The Democratic National Convention (DNC) is underway in Charlotte, N.C., this week. Some 30,000 to 35,000 are expected to attend the convention, plus an additional 15,000 members of the media are in the southern city to cover the event.
The DNC comes on the heels of an energized Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa that featured speakers who focused on the attributes of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his affection of family, his faith, and his ability to solve the nation's debt crisis. Political insiders predict the Democratic Party will paint Republicans as a party with old and dated ideas.
As ReligionToday.com reported, Tampa saw a scattering of Christian outreach events during the RNC, including street evangelists and a pre-convention rally sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Church leaders in Charlotte, however, seem to have stepped up its Christian witness compared to the RNC in Tampa.
On September 2, the eve of the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, a large non-denominational church service gathered at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater to pray for the city and the nation. Amphitheater officials estimate 9,000 social conservatives attended the service.
The free event, called Charlotte714, was based upon the biblical call to God's people in 2 Chronicles 7:14, which reads: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
“The eyes of the world are on Charlotte in September,” said David Benham, one of the business leaders organizing the Charlotte714 event. “We wanted to gather the night before the Democratic National Convention because it provided an incredible platform for our nation to see God’s church united in repentance and prayer for our country.”
The Charlotte714 team is lead by twin brothers David Benham and Jason Benham, founders of Charlotte-based Benham Companies. After retiring from professional baseball in 2002, the brothers moved to Charlotte and began building several companies throughout the U.S. and internationally.
While the nation might be watching Charlotte to hear what Democrats have to say, many who attended the service maintain the press certainly wasn’t watching. Or, if they were, the mainstream media didn’t report about Charlotte714.
“The Charlotte Observer unconscionably downplayed the Charlotte714 gathering,” said Warren Smith, associate publisher of WORLD Magazine, who lives in Charlotte. “The newspaper buried the story.”
Instead, Smith points out, the Charlotte Observer chose to lead with a front-page article featuring Occupy Wall Street protesters in Charlotte who had less than 1,000 participate.
“I haven’t seen a headline that big since the September 11 bombing,” said Smith. “Charlotte714 had five times as many in attendance, yet barely received coverage.”
Organizers of Charlotte714 maintain the nation is in a state of spiritual emergency. Alex McFarland, director of apologetics and Christian worldview at North Greenville University in South Carolina said the churches in America have become compromised and lukewarm.
“This was a cry to ask God to bring His hand of correction and blessing back to our nation,” said McFarland.
Critics of Charlotte714 accuse organizers of hosting an event intended to derogate or pray against the DNC. McFarland said, to be sure, there are politicians on both sides of the aisle that affirm positions that are unbiblical, but the list of egregious platform positions of the Democratic Party is growing more troublesome.
“[The DNC's] affirmation of gay marriage, the killing of unborn babies, the Islamic presence in our country, and the Democratic alienation of the nation of Israel is very concerning to evangelicals,” said McFarland.
Led by Justin Edwards, The Speak: Truth Project has teams in Charlotte engaging in street evangelism and open air preaching. Teams have embarked on evangelism outreach efforts in the Uptown Charlotte region and areas around the convention site. The ministry says it plans to distribute some 100,000 Gospel tracts as well as 1,000 180 DVDs produced by evangelist Ray Comfort.
Jumah at the DNC
On August 31, the Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs (BIMA) hosted an open-air “Jumah at the DNC” prayer at Marshall Park, near the site of the Democratic National Convention. Jumah, also known as Friday prayer, is a congregational prayer (salaat) that Muslims hold every Friday around noontime.
BIMA said it expected some 20,000 in attendance, but only about 300 Muslim attended the ceremony. The non-profit Muslim group said it coordinated two days of events that were unnamed. Last week host committee organizers quietly removed the Jumah from its Web site listings of officially DNC-sanctioned events.
The Patriot Act, the NYPD, the National Defense Authorization Act, and anti-sharia sentiment were all targets of the event.
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam and founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, claims BIMA simply used the Democratic Party to promote its Islamist agenda.
“The leaders of this event -- Jibril Hough and Imam Siraj Wahhaj -- [are not] moderates. They are radicals. These individuals embrace Islamist supremacy and have demonstrated support for radical ideologies,” Jasser wrote on his Web site.
Inside the Arena
Following presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered the closing benediction.
Cardinal Dolan opened his blessing by stating: “With firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, let us pray. Almighty God, Father of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, we beg your continued blessings on this sanctuary of freedom, and on all of those who proudly call America home. We ask your benediction upon those yet to be born, and on those who are about to see you at the end of this life. Bless those families whose ancestors arrived on these shores generations ago, as well as those families that have come recently, to build a better future while weaving their lives into the rich tapestry of America.”
Initially, the Obama-Biden campaign declined Dolan’s offer to call upon God for divine guidance, but a spokesperson for the archbishop of New York has confirmed that the cardinal will deliver a closing benediction Thursday at the Democratic convention.
News came Tuesday that the Democratic Party has taken the mention of God out of its 2012 platform. In regards to Israel, the Democratic Party has removed language recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The platform also removed language that called on the international community to isolate Hamas.
In 2008, the Democratic Party platform referred to its support of citizens having “the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.” For 2012, the phrase was re-written to read: “Each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us.”
By contrast, the Republican Party platform approved last week mentions God 12 times, an increase from two in the 2008 platform.
Some contend this move further demonstrates a hostility President Obama and the Democratic Party establishment have toward religion and people of faith.
“The 800-pound gorilla in the room is secular humanism,” said McFarland. “Removing all references to God is a clear indication that so many are committed to this path of godlessness.”
Russ Jones is a 25-year award-winning journalist and correspondent. He is co-publisher of various Christian news sites such as ChristianPress.com, OxfordFamily.com and a media consultant to a number of political and cause-oriented campaigns. He is also a freelance correspondent for the American Family Radio Network, a regular contributor for ReligionToday.com, Crosswalk.com and various Christian TV networks. Jones holds degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and St. Paul School of Theology. Russ is married to Jackie and together they have four children. He may be reached at [email protected] or Facebook.com/russjones.
Publication date: September 5, 2012