Arguably no religious group has more influence in politics today than white evangelicals. That conservative voting bloc is credited in part with delivering the White House to Donald Trump. But Christians who are left of center increasingly express their disappointment with the policies of the Trump administration — and they strongly argue that many of the policies the president supports are in direct opposition to conservative Christianity.
A Monday forum focused on finding solutions to the issues plaguing America’s marginalized communities was a reminder of the diversity of the religious left and how that could present a challenge in rallying behind a candidate early enough to have the impact that conservative Christians continue to have on the right.
Several Democratic candidates who have openly shared how their faith shapes their worldviews, and thus their policy proposals, attended the forum organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, a grass-roots faith-based movement aiming to address the socioeconomic issues of working-class Americans.
Former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and others sought to win voters’ support by sharing how their administrations would combat poverty, inequality and prejudice — issues that they believe should be at the forefront for people of faith in particular.
“I am in this fight so that the government doesn’t just work for those at the top,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said. “We have to be in that fight morally, we have to be in that fight economically, and we have to be in that fight politically.”
Since launching their campaigns, multiple liberal Democrats have pointed to their faith as the source of a worldview that rejects Trumpism — specifically when it comes to policies toward immigrants, refugees and other historically marginalized groups.
From South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s belief that it goes against Christian principles to discriminate against LGBT Americans to frequent calls by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to love your enemies, those on the left seeking the highest office argue that while Trump may be, as Jerry Falwell Jr. called him, the “evangelical dream president,” his administration has been a nightmare for many people of faith.
But it will be an enormous challenge (if not impossible) to get the loosely defined religious left, with its array of concerns, to rally behind one candidate early enough to have an impact comparable to that of white evangelicals’ support for Trump.
While Trump ran against several Republicans in 2016 with much deeper roots in conservative Christianity, white evangelicals began to back Trump’s positions just months after he launched a campaign pledging to crack down on immigration, reconfigure America’s stances toward refugees and dismantle international agreements on environmental issues. These topics and others came up at the forum as voters sought to discover who would not just halt Trump’s political goals but also aggressively pursue a more inclusive and tolerant agenda.
Expanding access to health care, providing affordable housing and adequately funding schools are just a few of the forum topics that attendees said must be priorities for the next administration. Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) argued that these are not issues that Washington will prioritize unless like-minded people of faith join forces to challenge politicos to emphasize them.
"There isn’t any other way to do it,” he said. “Washington isn’t going to change unless we force Washington to change.”
Coalition building is something that both sides of the aisle discuss often. But it is clear that it has to be of increased importance on the left, if people who don’t share conservative evangelicals’ views of faith are going to have the impact they desire in Washington. A real challenge for liberals that does not seem to exist for social conservatives is that to reach their goals, they may have to think of their tribe less and partner with other groups more to ultimately triumph over their political opponents.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) made this point at the forum when discussing the biblical parable of the importance of loving one’s neighbor.
“Neighbor is not about having the same Zip code,” she said. “What we learn about in that parable is that neighbor is someone you are walking by on the street."
“Neighbor is about understanding and living in service of others — that we are all each other’s brothers and sisters,” she added.