Read: Democrats have to decide whether faith is an asset in 2020
“I think it’s unfortunate [the Democratic Party] has lost touch with a religious tradition that I think can help explain and relate our values,” Buttigieg told The Washington Post. “At least in my interpretation, it helps to root [in religion] a lot of what it is we do believe in, when it comes to protecting the sick and the stranger and the poor, as well as skepticism of the wealthy and the powerful and the established.”
To be sure, the reason Buttigieg is the hottest person in Democratic politics these days is because he’s viewed as reliably progressive. Most of the Democrats who are drawn to him are embracing him not because of his faith but because of his liberalism. They’re willing to indulge the former so long as it advances the latter. For many Democrats, faith is an instrumentality. Still, Buttigieg’s rise and reasonable tone should help make some members of the Democratic Party less hostile to Christianity, which as a Christian I take to be a good thing.
The challenge Buttigieg poses to many leaders of the Trump-supporting evangelical world isn’t simply in the realm of public policy; it is in his tone, his countenance, and the way he carries himself.
Buttigieg does not radiate pent-up grievances, cultural resentments, and bitterness. He’s a person of equanimity, a calming voice in a rancorous political culture. That doesn’t mean he’s right on the stands he’s taking, of course, and those things matter. (More about that later.) But I would say that the splenetic, fear-based approach of many evangelical leaders has created an opening for Buttigieg, who is their temperamental antithesis.
It is one thing for Trump’s Christian supporters to argue that his policy agenda made him preferable to Hillary Clinton. But it is an entirely different matter to never hold Trump accountable. None of Trump’s high-profile evangelical supporters speak out against his cruelty and dehumanizing style, his pathological lying and bullying manner, or his Nietzschean ethic—and in some instances they celebrate it.
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Robert Jeffress, the pastor of an influential Southern Baptist mega-church in Dallas, proudly declared that he supports Trump because he wants “the meanest, toughest SOB I can find to protect this nation.” Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of one of the largest Christian universities in the world, defends Trump on the grounds that he is “authentic, successful & down to earth.” According to Tony Perkins, the ardent Trump supporter who is president of the Family Research Council, evangelical Christians “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.” (Perkins added that conservative Christians who are Trump supporters are willing to give the president a “mulligan” on his atrocious personal behavior because he’s on their side politically.)