How Faith Works for Democrats

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Friday, June 2, 2006

In her May 23 op-ed column, "The New Temptation of Democrats," Ruth Marcus asks an important question concerning Democrats and the issue of faith: "What does it profit a party to gain a demographic but lose its soul?"

Ms. Marcus was referring to a number of events at which members of our party enjoyed fellowship with members of the evangelical community.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) created the Democratic Faith Working Group more than a year and a half ago to remind the wider faith community of the public and personal faith narratives of Democrats.

Ms. Pelosi asked me to chair this initiative because, as she explained to me, she had noticed in my actions and expressions a deep commitment to faith-based issues. Ending poverty, increasing the minimum wage, protecting the innocence of children, improving education, preserving God's creation by protecting the environment, and fighting for social and economic justice are all faith-based causes. The values expressed are solidly rooted in the faith of the American people and in the policies of Democrats.

Those values form my spiritual foundation as well. As the eldest son of a fundamentalist minister, I went off to college fully expecting to follow in my father's footsteps. During my junior year, however, I had a change of heart, and when I informed my father of my decision, he replied, "Well, son, I imagine the world would rather see a sermon than hear one." That admonition became a guiding principle for my life as a public servant and aptly describes the attitudes of many of my Democratic colleagues.

We stand together for opening wide the doors of government, as we do with our church doors on Sunday mornings, to all people who yearn to participate, have a voice and make a difference.

Democrats who studiously adhere to Thomas Jefferson's doctrine of the separation of church and state are also rooted in Matthew's directive to provide for the least among us and are guided by James's admonition that "faith without works is dead."

We believe that the federal budget is a moral document in which our values are demonstrated through our spending priorities.

Any budget that favors the wealthy over working Americans, cuts aid to schoolchildren, slashes health care for veterans, underfunds first responders and reduces opportunities for those who are the least in our society is a budget that fails to keep faith with America's values.

This is what the Democratic Faith Working Group is all about.

JAMES E. CLYBURN

U.S. Representative (D-S.C.)

Chair

House Democratic Caucus

Washington


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