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Religious Diversity: Evangelical, Mormon, Jew, Greek Orthodox & Sikh Leaders Deliver RNC Prayers

Faith

"Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed."

Faith has a way of intersecting and impacting the political schema. The Republican National Convention (RNC), for instance, is an example of how this dynamic plays out. Religion in politics, though not a new phenomenon, is fascinating to see evolve. The religious right -- and the religious left -- have played viable roles in policy and electoral politics for decades. At this week's RNC, the prevalence and presence of faith-based sentiment has been more than noticeable.

Earlier this week, TheBlaze published a list of five ways in which faith and religion would matter at the RNC. Among the reasons mentioned was Mitt Romney's The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints membership -- a factor that has been talked about in great detail over the past few months and years. As we've noted, the candidate has been criticized before for allegedly being too silent about his beliefs.

With Romney slated to address the nation tonight, there's a chance he'll rebuff these critiques and tackle his faith head-on. In a similar manner, he gave a talk about Mormonism back in 2007 in an effort to spawn greater understanding (read extensive analysis about this here). Based on other convention speakers' comments, there's been evidence that his LDS faith will be a part of tonight's speech. Let's recap some of these elements.

On Tuesday, while Ann Romney, the candidate's wife, didn't get into extensive detail about her family's Mormon faith, she did bring up his charitable giving -- something that, arguably, is an effect of his LDS membership.

Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, too, brought up religion during his Wednesday night address. Aside from speaking directly against President Barack Obama and highlighting how a Romney-Ryan White House would be far more beneficial to Americans, Ryan addressed the candidates' faith. MyFoxLA.com has more:

Paul Ryan touched on his Catholic faith and Mitt Romney's Mormon faith in accepting the Republican nomination for vice president Wednesday night.

"Mitt and I also go to different churches. But in any church, the best kind of preaching is done by example.  And I've been watching that example," Ryan said. "The man who will accept your nomination (Thursday) is prayerful and faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best. Not only a fine businessman, he's a fine man, worthy of leading this optimistic and good-hearted country.

"Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed," Ryan continued. "We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope.  Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life."

This further fuels speculation surrounding whether Romney will also address his Mormon faith during tonight's speech (watch Ryan's address here). After all, it's quite possible that his wife and his running mate were essentially greasing the wheel for Romney prior to his much-anticipated address by invoking themes pertaining to his religious adherence.

With The Associated Press reporting that Romney will, indeed, delve into his faith, particularly when it comes to his assistance to families in need when he was a church leader in Boston, tonight is certain to be telling. In addition to discussing his faith -- a subject that it seems his wife was preparing the audience for, the outlet claims he will also outline what a Romney presidency would look like.

The overall event, the AP reports, "is aimed at introducing the sometimes stiff and distant politician as a businessman, Olympic savior and deeply religious family man."

Regardless of what Romney, his wife and Ryan have already said (or will say this evening), the RNC has ensured that there has been a hefty -- and diverse -- religious presence at this year's event (who could forget the very shiny prayer room we already told you about?). Faith leaders from across a wide array of belief systems -- evangelical, Mormon, Jew, Greek Orthodox and Sikh, among others -- were included in official RNC blessings.

To begin, on Tuesday, Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of Yeshiva University’s Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, opened the proceedings with an invocation.

"It is extraordinary privilege to deliver an invocation at a cherished ritual of American democracy," Soloveichik told the audience. "The fact that I have been teaching courses about the connection between Jewish ideas and American democracy makes this moment all the more meaningful for me."

Watch his blessing, here:

The convention was then closed on Tuesday by The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Coalition. The faith leader's inclusion in the event was particularly noteworthy, because he has criticized the GOP on some of its immigration stances. However, he apparently felt compelled to appear and participate at the event, giving Romney a boost he may need among Hispanic voters.

Prior to the convention, he described his prayer as one striving "for reconciling righteousness with justice, truth with civility, Billy Graham’s message with Dr. King’s march." Charisma News has more about the prayer that Rodriguez inevitably offered up (a prayer that, coincidentally, included this very preview line):

Rodriguez prayed that in the midst of moral relativism and spiritual apathy, America would receive a fresh outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. ...“Let Your Spirit move us, reconciling sanctification with service, holiness with humility, the image of God with the habits of Christ, righteousness with justice, and Billy Graham’s message with Martin Luther King’s dream—a dream expressed so eloquently by him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on this very day nearly 50 years ago.”

He concluded the prayer, saying that "we gather here in Tampa, empowered by Your Spirit, believing that God is not done with America, and America is not done with God."

See Rodriguez's message, below:

And on Wednesday, Ishwar Singh, head priest at the Sikh Society of Central Florida, opened the convention with a prayer and some brief comments. Following the tragic shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin just weeks ago, this appearance was an effort that potentially served to both heal and educate the public about a faith system that is rather unknown to many (learn about Sikhism here).

Here are some highlights from Singh's address (he was the first Sikh leader in history to offer an invocation at the RNC):

“It is a great honour for me to be here today as a Sikh and as an American. I am proud that my country cherishes the values of freedom, equality and dignity." [...]

“We are deeply saddened by recent acts of violence, including the mass shooting of Sikh-Americans in our gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Let us end hate against all people and remember that we truly are one nation under God,” he said.

“This evening, as we come together at the Republican National Convention to help decide the future of our nation, let us remember love and oneness." [...]

“Nanak nam chardi kala, tere bhane sarbat da bhala. In the Name of God, Vaheguru, we find everlasting optimism. Within Your Will, we pray for the upliftment of all humanity.”

Watch his full address, below:

And the diversity doesn't end there. Following Ryan's speech on Wednesday evening, Metropolitan Methodios, a spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, offered the closing benediction. While Archbishop Demetrios of America was originally slated to deliver the message, travel complications made doing so an impossibility.

Here's the complete transcript of Metropolitan Methodios' address to the audience:

Let us pray,

"O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of truth Who is ever present and fills all things, the Treasure of all blessings and source of life, we beseech you to dwell in our hearts" (1) as we hold in prayer our brethren who suffer the ravages of Hurricane Isaac. Embrace them in your love and keep them safe. Enable us to reach out to them in acts of philanthropy and generosity.

As we close this evening's program, we pray that You bless and inspire the delegates of this Republican Convention to be your devoted servants and dedicated citizens of our great country. They have nominated two of your faithful sons, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, to serve the highest offices of this beloved land, a nation which has always opened its embrace to welcome "the tired, the poor and the huddled masses, all the tempest tossed to breathe free" (2) a nation that has always been a model of peace, justice and the rule of law. Shine in the hearts of the nominees of this convention the radiant light of Your divine will.  Imbue them and Chairman Reince Priebus, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with insight, wisdom, and boldness, with courage, compassion and competence.

Tonight, we remember the intrepid members of our armed forces who place themselves in harm's way in defense of our freedom, and like our Founding Fathers, are steadfast in keeping America the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

May every American be more sensitive:

To the neglected and forgotten

To those who have been victims of discrimination and crime

To those who are hungry and homeless

To those with no jobs and little hope

Help us, Lord, to break down the walls of enmity and distrust, and show us the way to a new era of peace, equality and opportunity. Strengthen the hand of America as it reaches out to clasp the hands of our brethren throughout the world to build bridges of understanding. May we rediscover the path that leads one to another, and all to You. Amen.

These are the faith addresses that have already unfolded. Tonight, additional invocations and benedictions will be given. There's Ken Hutchins, a retired police chief from Northboro, Massachusetts. A friend of the Romney family, Hutchins is also a Mormon.

Romney and the former policeman met one another through LDS and, as a result of their friendship, Hutchins was invited to offer up the opening prayer for the final night of the convention. CNN has more about the relationship between the two men:

As a Mormon leader in Massachusetts, Romney tapped Hutchins for key leadership roles; their friendship shows how the millionaire candidate developed close ties to middle-class folks. At least one more of Romney’s Mormon friends will be speaking Thursday, signaling a shift for the candidate, who for months steered clear of conversations about his religion.

This tight-knit relationship, especially considering the expectation that Romney will address his Mormon faith, will certainly help to humanize the candidate. Furthermore, it will provide a lens for the American people through which they can view the life of a candidate who some may still be struggling to understand.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan will also be giving the closing prayer this evening. Dolan turned heads on Wednesday after it was announced that he will also do the same at the Democratic National Convention next week. Of course, Dolan's dual party role wasn't the only interesting faith tidbit to come just days before Democrats assemble in Charlotte. Earlier this week, the DNC's host committee made headlines for advertising an Islamic "Jumah" prayer that will be held during the event (the event isn't being put on by the DNC).

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