As Christians, the way we approach politics matters. A lot. It matters to us, our families, our children, our neighbors, and especially the disadvantaged. It impacts our schools, our communities, and people all across the world.
When I was 14 my parents started taking me and my brother to the Open Door Mission on Friday nights to serve food to homeless and low-income families in Rochester, NY. I’ll admit – as a middle schooler, I didn’t exactly "look forward" to it. Yet, though we always got home too late for me to hang out with my friends, I never regretted spending Fridays with my family in the city.
Experiences like this were formative in the development my personal values and views about how I wanted to live my life. My parents saw it their duty, as Christians, to teach me and my brother about Jesus and get us involved in the types of things Jesus calls us to do like serving others and loving our neighbor. For as long as I can remember, my mother and father always exemplified the spirit of Christ by going out of their way to help neighbors, friends, clients, students, and strangers in need. While I wasn’t itching, as a 14 year old, to go back to the Open Door Mission when Fridays rolled around, my time there developed in me a deep appreciation for service and stewardship that led me to do extensive volunteer work in high school with my classmates and my church youth group. These experiences greatly informed how I view my faith by pushing me to embrace the activeness of the Christian Gospel, the empathy at its core, and the calling to restore the brokenness of the world around us.
As a Christian, I believe the values of Jesus should guide me in what I do. In addition to loving God with our entire being, Jesus calls his followers to love our neighbor, serve one another, seek justice and mercy, live the gospel in word and deed, and pursue the common good in our communities and society as a whole. He calls us to do everything we can to lighten the load of the disadvantaged and actively ensure every one of God’s children has the opportunity to reach their God-given potential. These values should inform our relationships with friends and family, our church lives, our professional lives, our giving, our interactions with strangers, and even our politics.
Yes, our politics. Why? Because, as Christians, the way we approach politics matters. A lot. It matters to us, our families, our children, our neighbors, and especially the disadvantaged. It impacts our schools, our communities, and people all across the world. In the most powerful country on Earth, Christians make up 75 percent of the population. That’s 233 million people. And we’ve wielded a heavy amount of political influence for a long time, impacting elections and policy from the local to the national level. In Luke chapter 12 verse 48, Jesus says "from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Keeping in mind the responsibility we have to use politics for good, it is incumbent upon us to make sure the values at the core of the gospel guide us in our political views and activity.
For too long in our country politics for Christians has not been about these values. Sure, some social conservatives refer to themselves as "values voters." But truth be told, everyone is a values voter, because everyone’s vote reflects some sort of values set. Unfortunately, through lots of rhetoric, great communications strategies and endorsements from influential Christian leaders, the far right co-opted Christian politics for decades in the form of the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition. Instead of building a coalition around values-based policies that increase opportunity for low- and moderate-income Americans, increase social mobility, provide equal rights for all our brothers and sisters, and care for the magnificent creation around us, these groups mobilized people around fear and focused on two core issues: opposition to gay marriage and the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
As a young Christian, I grew up a Republican like many of my peers. Yet, as I got more interested in politics in my early twenties, the values that my parents taught me about working for the common good and living out the teachings of Jesus through service seemed absent in the Republican Party platform. And so, like many other young evangelicals, I left.
I am not saying that Democrats have a monopoly on Christian values. But I am saying Republicans don’t. That being said, my Christian values are the reason I am a Democrat. While today’s Republican Party preaches a fend-for-yourselves religio-political philosophy, the Democratic Party prioritizes positions I consider paramount to my political views as a Christian. "Treating others as you want to be treated. Requiring much from those who have been given so much. Living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper. Caring for the poor and those in need. These values are old," President Obama said at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast. "They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers. And they are values that have always made this country great — when we live up to them; when we don’t just give lip service to them; when we don’t just talk about them one day a year." As a Christian, these are the values that inspire me to work for policies and politics that represent not just the world as it is, but the world as it should be.
The faith and politics debate in this country has been one-sided for quite some time. That’s why, in October 2011, I joined with a team from the Young Democrats of America (YDA) to launch the YDA Faith and Values Initiative, the first endeavor of its kind in the 80-year history of YDA. We are determined to communicate to our young peers around the country our values as Democrats and people of faith. We are also committed to developing new leaders of faith and building a network of young Democrats committed to putting their faith into action by working for values-based policies and politics.
Our team is optimistic that our collective efforts to change the nature of the religion and politics conversation in this great nation will not be in vain. Yet, we are not so naïve as to think we can do this alone. We hope you will join us and our community either as a member of the YDA Faith and Values Initiative, a fellow sojourner with Faithful Democrats, or through your own efforts to make positive change in your community. Regardless, one thing is clear: sitting out is not an option. Let’s stand tall together and not only trust that good things will come, but do our utmost to bring them about.