It’s just another odd first in a presidential contest already replete with them.
On Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a liberal, Jewish socialist from Vermont, will become the first Democratic presidential contender to speak at Liberty University, the evangelical school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.
No Democratic presidential candidate has carried the evangelical vote since Jimmy Carter, a Southern Baptist, won the White House in 1976. Four years later, Falwell and his powerful new Moral Majority helped Ronald Reagan oust Carter and put evangelicals solidly in the Republican camp for decades to come.
Although Democrats don’t expect that to change anytime soon, some hope to at least put a dent in the evangelical vote this time around. They have their eyes on young evangelicals, who are often less conservative on social issues than their parents.
“With younger millennials, we’re seeing more commitment to the environment, climate change, LGBT equality, poverty and a range of social justice issues,” said Sally Steenland, director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank allied with Democrats. “One thing is that when you take the Bible seriously, you take justice issues seriously. Because they reflect your belief in your faith.”
Indeed, more than 40% of evangelical millennials support same-sex marriage, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that studies religion and public life.
The Faith of Democrats
At least two Democratic candidates — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — come from rich Christian traditions that they say have shaped their politics. Clinton, in particular, has over the decades spoken publicly about the impact of her Methodist roots.
“I have always cherished the Methodist Church because it gave us the great gift of personal salvation but also the great obligation of social gospel,” Clinton said at the annual United Methodist Women Assembly last year. “And I took that very seriously and have tried, tried to be guided in my own life ever since as an advocate for children and families, for women and men around the world who are oppressed and persecuted, denied their human rights and human dignity.”
She discussed her faith as recently as Sunday as she helped celebrate the bicentennial of Washington’s Foundry United Methodist Church, which the Clintons attended when they lived in the White House.
Source: CNN | Eugene Scott