Which Democratic presidential hopefuls are talking about their faith?

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., shakes hands with Alabama State Sen. Henry Sanders at the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Ala., on March 19. (Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., shakes hands with Alabama State Sen. Henry Sanders at the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Ala., on March 19. (Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

As Democrats continue campaigning for the 2020 presidential primary season, some candidates appear to be highlighting issues of faith as they seek to appeal to a wider swath of voters.

During an appearance on “Morning Joe” on March 20, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., responded to a question about his religious views by talking about his own faith and what he sees as a distortion of Christianity among U.S. conservatives.

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“I think the time has come for more of a religious left to emerge in our country that lets people know that they are not alone when they look at faith and think that it teaches us to reach out to others, to humble ourselves, to take care of the immigrant and the prisoner and frankly, the sex worker,” said Mr. Buttigieg, who at 37 is among the first of the so-called Millennial generation to take steps toward a presidential run.

“Literally, Jesus spends his time with sex workers, among others. Lepers,” continued Mr. Buttigieg, who though not Catholic, told The New Yorker that he used an “Ignatian” process of discernment when considering a presidential run. “And here we have this totally warped idea of what Christianity ought to be like when it comes into the public sphere that’s mostly about exclusion, which is the last thing that I imbibe when I take in scripture in church.”

Mr. Buttigieg attended a Catholic high school in South Bend and both his parents were professors at the University of Notre Dame. When asked if he experienced tension with Christian teaching because he is gay, he said he and his husband celebrated their wedding at their Episcopal church and feel welcome, though he added, “Certainly going to Catholic school you experience those tensions.”

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., responded to a question about his religious views by talking about his own faith and what he sees as a distortion of Christianity among U.S. conservatives.

During a CNN town hall appearance on Mar. 19, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren recalled her time teaching religious education to children at her Methodist church and reflected on the passage from the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus tells his followers that how they respond to the poor and those in need is what will determine their fate in the afterlife.

“What I hear in that is two things that guide me every day,” said Ms. Warren, riffing on a story found in Matthew 25, which she accidentally referred to as Matthew 26. “The first is there is God, there is value in every single human being. Every single human being. And the second is that we are called to action.

“It says, ‘You saw something wrong; you saw somebody who was thirsty; you saw somebody who was in prison,’” she continued. “You saw their face. You saw somebody who was hungry, and it moved you to act. I believe we are called on to act.”

Sister Simone Campbell, a social justice activist with the lobbying group Network, told America that when she counsels Democrats on how to speak to their religious values, she sometimes hears that they feel too vulnerable and prefer to stick to talk of policy.

During a CNN town hall appearance on Mar. 19, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren recalled her time teaching religious education to children at her Methodist church and reflected on the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

“They’re way more engaging when they speak from the heart than when they talk about academic policies,” said Sister Campbell, who spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. “I love policy, but it never convinces anybody.

“It’s when I speak from the heart that people can change,” she added.

Other candidates have also drawn inspiration from faith communities.

In an interview with Religion News Service in October, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker talked about being raised “very much in the black church tradition” and how the values he learned then animate his life today.

“The life of Jesus is very impactful to me and very important to me. He lived a life committed to dealing with issues of the poor and the sick. The folks that other folks disregard, disrespect or often oppress. He lived this life of radical love that is a standard that I fail to reach every single day but that really motivates me in what I do,” Mr. Booker said.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, so frequently invoked Pope Francis on the campaign trail in 2016 that he inspired an online quiz challenging people to distinguish between his words and the pope’s. Mr. Sanders, who announced he is running for president again, even visited the Vatican for a conference about climate change during the grueling 2016 campaign season.

Of course, not all candidates are embracing faith as they make their pitch to voters.

Writing in The Atlantic, Peter Beinart noted that neither former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke nor New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand mentioned “God” in their campaign’s opening messages. (Then again, neither did Ms. Warren nor Mr. Sanders.)

“Today’s white liberals don’t only talk about faith less than their predecessors did. They talk about it in a strikingly different way,” Mr. Beinart wrote, pointing to passages where religion is held by some politicians as a force that divides rather than unites.

The number of Democrats who identify as religious is shrinking, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. According to a 2017 report, 40 percent of Democrats claim no religious affiliation.

Americans as a whole are also becoming less tied to traditional religion.

According to recently released research, the percentage of Americans who claim no religion is now more than 23 percent. That means the two biggest “religious” groups in the United States are Catholics and those with no religion.

But for Sister Campbell, urging those in political life to speak about faith is about more than trying to win votes. Instead, she said, it provides them with the language to express values they hold dear.

“I hope that faith anchors us in what really matters—and not just in the 24-hour news cycle but in the needs of our whole nation and our call to care for everyone, for the 100 percent,” she said.

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Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
FRAN ABBOTT
1 month ago

Wow! Pete Buttigieg is really impressive on this issue! Thanks for this enlightening article.

Michael Cardinale
1 month ago

It takes a lot of chutzpah to insist on funding abortion (60 million dead babies so far), then lecture others on distorting Christianity. In any case, all these politicians (including Republicans) misrepresent what Jesus was saying. He always said "you", not the government, needed to love God and your neighbor. The "government" does not win or lose salvation, "you" do.

Crystal Watson
1 month ago

It doesn't take chutzpah. Jesus said nothing of abortion. If anyone misrepresents Jesus, it's Republicans/conservatives.

Tim Donovan
1 month ago

Hello. It's true that Jesus isn't recorded in any of the Gospels to have referred to abortion. However, even though slavery was a common practice in the Roman empire, there is no reference to Jesus having condemned slavery. For generations, some misguided Christians used the words of St. Paul to support legal slavery. Paul wrote, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. " (Colossians 3: 22). There are any number of matters that Jesus isn't recorded as having spoken about. However, Jesus was certainly very concerned about the weak and the marginalized. I believe that unborn human beings qualify as being weak and marginalized.

Crystal Watson
1 month ago

If we are going to hypothesize what Jesus might have been for/against, then I think he would actually have been on the side of women who wanted to end a pregnancy. He was an especial friend to women ... the woman at the well, sisters Martha and Mary, the widow at Naun, the woman with the bleeding problem, the woman about to be stoned, the woman whose daughter was sick, etc. Given that there was nothing in Jewish law at the time against abortion, he may well have been ok with it, given his regard for women and their problems.

Jeffrey More
4 weeks 1 day ago

Brilliant! An extraordinary example of thinking outside the box! We are all familiar with the "What would Jesus do?" Meme, but this takes it to a level no pedestrian mind (such, I confess, as mine) could possibly have thought of. Jesus supporting abortion - WOW!! And the best part is that I'd bet our beloved Pontifex Maximus would view your argument with great sympathy. After all, who are we to judge?

Crystal Watson
4 weeks 1 day ago

Actually, my position is that we shouldn't put words in Jesus' mouth, but the person I was replying to seemed to believe Jesus was a great advocate against abortion, despite the dearth of scriptural backup for that belief.

Crystal Watson
1 month ago

As Ptet Buttigieg mentioned on Morning Joe, it's past time people noticed the Religious Left. People like Nancy Pelosi (Catholic), Hillary Clinton (Methodist), Adam Schiff (Jewish). Democrats are just as often religious as Republicans.

Jeffrey More
1 month ago

You’ve just demonstrated the utter pointlessness of this article. Pelosi is a Catholic? Yes, but so what? So was Hitler.

Crystal Watson
1 month ago

The point is that for years conservatives have advanced the idea that they are the only true religious adherents on the political scene and that only their policies are in step with religious belief. Lie.

Will Nier
1 month ago

What Democrats talking about their faith. They are hypocrites. Baby killers. Look what they did in New York State- can abort a child up to the moment of actual BIRTH and if it perhaps lives then they can KILL it. Disgusting. If the Church does indeed cherish life then it must distance itself from these come to think of it excommunicated people; for they do that by themselves.

Crystal Watson
1 month ago

You are lying about the New York law. A woman in labor would not be given an abortion and a baby born alive would not be killed. Fact Check: Did New York Pass a Bill Legalizing Abortions Up to Birth?

Judith Jordan
1 month ago

Will Nier---
Democrats are hypocrites? The Democrats’ policies are much more reflective of the Sermon on the Mount than the Republicans. The Republics/conservative hyper focus on abortion while ignoring or rejecting Jesus spoken messages.

John Mack
1 month ago

The Catholic opposition to abortion is based on Natural Law, not religion. And its Natural Law, a philosophic system, claims to be science based in all its conclusions. Science would not agree with some of them. Natural Law was devised at a time when science, based on principles and laws derived from observation, replicatable discoveries, and predictability, was in a primitive state and observation, including of the human body and sexual functions and procreation. Thus abortion as murder is a philosophic/scientific position and not particularly religious Others, approaching the issue from another scientific interpretation, do not see abortion as murder. Your accusations against them are driven by your interpretation of religious faith and your interpretation of science, interpretations they do not share. Accusing them of deliberately committing murder is bearing false witness against them.

Fred Keyes
4 weeks 1 day ago

Strong arguments can and are made against abortion on many grounds--empirical science, economic, natural law--and yes, on biblical values as well.

[Note I say "empirical science." You seem to think it's the only way to know anything. Please don't forget that empirical science is grounded in the philosophy of the Greeks. Of all the ways to know things, empirical science comes last. It is last because it is wrong so often; in fact that's how it works--trial and error. Lots of error.]

A Catholic can hardly read about the conception of Jesus or the condemnation by the prophet who took to task the Moabites who killed infants in the womb without understanding that God does not approve in any way of the slaughter of His own creation.

Judith Jordan
4 weeks ago

Fred Keyes---
On the other hand, God ordered the Israelites to kill every man, woman, child, and infant of some groups.

Sarah Dolski
3 weeks 3 days ago

Okay Jack, explain your philosophical theory to the babies literally being dismembered in the womb. Explain your philosophy to the individuals who survived an abortion. You sound like a intelligent person ( I’m not being sarcastic by saying that, you genuinely sound intelligent) which makes the fact that you can write off something as evil as abortion as actually being evil is really sad. Wrong is wrong and those of us who willfully ignore or excuse it will have to answer for that. Please, please try to think things through a bit more.
Also, I’m willing to bet you, like a lot of the people on this forum, were born before 1970 so unlike myself ( born in 88) you never had to live the reality of your government being okay with you being “terminated”. I’m also willing to bet that you are not a mother and have never experienced life inside you. That experience is raw, real human life.

Stephen Shore
1 month ago

These left wing Democratic "Christians" are NOT representative of what our and Jesus Church is in the least. I am very proud that my church stands up for the weakest in society - the unborn as well as the very much "born" who languish in poverty, prison, and even death row. That is the Jesus that I know.

The Jesus that commanded that the "sex worker" of her time when he met her at the well repent and sin no more. But that also she was FORGIVEN if she did repent.

Following Jesus is tough - not for the faint of heart. His teachings were anything but "relative" and vague. Not an easy path to follow by any means.

Now....the far right is no better than the far left. Can anyone picture Jesus helping to build a wall on our southern border?! My point is that we need to identify ourselves as "Catholic Christians" again and acknowledge that neither major political party is in step with our church or with Jesus.

Our church and our faith can change the world if we as Catholics will get back to our faith and let our works change hearts and lives.

Judith Jordan
4 weeks ago

Stephen Shore---
Members of the Right often claim the Left are not really Christian. Conversely, members of the Left list the reasons why members of the Right are not really Christian. I am always amazed with people who appear to have the knowledge and power to know this about another. I assume, and sincerely hope, that God has a sense of humor. He must find all this very amusing.

William McGovern
1 month ago

It adds no value to the discussion to name call. Make your point but please civil

John Mack
1 month ago

The US Constitution never mentions God. This was done deliberately, at a time when all others countries, including Gritiain, claimed that their government derived its legitimacy from God. The US deliberately replaced God as the source of legitimacy with "the People." I wish that this were pointed out when people are promoting religion, sincerely or cynically, as a political asset.

Tim Donovan
1 month ago

As a former long-time registered Democrat from 1980 (age 18) until about 8 years ago (age 49) I still agree with many if not most of the policies espoused by the Democratic platform. I have been a moderate Republican for about 5 years ( for several years I was a registered Independent, since neither major party fully reflected my values). I have in other posts in detail enumerated my position on many important matters. In short, I'd describe myself as a pro-life advocate who is left of center. I have no objection whatsoever to liberal Democrats stating their religious/moral beliefs in terms of how their beliefs influence their public policy positions. I would also agree that some conservatives speak as if Jesus would agree with an across the board conservative agenda (that is, among other issues, support for voluntary prayer in public schools, building a wall along our nation's border with Mexico to prevent immigrants/refugees from entering our nation, support for capital punishment, and more). However, I believe that all politicians (Denocrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, and those of various faiths--or none) have the right to speak out on political issues that have a moral dimension. There actually is nothing new about the "religious left." From 1 975-1987, my Congressman was Robert Edgar, who was a Methodist minister. For many years, Congressman Bill Gray of Philadelphia, a Baptist minister, continued as pastor of his church while serving in Congress. The late Nat Hentoff was a columnist for the liberal V illage Voice. He was a self-described Jewish atheist, who served for a time on the Board of Directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Yet this atheist was strongly opposed to the violence of legal abortion. He was a free speech advocate, who also admired the consistent ethic of life espoused by the late Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago. Hentoff made the very sensible point that no one has to follow the "political orders " of any leader. I welcome hearing the religious/moral beliefs of liberal Democrats. Even though I often disagree with them, I also welcome hearing the religious/moral beliefs of conservative Republicans. Please, let's be fair and not deny the free speech rights of any politician to speak out on any political issue that has a moral dimension.

Fred Keyes
4 weeks ago

Tim Donovan, I agree with you. The binary political view of everyone falling into neat liberal/conservative or Republican/Democrat silos is pure fiction.

Good example: On the question of abortion a poll recently showed that 68% of Democrats support abortion rights.

Kevin Murphy
1 month ago

Don't talk to me about Christian values when you won't even protect a child that's survived an abortion. No getting around that baby-killing. Ridiculous article.

Fred Keyes
4 weeks 1 day ago

The back and forth in these comments tells me one thing: The Russians are not coming...they are here. And as far as I can see, nobody is trying to stop them.

rose-ellen caminer
3 weeks 6 days ago

"The Russians are here, the Russians are here.... and no one's trying to stop them". What, did they plant a bomb here and no one's trying to stop them? Or did they exercise their inherent freedom of speech? The freedom to speak is now a mere US government contrivance? Inherent human rights has borders?
"The pen is mightier then the sword;" "the answer to bad speech is good speech";"I may not like what you are saying but I will defend to the death your right to say it";"people died so that you could say that". These American tropes get tested by the world wide web, and now the mantra on both the Left and the Right is "the Russians are trying to influence American political opinions by posting online "! How dare they?Did not God, did not natural law tell these people that the freedom to speak to influence people does not apply to them?Did not God or nature tell these people that Americans should not hear or be influenced by what they have to say! Stop them from speaking now!Stop us citizens from possibly being influenced by these foreigners!I get how that is how undemocratic totalitarian closed countries think;the governments and the brainwashed masses, but now this paranoia and fear of outside influence has reached even professed first amendment loving Americans.

John Barbieri
4 weeks 1 day ago

How very fortunate we are that G-D always seems to agree with our political philosophy whatever it may be!

J Cosgrove
4 weeks 1 day ago

Maybe you have it backwards. What if one's political philosophy flows from what you believe God has asked and provided. It is always then possible to be misinformed and misguided and thus, make bad judgments.

John Barbieri
4 weeks 1 day ago

Thank you for your reply. Thinking you are doing G-D’s Will is extremely dangerous in so far as He is infinite and we are very finite.

J Cosgrove
4 weeks 1 day ago

God has spoken to us in many ways. But your comment means we should do nothing. So should we ignore what He has said?

John Barbieri
4 weeks 1 day ago

Thank you for your reply. Thinking you are doing G-D’s Will is extremely dangerous in so far as He is infinite and we are very finite.

John Barbieri
4 weeks 1 day ago

Be careful! How can you be sure that you know G-D's will.? If I recall correctly, in the Book of Samuel, there is a warning not to put your faith in princes. Politicians are close enough.

Mike Fitzpatrick
4 weeks 1 day ago

Who is Buttigieg to judge conservatives? He says conservatives can't judge him. We can however let people know what we believe. I don't know if the far left pro abortion crowd are judged as sinners but I firmly believe that they are misguided and wrong headed.

Rafaqat Ali
2 weeks 2 days ago

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