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July 10, 2019

Editor's note: U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and has served as an elder in his Presbyterian church. 
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren at Twelfth Baptist Church in Boston. (Photo via her Twitter account)
"Democrats Need to Talk About Their Faith," I wrote for the Atlantic. "America is still an overwhelmingly religious country. Candidates shouldn’t be afraid to reflect that." 
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” -- Matthew 25:31-46

Unfortunately, choosing not to talk much—or even at all—about faith and religion has become common in today’s Democratic Party. That choice, I believe, is the wrong one for two important reasons.

First, it hides away the deep, passionate, and formative faith backgrounds of so many Democrats who are seeking or serving in office. At our weekly Senate prayer breakfasts, for example, I’m consistently inspired and moved by the words of my colleagues whose faith is fundamental to their life and their work, but who rarely talk about it publicly.

Second, choosing not to talk about our faith as Democrats 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.


Democratic officials and candidates need to lose their reluctance to talk publicly about how faith informs our work, our values, and our lives. I’ve been encouraged by the ways that many of the Democrats running for president have done just that.

Senator Cory Booker told his congregation, the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, that he was going to run for president before he publicly announced his candidacy, and said in a CNN town hall that “Christ is the center of my life.” Senator Elizabeth Warren, a former Sunday-school teacher, recently quoted the Gospel of Matthew while speaking to an audience in Mississippi about her own faith, and spoke eloquently about feeling called to action. Mayor Pete Buttigieg told a town-hall audience that “scripture is about protecting the stranger, and the prisoner, and the poor person, and that idea of welcome.” Former Vice President Joe Biden (whose candidacy I have endorsed) has for decades spoken about how his faith has sustained him through tragedy and inspired him to serve others.

Those examples reflect an important point: Democrats can fight for our progressive values while also identifying with the religious backgrounds that are so important to tens of millions of Americans.

Democrats should remember that while we’re a party committed to progressive values, we’re also a party that’s inspired and driven by many people of faith, seeking to lead, inspire, and heal a country that remains deeply religious. We’re at our best when we remember that those aren’t facts to be reconciled, but rather truths that mutually reinforce who we are.
Lord, please give us the grace to remember – amidst distractions, temptations, and our own busy lives – that we are called first to serve You and live in Your light.  Remind us that we find justice, righteousness, and love through Your wisdom and Your blessings. Amen. 
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