As Charlotte, N.C., readies for the coming of the Democratic National Convention in early September, all of the usual preparations are underway. The convention complex is being prepared. The hotels, restaurants and facilities are in readiness. Security precautions are in place. The media is moving in. The City of Charlotte and the State of North Carolina are ready to put their best foot forward. But amid the usual business of hosting a large-scale event, some strange things are afoot in the "Old North State."
As was recently reported in the Charlotte Observer, several Christian churches have held or will hold special public prayer vigils, prayer walks and services, including some in public parks. Some 60 churches are participating in an interdenominational, nonpartisan prayer service in the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. Among these are some churches that differ profoundly with several of the Democratic Party's social positions. Strange things are happening in Charlotte.
In a rather remarkable way, the faith community of Charlotte is preparing a welcome for the convention. Muslims will hold their regular prayer service outdoors the Friday before the convention. Religious communities are hosting forums on issues we face as a nation and a world, with particular attention to the plight of the poor and ways of living the values of compassion and justice. One church, located in the convention area of town, will be giving out lemonade and cookies. Another congregation has willingly decided to move their main service from uptown to worship with another church in a different part of the city, so as to not crowd out the guests of the city. Strange things are happening in Charlotte.
Long ago the prophet Isaiah had a vision of strange things happening when God's blessing and reign breaks forth and is fully realized:
"The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:6-9).
Social commentator, comedian and witness Dick Gregory once humorously said that it may be true that the wolf will lie down with the lamb, but the lamb probably won't get much sleep that night. One could also wonder if the vision of enemies in the animal kingdom applies to elephants and donkeys. In either case, Isaiah has given us an extraordinary vision of God's dream for the entire human family and the fullness of creation. It is a sublime vision of the hope and healing that results from God's blessing.
So, maybe when you get right deep down to it, the prayers and good will of the many people of faith in Charlotte -- Christians, Jews, Muslims and many, many others -- are just that simple and that significant. These are prayers, in a variety of voices, asking for God's blessing. And in our willingness to be instruments of that blessing, there is hope and healing,
So, yes, God bless the Democrats who gather in Charlotte. God bless the Republicans who gather in Tampa. God bless the United States of America. God bless the entire human family. May God bless us all. Welcome to Charlotte, a city where strange things are happening.