the future.
  • Will Obama’s Rise Endanger Civil Rights? New York Times reporter Rachel Swarns surveys the ambivalent mood among some in the African American community regarding Barack Obama’s success. Awhile back, I posted about “Why White Supremacists Like Obama,” but this article examines what might be considered the opposite: Why some black civil rights leaders are dubious about an Obama presidency.
  • ObamaKids. Finally, in this essay from New York magazine, scholar and author John McWhorter speculates about how an Obama presidency could transform race relations in America simply through the symbolic signals it sends. He writes, “[I]f Obama becomes president, there will be a shift in the conception of race in this country that neither side in the culture wars can control. It’s all about youth. Think about it. If Obama is elected to two terms, an entire generation of 10-year-olds will come of age having been barely aware of anyone other than a black man in the White House.”

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Just for the record, I’m a registered Independent. Still, party politics is enthralling stuff, and I’ve been enjoying the Democratic National Convention this week. (I’m looking forward to the GOP’s convention next week, too.)

Here in Illinois, the Democrats currently rule the day. Those of you from the Land of Lincoln (and now Obama) know that the state’s top Democrats have been bickering amongst themselves so much and for so long that hardly anything gets done. It’s actually become something of a joke—a depressing joke. That’s why I was blown away by an excellent public radio report I heard on the way home from work today. Apparently, an unexpected gesture by U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. sparked a reconciliation hug fest among Illinois Democrats. I love stuff like that, whether it’s Democrats or Republicans. Read and listen to the story from WBEZ in Chicago here.

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