Hillary Clinton is leading the Democratic Party’s best chance in a generation to upend the myth that religious equals conservative.
The so-called God gap, shorthand for the longstanding Republican advantage among the religious, was just 15 points at the end of April, with weekly churchgoers preferring Trump by 9 points and less religious voters preferring Clinton by nearly 6. In 2012, the number of points separating Mitt Romney and Barack Obama was almost 40.
With six months until the election, Hillary is running almost even among people who attend church regularly:
Among those who say religion is important in their life, she’s doing even better:
This news is heartening to me as a Christian Democrat. And it’s politically significant for states with a lot of religious people — like Georgia (where I was born) and North Carolina (where I was raised).
Yet the press still seem confounded by Hillary’s faith. Take this somewhat frequently cited quote from a campaign stop in Iowa (note: there are many more examples–Hillary talks about her faith often):
My study of the Bible, my many conversations with people of faith, has led me to believe the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself. … But I do believe that in many areas judgment should be left to God, that being more open, tolerant, and respectful is part of what makes me humble about my faith, and I am in awe of people who truly turn the other cheek all the time, who can go that extra mile that we are called to go, who keep finding ways to forgive and move on.
Here’s how Slate characterizes it:
Clinton’s “But … ” captures the tension that animates liberal Christianity and the policy approaches that tend to flow from it. It’s important to follow God’s Old Testament orders but to leave many final judgments to him; to “love the Lord” but with humility; to do justice but to “forgive and move on.” Implicit in that simple “but” is a subtle critique of the religious right, a movement whose public expressions are seen by the left as judgmental, narrow, and punitive—more “eye for an eye” than “turn the other cheek.”
No doubt Hillary is critical of the religious right (as she should be). But she doesn’t have to call on her “liberal Christianity” to make the critique. She calls on the Bible, and the words of Jesus.
After all, it’s Jesus who said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” It’s Micah 6:8 that calls us to “walk humbly with our God.” It’s from the Lord’s Prayer that we recite “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
There’s no tension between following God and so-called “liberal Christianity.”
Hillary’s “But” captures the authenticity of her faith.
The God Gap is closing. And with it the mythical gulf between seeking God and fighting for a more just, loving, and compassionate world.
I’ve always felt comfortable as a Christian Democrat. This year, I’m hoping for even more company.
(Photo: Hillary for America)