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Elizabeth Warren explains how her Christian faith shaped her liberal politics

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a Democratic presidential candidate, speaks to a group of about 400 potential voters in Memphis, Tenn. (Jim Weber/Commercial Appeal/AP)

At a CNN Town Hall on Monday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) explained how her Christian faith shapes her liberal politics.

Warren was asked, “What role does faith play in your life, your public life and your private life?”

The Oklahoma native said she was raised Methodist and taught Sunday school to elementary school students. Then, she mentioned her favorite Bible passage, the parable of the sheep and the goats. In the passage, Jesus urges his followers to care for the marginalized, saying, “When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Warren said the passage taught her two things:

“The first is there is God. There is value in every single human being.” And the second, Warren said, “is that we are called to action.”

Warren went on to say:

“That passage is not about you had a good thought and held onto it. You sat back and were just a part of — you know, thought about good things. It does not say, you just didn’t hurt anybody, and that’s good enough. No. It says, you saw something wrong. You saw somebody who was thirsty. You saw somebody who was in prison. You saw their face. You saw somebody who was hungry, and it moved you to act. I believe we are called on to act.”

In framing her faith as a call to serve the less fortunate, Warren seemed to push back on the idea that there isn’t room for people of faith in the Democratic Party. In fact, she highlighted communities that are food-insecure and incarcerated, issues that Democratic presidential candidates mention often on the campaign trail.

Michael Wear, who led President Barack Obama’s faith outreach during his 2012 reelection campaign and now runs a website on social justice and Christianity, speaks often about the need for Democrats to more actively engage voters of faith.

He called Warren’s words “a strong moment."

“We don’t want or need candidates to make up faith commitments, or use language they don’t really believe in,” he said. “But Senator Warren has a long-standing commitment to her faith and to speaking to faith as a senator. It is good for voters to hear about what motivates candidates.”

Wear said other candidates have discussed the prominence of their own faith, but will need to do more to draw in faith-based voters.

“We’ve seen others able to speak to faith as well — Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Kamala D. Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Bernie Sanders. If he gets in, Senator Joe Biden also has a long history discussing faith,” he said. “What will be important though, beyond a capacity to respond about faith when asked, is whether these campaigns are willing to invest in hiring staff who can do faith outreach and help the campaign navigate religious issues."

If Democrats want to win over religious voters, Wear argued, it will take infrastructure and planning. It will also take an ability to link their faith to their progressive ideals, like Warren did last night.