Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons on by Embracing Faith, Joe Biden and the Democrats Have the Potential to Transform American Politics

Left to right on the stage, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden; his wife, Jill Biden; Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California; and her husband, Doug Emhoff, wave to supporters after Biden spoke during the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention, on Aug. 20, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(RNS) — “People of faith have long led change, from abolition and women’s suffrage to the labor movement and the struggle for civil rights,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Thursday night (Aug. 20) during his address to the Democratic National Convention. “Joe Biden will continue that progressive march towards justice, inspired by respect for the dignity of all people, people Joe believes were made in the image of God.”

Coons, a Yale Divinity School graduate and an ordained Presbyterian elder, delivered the most faith-focused message of the convention.

But he certainly wasn’t alone in focusing on faith.

The past four days have emphasized the Democratic Party’s commitment to religious outreach and that has the potential to transform all of American politics.

Earlier this week, Michelle Obama described Biden as a “profoundly decent man, guided by faith,” and emphasized the role of empathy in her address.

“If we see someone suffering or struggling, we don’t stand in judgment,” the former first lady said. “We reach out because, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I.’ It is not a hard concept to grasp. It’s what we teach our children.”

Jill Biden said her husband’s “faith is unshakable — because it’s not in politicians or political parties — or even himself. It’s in the providence of God.”

In addition to highlighting Joe Biden’s personal faith, the convention emphasized the role of religion in the Democratic Party. A diverse group of faith leaders — including Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox clergy — were invited to pray at the convention, including Bishop Mariann Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Budde made headlines earlier this year after she rebuked President Donald Trump for posing with a Bible in what seemed like a photo stunt at one of the Episcopal churches she oversees.

She prayed for God’s blessing to “inspire us all, to realize Dr. King’s dream of a beloved community, Congressman Lewis’ dream of a just society, President Lincoln’s dream of a more perfect union.”

The convention held an interfaith service and Catholic Mass. And earlier Thursday, I spoke at a “Believers for Biden” virtual convention watch party with actress Jennifer Garner. My message was simple: The religious diversity of the Democratic Party is a cause of celebration.

Seventy-one percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners identify with a religious tradition, according to Pew Research Center. Yet we rarely hear about the religious diversity of the party or our leaders. The embrace of religion spans the ideological spectrum of the party, from U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former President Barack Obama. Obama has been speaking eloquently about his Christian faith as far back as 2004, when he delivered his history-making address at that year’s Democratic National Convention.

For too long, an imbalance of public discourse about the role of religion in each party has led to a warped perception that the GOP is the party of God. The idea Republicans have a lock on God heightens political polarization and erases a key motivation of progressive politics.

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Source: Religion News Service