Pete Buttigieg got it half right when he suggested this week he “can’t imagine” God would be a Republican. But the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, missed the mark on the other half of the equation.
Buttigieg, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, told Craig Melvin of NBC’s “Today” show that God wouldn’t be a member of the political party “that sent the current president into the White House,” referring to Donald Trump.
The 37-year-old politician, who is Episcopalian, said it’s “important that we stop seeing religion used as a kind of cudgel, as if God belonged to a political party.”
He also addressed this issue in April, when, during a CNN town hall, the presidential hopeful said, “At the very least, we should be able to establish that God does not have a political party.”
During his NBC interview with Melvin, Buttigieg became guilty of the very thing he decried just seconds before. He used his faith — like he has several times now — as a “cudgel” to shame those whose religion, at least in part, informed their votes against 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
This isn’t the first time Buttigieg has done this. He has correctly argued the U.S. should govern morally with the lessons of the Bible in mind. But when he was asked about abortion, he lectured pro-life Christians on the fact that, in his mind, the morality of abortion is “unknowable.”
He’s also failed to make room in his brand of Christianity for people who hold to a biblical understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He said last month that his sexual orientation has “moved me closer to God.”
What does the Bible say?
In Joshua 5, the people of Israel had just crossed the Jordan River and were preparing to conquer Canaan. The first fortress they faced was Jericho. Here is a passage from the Old Testament account:
When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”
“Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”
At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”
That’s exactly the question we should be constantly asking when we study Scripture and seek to apply our theology to our civic activity: “What do you want your servant to do?”
God belongs to neither political party, because both are imperfect, fallible representations of justice.
If we ever begin to feel entirely at home in our political affiliations — whether they be liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between — it’s probably time to reevaluate our perspectives. Our interpretations and understandings of the Bible and Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament shouldn’t be informed by our political persuasions. It should be the other way around: Our understandings of Scripture should inform how we cast our votes.
For those who are in Christ Jesus, there should be no division. Sometimes the Republican Party gets it right, other times its members are wrong. Sometimes the Democratic Party gets it right, other times its members are wrong.
Christians should not be swayed by our God-ordained government’s fallibility. In Ephesians 2:16, the apostle Paul wrote: “Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups [Jews and Gentiles] to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”
As we strive imperfectly toward what is right, we should rest in the knowledge that true victory is found in the Gospel alone.
During the Civil War, then-President Abraham Lincoln — a Republican — was purportedly asked if he believed God was on his side. He responded, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”