5 diverse appeals to God that were just made during the Republican National Convention
Posted July 26, 2016
As critics continue to warn that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump might face roadblocks when it comes to courting minority faiths, there's something quite interesting unfolding at the Republican National Convention last week.
Individuals and faith leaders from a diverse array of religious backgrounds are delivering invocations and benedictions throughout each session — prayers that offer intriguing lenses into the divergent beliefs held by conservative Americans.
The roster started off with Orthodox Rabbi Ari Wolf — a chaplain with the Cleveland Police Department — who opened the convention on Monday by invoking God to bless and to protect Americans from ever-present dangers.
"Lord God, we live in perilous and dangerous times. Today, our beloved country is under attack," Wolf said. "Our family values and our moral principles and even our very democracy is threatened."
He continued, "We beseech you for your continued watchfulness and protections as we renew our covenant of faith with you and with each other."
See what he had to say here.
Christian Pastor Mark Burns of Harvest Praise and Worship Center in South Carolina later offered up the benediction on Monday — a speech that ended up raising eyebrows, as some saw his comments and prayer as too political.
"We are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ," Burns said. "We've got to be united because our enemy is ... Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party."
Watch Burns' benediction here.
Later that night, Monsignor Keiran Harrington of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn delivered another invocation, with Christian Pastor Paula White of the New Destiny Christian Center capping the night off with yet another benediction.
See White's address here.
But, last Tuesday, the Republican National Convention ramped up the diversity factor. In addition to the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish leaders who had delivered prayers from the stage the previous day, Harmeet Dhillon — a Sikh attorney from California — was also invited to deliver an invocation.
Dhillon, who was born in India, sang the invocation in the Punjabi language before translating it for the audience in English, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"Please give us the courage to make the right choices, to make common cause with those with whom we disagree, for the greater good of our nation," she said, explaining the background behind her Sikh prayer for the audience.
Watch Dhillon's invocation here.
And it didn't end there. The night was capped off with a benediction from Sajid Tarar, founder of the group American Muslims for Trump.
While Tarar prayed for peace and against terror, a man in the audience reportedly stood up and repeatedly shouted "No Islam!" though others in the room attempted to quiet him down. During the invocation, Tarar prayed "to get our country back" and spoke about his views surrounding the values of the nation's next leader.
"The values reflected by our leader must reflect the values of our forefathers," he said.
See Tarar's benediction here.
The convention, which is scheduled to reconvene at 7:30 on Wednesday evening, will include an invocation from Nathan Johnson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a benediction from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, according to the convention schedule.
Thursday's events will also include the Rev. Steve Bailey, pastor of New Philadelphia First United Methodist Church in Ohio, and Roger W. Gries, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus with the Diocese of Cleveland.
The diversity of the invocation and benediction speakers comes amid ongoing debate surrounding some of Trump's past policy proclamations, including a proposed ban on Muslims coming to the U.S.
The candidate's wife, Melania Trump, seemingly attempted to temper concerns in her own address to the convention on Monday night, telling the audience that her husband "intends to represent all the people, not just some of the people," before citing "Christians and Jews and Muslims," among other groups.
Those comments also came after reports that the Trump campaign has been quietly courting Muslim Americans in recent months.
But while Muslims might also have hesitations surrounding Trump, the Jewish Forward reported that some Jews — a cohort that has traditionally voted Democrat but that Republicans were making inroads with in recent elections — are less than enthusiastic about the GOP nominee.
According to the outlet, donations from Jews are "at an all-time low" and some are reportedly boycotting the convention.
The recent Star of David debate raised concerns of anti-Semitism among some — criticisms that the Trump camp firmly denied. The battle unfolded after Trump tweeted an image critical of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton that included a six-pointed star, money and the line, "Most corrupt candidate ever."
Trump's camp has repeatedly denied that there was any anti-Semitism at play.
Summarizing the candidate's apparent plight, Armin Rosen wrote this week, "It’s been decades since a major party presidential candidate had a harder case to make to American Jewish voters than Donald Trump."
But while Rosen outlined Trump's challenges, he also noted that Trump is surrounded by Jewish friends, colleagues and family members — moreso than many other major party candidates have been.
The writer explained that Trump's daughter, Ivanka, became an Orthodox Jew back in 2009 and that her husband, Jared Kushner, is one of his advisers. Other prominent individuals within the Trump Organization are also Jewish.
While some Jews might remain uncertain about where they stand on Trump, the Jewish Forward also reported on some Jewish Republicans who have gone from doubting to supporting the candidate — with some doing so based, in part, on his support for Israel.
Only time will tell whether Trump will successfully appeal to wider swaths of Muslims, Jews and other minority faith groups.
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