Democrats continue to debate role of faith in 2020 campaign
Earlier this week, Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, wrote an essay in The Atlantic expressing disappointment that Democrats routinely forgo talking about how their faith informs their politics.
“Unfortunately, choosing not to talk much—or even at all—about faith and religion has become common in today’s Democratic Party,” Mr. Coons wrote. “That choice, I believe, is the wrong one.”
Mr. Coons, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, said Democrats choosing to ignore faith “hides away the deep, passionate and formative faith backgrounds of so many Democrats who are seeking or serving in office.” Plus, it “ignores the clear fact that America is still an overwhelmingly religious country, and that the Democratic Party, too, remains a coalition largely made up of people of faith—including tens of millions who identify as deeply religious.”
Part of the issue, Mr. Coons said, is that politically faith has come to mean for many people positions that are against abortion and rights for L.G.B.T. people. He said Democrats should seek to expand the notion of how faith informs their worldviews.
Senator Chris Coons said Democrats choosing to ignore faith “hides away the deep, passionate and formative faith backgrounds of so many Democrats.”
“Democrats today spend less time showing how our faith and religious backgrounds drive and inform our positions on all kinds of things—immigration, climate change, taxes, health care—out of a largely unspoken concern that publicly connecting faith with politics doesn’t quite fit,” he wrote.
Mr. Coons said he has been “encouraged” by the number of Democratic candidates who have talked about faith on the campaign trail this year.
“It’s not about citing one scripture verse or another to argue for a certain policy; it’s about letting those Americans for whom religion is central to their lives know that we understand them, respect them, and in many cases share their religious backgrounds,” wrote Mr. Coons, who has endorsed Mr. Biden. But he also warned there is a “wrong” way to talk about faith, saying politicians “must be careful to never weaponize or politicize faith, religion, or scripture, nor should we claim some sort of divine endorsement for our policies.”
“We also need to make clear that Democrats are committed to both freedom of and freedom from religion. Americans of all faiths or no faith at all should feel equally welcomed in our coalition,” he wrote.
Over the weekend, Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman whose campaign is struggling, visited Casa del Migrante, a home for migrants run by the Catholic Church in Juarez, Mexico. His campaign also sent a fundraising appeal to supporters seeking to raise money for a Catholic-run immigration nonprofit based in his home city on El Paso.
Senator Elizabeth Warren recalled her time as a Sunday school teacher and reflected on how the Gospel of Matthew shapes her political views.
Many of the other Democrats running for the White House have talked about faith. Most recently, in what can best be described as a sermon, Senator Elizabeth Warren recalled her time as a Sunday school teacher and reflected on how the Gospel of Matthew shapes her political views.
Recounting her attempts to teach an unruly group of fifth graders, the Massachusetts Democrat talked about a time when she discussed with the children the notion of charity, which she defined as “what you give but you don’t have to give,” when the conversation turned to what people owe one another. A quiet student, she said, suggested that what people owe one another is “Everybody gets a turn.”
That led Ms. Warren to talk about Matthew 25, a section of which she read from a King James Bible.
“If there’s anybody in here who doesn’t know the story, it’s that the sheep are being divided from the goats. And just so you all understand, sheep are going to heaven. The goats most definitely are not,” Ms. Warren said.
After reading the Gospel passage, in which Christians are exhorted to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the imprisoned, Ms. Warren said, “And that for me is what all of this is about.”
She said she draws three lessons from the story—one more than the two she previously highlighted during her CNN Town Hall in March.
Some Christian voters have expressed concern over Senator Warren’s position on abortion.
First, she said, “There is God in every one of us, not God, just in those who look like the Lord, God in every one of us.” Second, “We are called to act, to feed the hungry, to bring water to the thirsty, to visit the imprisoned. And the third, is that we are called to act without promise of reward. We are called to act because it is right.”
Ms. Warren was speaking on June 29 in Chicago at the annual gathering of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Convention. Several other candidates have also addressed the group, including Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who also invoked Matthew 25, and Vice President Joe Biden, whose standing in national polls is suffering following last week’s debate confrontation with Senator Kamala Harris of California over his record on race and school busing.
While Ms. Warren has invoked her faith a handful of times on the campaign trail, some Christian voters have expressed concern over her position on abortion. During last week’s debate, she declined to name any restriction she would place on abortion, instead reiterating her support for federal laws that protect abortion access.
But during her Chicago speech, Ms. Warren laid out a number of policy ideas that she said are related to her understanding that people are called to make sure “everyone gets a turn,” including reducing mass incarceration, providing universal child care and increasing economic security for Americans.
“We will answer the call to make certain that every working person, every working person, regardless of race, creed, or economic background, every working person is paid a living wage so they can build a secure future for themselves and their families,” Ms. Warren said.
Ms. Warren concluded her speech by again turning to Scripture, a practice she said is common for her “In times of struggle, in times of uncertainty.”