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August 22, 2008

Donald Miller to Give DNC Benediction

The author will replace Relevant founder Cameron Strang, who pulled out of the prayer earlier.

Best-selling author Donald Miller will give a benediction Monday night at the Democratic National Convention. He replaces Relevant Magazine founder and CEO Cameron Strang, who decided not to give the benediction at the Democratic National Convention as previously planned.

Christianity Today featured Miller on its cover in June 2007, and his spirituality book Blue Like Jazz has sold more than one million copies.

"Don is one of the top names among young evangelicals," said Joshua DuBois, director of religious affairs for the Barack Obama campaign. "We didn't think he would do it. We're just ecstatic. I love Blue Like Jazz myself. I think it sends a huge signal that someone who's is helping to lead off the conventions is an evangelical of his calibre."

I spoke to Miller this morning.

Why did you choose to accept the invitation?
Somebody calls you and asks you to pray, you do.

You get three minutes to pray? Have you thought about what you're going to pray?
I've not written the prayer yet, but I really wanted to hone in on the theme of unity, even unity between Republicans and Democrats. In the convention, as we highlight our differences that we wouldn't forget that we're unified, we have more in common than we don't. That's the focus of the prayer.

Cameron Strang was in that slot before and said that people perceived the prayer as showing favoritism. Are you worried you'll receive the same reactions?
I'm not. I'm a registered Democrat. While that's perceived as black or white, or hostile toward the Republican Party, I grew up in the Republican Party. I even attended as a kid the Republican National Convention when it was in Houston when Bush Sr. was running against Clinton. I changed parties about five years ago. I really felt like the Republican Party was taking advantage of the evangelical community by throwing us abortion and gay marriage, really not giving the heart of Christ more thought. I felt like it was the party of the extremely wealthy and they needed this conservative base in order to get a majority and so they pandered to us.

(The rest of the Q & A is posted after the jump.)

I felt used by the Republican Party in that sense. I started looking at the Democratic Party and looking at social issues that are affecting the world, seeing the presidency and Congress from a global perspectives. Even though many Democrats don't identify themselves as evangelicals, many of the precepts of the party, charitable foundation of the party did reflect what evangelicals are about, the sanctity of human life, the importance of really not leaving people behind. I don't think either party is the answer to the world's problems. I lean toward solutions the Democrats seem to favor.

Where do you stand on issues like abortion and gay marriage?
The issue of abortion is a very sensitive one and it's an important issue. I look at from a perspective of, what's the best that we can do. As we elect a Republican House and Senate, and as we elect Republican leadership in the executive branch, we see very little changes on that issue. We're electing someone who agrees with us on abortion, being sort of a tragedy in our country, and yet can't get anything done. It's kind of like saying, I want a pilot on my plane who feels this way about abortion, but he can't fly the plane. The executive branch doesn't have that much power, it has some power, but it doesn't have much power. You look at the reality of that and say, what can I do to defend the sanctity of all human life, including the living, and the marginalized and the oppressed and the poor? What can we do to better social conditions so that less women are put in situations where they feel like they need to have an abortion. What does looking at the issue holistically look like. I hope the Democrats will listen to those of us who lean toward pro-life and those changes can be made.

In terms of gay marriage, I see it as a constitutional issue. Until we become a theocracy, I think that judges should look at it from a constitutional issue. Whether I think homosexuality's wrong, personally? America is not God's country. It's not considered a Christian nation anymore. You have to look at everybody, not just Christians and say, what are the rights of these people based on this constitution. That's another difficult issue as well. I get a bit frustrated when the evangelical position is reduced to two issues. So many other issues are not a concern to us. What happened was, in my opinion, the Christian positions has been reduced in order to manipulate us. If we give them these two issues, we can do whatever we want.

I assume that means you support Barack Obama? What do you think he will do as president that would appeal to evangelicals?
This is one of the reasons I was attracted to obama and read his book and wanted to take him seriously as a candidate. If you look in the last eight years, we have lost our reputable standing among most nations. Certainly among many poor nations and Muslim nations, we're not very respected. There's a great deal of hostility against us. As we travel the world, America represents Christianity to the rest of the world. What we have is Christianity being represented by what is perceived as arrogance, bullying, an inability to negotiate peace, an inability to listen. People assume that Christianity is that way. You ask yourself, what sort of person might God rise up to heal the wounds that have been created by that kind of positioning in the world. You would think a very intelligent minority, who came not out of wealth, who's not only power position in Washington, D.C., a man who's more thoughtful in his answers and less bullyish, not as simple of a thinker, even as reality is not simple, a man who has spent part of his upbringing overseas and has connections with Kenya, that's the guy. A name like Barack Obama, you just kind of go, that would be the guy that God would choose to heal some of the wounds that we've caused in the world. That's what made me take him seriously. I read his book, listened to his speeches, asked myself some of those hard questions. When all the math was done, he edged out as a favorable as a favorable candidate for me.

Do you see yourself as a person who plans to be more involved in political activism?
I'm a writer. That's my calling. I'm not a pastor. I'm a believer. I write about spirituality. I have political opinions that may not have more worth than anybody else. In this instance, when someone calls and asks you to come and pray, I say yes. I'm a supporter of this candidate, and I think that's great. After I came out on a blog and expressed about the Bush administration, they invited me to the White House and had breakfast with the president's assistant. I enjoyed that and enjoyed them as people. When someone asks you to come, you come, and you have a conversation. I don't see this as an, "I'm against Republicans." That's not that kind of a move. This is about any believer who's called and asked to come and pray. No matter you're called to pray, you go.

Comments

I find it at least intriguing that Miller jumped parties. I personally come from a more strongly Republican past, and now, in a manner similar to Miller, am uncomfortable with how the GOP seems to manipulate through a couple of main issues. Yet completely jumping to another party? Surely he doesn't think the left has it all together?

Maybe it's just my general caution against entirely throwing my lot in with any politician or party.

What an interesting choice by the Democrats.

He mentions that the Executive branch doesn't have much power. This ignores the ability that the next president will have to appoint the next Supreme Court justice, moving the court from 4 conservative justices, to potentially five (pro life?) justices. That's actually a lot of power. At the very least Stevens will step down, perhaps even Ginsburg given her health.

"America is not God’s country. It’s not considered a Christian nation anymore."
"As we travel the world, America represents Christianity to the rest of the world. What we have is Christianity being represented by what is perceived as arrogance, bullying, an inability to negotiate peace, an inability to listen. People assume that Christianity is that way."

Does Donald think America is a Christian nation or not? I'm not sure if it matters, but he seems to be going both ways.

Upon hearing this, my first gut reaction didn't fit within the CT poll: Do you think Miller is being played?

I hate political rhetoric and marketing. And I see politicians on every side choosing who they do to swing voters... and voters aren't usually all that savvy. They vote emotionally and with popularity. And that's the sad state of things.

If Miller prayed at a less high-profile event, my gut response would be different. I see what he means about accepting invitations to pray anywhere. But do politicians really want prayer? Or are they using God's good invitations as stumps? That they chose two young evangelicals (the first bowed out) is telling... It appears they want the young evangelical vote more than they really want prayer.

In short, are they asking Miller for prayer or using that as an excuse to show his face?

I think the kind of intelligent thought Donald Miller exhibits in his reasoning is a great example for the rest of us. We have had strongly pro-life, republican presidents for many years who have done nothing on the issue. While I don't want to see the abortion issue get worse or marriage be any more obfuscated than it is, I want to see a heart of genuine compassion behind U.S. policy. The Machiavellian policies of the Bush administration (politicizing the DoJ, backhanded politics, bullying foreign policy, etc.) have led me to think that my trust in Bush's Christianity was misplaced.

Stalin called people like Don "useful idiots." Of course he murdered them after they had served their purpose. If Don thinks his evangelical agenda items will be furthered if he lends his name in helping the Democrats and Obama gain power, I think he is sadly mistaken. Either the Dems are manipulating Don, or Don is manipulating us. In either case, he has gone to the dark side. When one willingly supports the demonic, God will ask for an accounting.

First off, I'm Canadian & so, naturally, can't vote. But given that, "When the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold," I'll hazard throwing in my 2 cents anyway. I can't stand how so many unthinkingly buy into the Dem's empty claims to care more about the poor, etc. This is nonsense. By any and all measureable standards, political conservatives are far more generous and charitable than are political liberals. Re: Miller's claim that the GOP is "the party of the extremely wealthy." What?!? That may have been true several decades ago, but it's virtually the exact opposite now.

To those who call themselves CHristians, I canot understand how you cannot support marriage as God inteneded. Between a man and woman. In addtion, there are a mujltitude of sins, however, God called homosexuality an "abomination" If you get Obama, you will get gay marriage, so you can quit your bellyaching. Maybe it will give you time to read your Bible and get caught up on Gd's Word. It is a lot different than you get from the press.

I am thrilled (a bit of sarcasm) that people like Dale and David are representing us as Christians. I, as a Democrat, have no problem believing that Republicans can be Christian while having real and thoughtful belief that the party that they are supporting is the one that will bring about the most good and be best for the country. Why do so many Republican Christians feel that my choice to be a Democrat somehow negates my belief in Christ or comes from a desire to harm the US or bring about the US's destruction. Surely that type of uncharitable reading of my motives (or my salvation) does not further the cause of Christ.

I read the book "Blue Like Jazz". Now I have better understanding of the liberal approach Don Miller uses. If he believes that having Obama in leadership will improve U.S. image, I disagree. All Iran and other extremists are waiting for is for "so-called negotiaters" to head up our nation. Think about what made this nation great! It was not weak, back-down and let everyone just hang out, do your own selfish thing leadership. It was men of integrity, who were there to do the very best for the nation, not to vote people a dole, make problems, blame others;then try to fix them. The choice of Joe Biden is possibly the best, because he represents everything wrong with the Democratic Party. Re-think, Don Miller!

It is pathetic when you who are supposedly Christians can have such a slavish mentality ruled by republicans. Let me First remind you that the following were or still are Republicans, Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, Charles Tilton, W V, Grant, and most recently Todd Bentley, who was sponsored by the evangelical republican ministry community in Florida. Jesus called us not to be democrats or republicans but to seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness, and when we understand that as Christians we will rejoice that His Kingdomn is neither republican or democrat.His injuction is for us to pray for leaders and not for us to judge them. Remember He is the Ruler of The Kings of The Earth, and His ability is beyond your understanding or imagination

Don Miller states that he feels the Republican Party is a "party of the wealthy." My immigrant family and relatives and others like those were never wealthy, just believers in God's Word, righteous living, and attempted to follow Biblical principles. "No blood on the land..i.e. abortion; no unholy union..i.e. homo agenda and fight for the privileges not belonging to a male/female union.
Let's examine some Democratic leaders and count the dollars(wealth): Franklin Roosevelt, the Kennedy clan, Jesse Jackson, John Kerry, Donald Miller....As a child of an all-out labor union supporter and Democrat voter, I can tell you that I am now married to a Swedish heritage male, whose family worked very hard for their every dollar, did not receive any aid, have always been very charitable, and who convinced me that the Republican Party offers the best chance for greatness as a nation. Please examine the evidence!

People, please think about this. If you vote for the Democratic party I believe that you fall into one of the two following categories:

1) Believing that abortion and gay marriage are not sins.
2) Believing that abortion and gay marriage are sins, but that by being more generous towards the poor and the needy you can somehow make up for condoning and/or inadvertently approving of them.

Honestly, I believe that both of these possibilities are WRONG in God's eyes. Now I'm not saying anything about the Republican party, but I believe that God first desires obedience and then He'll accept your offerings. Please correct me if I'm mistaken.

Peace,
Brian

Adam, I think it is interesting that say I am Repulican, when I never alluded to it. There are many conservative Democrats that are against abortikon and gay marriage, just as there are many republican who are pro choice,pro gay marriage and do not claim to be Christian. So it must be that anyone who disagrees with you is a conservative Republican who is wrong in their political stance?

Obama is a political nothing with so little knowledge of world affdasirs, that he will be a puppet to those that share your wildest dreams.. I would have voted Hillary over McCain.

Elizabeth,

Don is saying that he (as an American) does not see the U.S. as a Christian nation. However, if you go to any Muslim country, they see the actions of the U.S. government as being Christian, Hollywood movies and TV as being Christian, tourists as being Christian, etc. This is mainly due to most Muslims living in theocracies.