Unpacking a Faithful Democrat

Unpacking a Faithful Democrat August 20, 2012

There’s a lot of talk about the relationship between church and state.  Whether it’s the Catholic Council of Bishops accusing President Obama of trampling on their religious liberty over contraception or the long-awaited and disputed opening of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro who have been told their faith is not a religion and threatened at every turn- we can’t seem to escape the inevitable tension of those two things our grandmothers told us not to talk about: religion and politics.

And yet here we are- openly, willingly and hopefully honestly, wading in hip-deep as we at Faithful Democrats seek to name what it is to be religious, progressive, hopeful and, in the words of our tag, “because Jesus wasn’t kidding about loving [our] neighbor.”

But the question still remains- why do it?  Why commit to an exercise that more often than not feels like futility?  Why continue to share something as deeply personal as what it means to grapple with questions of faith, ethics, and policy in a culture of yelling and fear-mongering?  Why choose to not only publicly own my faith and my politics and but also open myself up to an anonymous comment section?

Why?  Because at the end of the day I struggle to live as a Faithful Democrat.

I struggle to be faithful to a denomination, a tradition, a faith community, and a God that not only welcomes, but encourages, wrestling and questioning and the willingness to say “we messed up, but we will make it right”.  And I struggle to be faithful to a political party that frustrates me to no end, but also is the place where I find a willingness to wrestle and question with what it means to move forward, to love and to welcome, to support and sustain.

Often in my classroom I find myself asking students to “unpack” a thought; it is something that has been demanded by teachers and mentors of me for many years, and in turn I now require it of my students.  To “unpack that” is to remember that nuance is not a mark of weakness, that 140 characters and 15 second sound bites cannot possibly create the sum total of our interactions as thoughtful, engaged citizens of the world.  To unpack is to challenge ourselves to not simply seek shock-value or regurgitate the talking-points.

The prolific and oft-quoted Christian writer Frederick Buechner wrote of politics in his Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter’s Dictionary:

You can’t help but wonder what would happen if a person running for the presidency [or talking about others running for the presidency] decided to set politics in the sense of flag-waving, tub-thumping, axe-grinding, and the like aside and to speak instead candidly, thoughtfully, truthfully out of his or her own heart.[1]

And so as a Faithful Democrat I commit to striving to unpack, to grappling with nuance, and to candidly, thoughtfully, and truthfully speak from my own heart.  Will you join me?


libby can be reached here at patheos or on twitter at @libbyshannon

[1] Buchner, Frederick. Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter’s Dictionary. San Francisco: HarperCollins. 1993.

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  • You have a community at religiondispatches.org seems to me. Hope you visit the site daily.