Faith and Politics: Why I’m a Democrat
Growing up in the middle of the cornfields of Indiana, our family was firmly in the evangelical Republican camp. We listened to Focus on the Family, read Christian fiction and listened to DcTalk, the Newsboys and Petra. My dad taught at a Christian college where dancing and drinking was outlawed so many of my friends grew up in this same Christian bubble. I am thankful for my childhood because in some ways I felt protected.
I loved politics even when I was a child. Our local library had a set of biographies of every president and I devoured them. I remember sending a letter to President Bush, and when I received a letter back from him, I was so excited. We adored George H.W. Bush and especially Dan Quayle because he was from up the road in Huntington, Indiana. These two were Republicans and we viewed them as the upholders of morality and leaders of our Christian nation. The link between Republicans and the faith I was brought up with was strengthened during the Clinton years. Through the Clinton scandals the evangelical Christian faith I was immersed in taught me that President Clinton and his Democrats were anti-faith in their pro-abortion stance and many more of their beliefs.
Growing up I viewed faith and morality as a war against those on the other side who were opposed to everything we believed. We had to fight those Democrats who believed in abortion and who were opposed to anything Christian.
Like many who grew up in this evangelical Christian bubble of 1980s and 1990s, the 2000s brought about a change in my political beliefs and how my faith influenced these beliefs. Through the writings of Brian McLaren and many others, my faith and beliefs started to transition. Most importantly my view of the intersection of faith and culture changed. I transitioned from seeing the world as a fight between faith and culture to a more humble, fermenting faith. Instead of trying to convert everyone through convincing them that my beliefs were right and theirs were wrong, what if I first lived a life of love committed to the teachings of Jesus? What if this ferment of a faith that was different would cause people around me to ask what I believed and why?
My politics also changed through the 2000s as well. I still remember reading Barack Obama’s books and hearing him speak about his faith and wondering how a Democrat could exhibit a faith that was like mine. When I was growing up, Democrats were presented as anti-Christian but Obama’s faith sounded real. This caused a good crisis in my political views. Maybe a person could be a Democrat and be a follower of Jesus Christ. Though I didn’t agree with all of President Obama’s policies, I felt that his faith informed his politics and his care for those who needed an extra hand up.
Fast forward to the last few years and the rise of Donald Trump within the Republican Party. Watching the Christian leaders who I grew up listening to and reading like James Dobson and Franklin Graham put their support behind Trump has been a shock to the set of beliefs I was presented with as a child. These evangelical leaders had presented a moral ideal that should be upheld at all costs. They ripped apart President Clinton for his moral indiscretions. But now they were backing a man who had a track record of actions and words which were antithetical to the teachings of Jesus Christ. They showed and continue to show a level of grace to President Trump that they never showed to Democrats. It has become apparent to me that these men really care more about power than they do morality. The irony now is that it is the Democrats who are standing up for moral values like caring for the oppressed, protecting immigrants, justice for victims of sexual abuse and loving one’s neighbor.
This journey has led me away from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. It is no longer true that the Republican Party has the moral high ground in American politics. Following the teachings of Jesus Christ does not preclude someone from being a Democrat. As I dove into the politics of education and a small community within a growing metropolitan area, I have realized that my political beliefs fall more in line with the Democratic Party.
As the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To seek the true equality of all people and to give them an equal chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, our governments need to take an active role in maintaining the conditions to make this possible. Republicans view the government as getting in the way of this ideal and think the free market will create an atmosphere where everyone has an equal chance. But in my opinion the free market does not have a soul and does not provide an equitable playing field.
Living in a rapidly gentrifying community has convinced me that a strong government is needed to live up to the strong ideals within the documents that serve as the foundation for our American government. All levels of government need to take active roles in making sure that the systems around us create an equitable foundation for community members to better their lives. I have seen free market systems in my community from the education system to the housing system that do not provide an equitable pathway to the middle class. I would love to take those who believe in the savior free market system on a tour of my community and show them who this system leaves behind.
The more I work in my community the more that I believe in lifting up the voices of those without power and working through the various systems to bring about true, equitable change. For me personally, this means being a Democrat and campaigning for Democratic candidates who have walked with those who are powerless and believe that our various systems need to be changed so that all can have an equitable pathway to better their lives and the lives of their children.
My faith is stronger and more mature than it was when I was younger. But I have different beliefs in how this faith in Jesus Christ expresses itself in the world around me. I am no longer at war with those on the other side of the political divide even if those on the other side are people I care deeply about. Change happens at a table where everyone is heard and valued. In my conversations I try to listen more than I speak especially with those who have different life experiences than my own. I debated writing this post for a while because of this desire to listen instead of speak. But given the loud voices of evangelicals continuing to support the immoral actions and racist words of President Trump, it is even more important for the people I know in my community to hear from Jesus followers who disagree and express their faith differently.