Senator Chris Coons, a senator from Delaware, is sending a message to other Democrats in office, or those that are running for office: Democrats are allowed to talk about their faith.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Coons expressed concerns of an unsaid stereotype that Democrats can’t talk about their faith in public. The senator shared that he was worried that because the Republican party is so largely influenced by religion, Democrats have ceded religion as a whole.
The isolation has pushed the Democrat party away from talking about faith, while the Republican party has claimed it’s stake on being a de facto Party of God, according to Coons.
This faith isolation has caused “Democrats to miss out on a significant, active, and organized part of their base,” he argued in the Buzzfeed piece.
Senator Coons also pointed out that the divide began in the 80’s when the religious right took up the issues of abortion and gay marriage.
“Since the ’80s, the religious right has announced that Christianity is all about two issues: abortion and gay marriage,” Coons said. “Being against them, that is.”
“I’ve met a lot of people who are personally against abortion … but they feel equally strongly that it is not a decision that the state should be involved in, and it’s particularly not a decision that should be enforced through criminal law,” Coons added.
“I think there is a huge reservoir of people who feel very strongly about [abortion rights,] but who have for 40 years felt that this is a settled issue and not something that’s really going to change,” he continued, “but now it’s being very clearly presented to them that it will.”
Coons wants to encourage Democrats to not alienate themselves from their faith, encouraging fellow Democrats to share their beliefs, in hopes that they will rally a more religious base.
According to Pew Research, 52 percent of those that voted Democratic in the 2018 midterm elections reported that they attended religious services multiple times a month. While white evangelicals still voted Republican 75 percent of the time, there is an opportunity for Democrats to step in, Coons pointed out.
Yet there is still hesitancy in the party to speak up, Coons argued.
“As a result, Democrats have shied away from claiming Christianity as a part of their political identity, from mentioning their faith in their speeches, from attending church services with voters and making faith a significant part of their campaigns, or from citing it as part of the reason they went into politics — even though they will say that all the time in the off-the-record prayer breakfasts,” Coons said according to BuzzFeed.
Coons shared an experience he had on the campaign trail last year when he introduced Sen. Sherrod Brown, mentioning that they became friends through a prayer breakfast that the two attended.
“So I’m looking out at the audience and it’s abundantly clear that they’re like, ‘Prayer group? Sherrod?’” Coons said.
“There is something about our current cultural environment that makes Democrats uncomfortable with publicly saying, ‘The whole reason I got into public service was because of the values I’ve learned at synagogue, at my church, through my faith.’”
“We are much more uncomfortable I think with formal religiosity,” Coons added. “We have been pushed into feeling like this is not welcome, is not celebrated, is maybe not even appropriate.”
One candidate who Coons personally believes is doing a good message of sharing his faith on the campaign trail is Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate for president who has not been shy about sharing it.
“I am hopeful for and excited to see the progressive Christian voices of a younger generation, and I’m very hopeful that Mayor Pete, for example, ends up inspiring younger people,” Coons said.
This is not the first time Coons has talked about faith passionately. Just a few months ago, controversy began to surround Coons after he stated that he prays for President Trump regularly.
In a tweet shared to Twitter, Coons wrote: “It’s no secret that I don’t agree with President Trump very often, but I pray for the President regularly, as I did at today’s National Prayer Breakfast.”
He shared that he prayed that God would grant President Trump “wisdom, grace, and peace.
Noting the criticism and frustration of many of his followers he added: “Look, I know that many Delawareans dislike and disagree with the President and that many others support him passionately. My commitment – and my prayer – is to try my best each day to work with Democrats, Republicans, & the President to get things done for the people we represent.”
“Sometimes, that means working together on bipartisan legislation,” he added. “Sometimes, it means fighting with everything I’ve got to stop the President or the Administration from doing something I believe is wrong.”
He ended his Twitter thread, reminding his followers of the purpose of public office: “to do what’s best for the country we all love.”
“And sometimes,” he wrote, “even when it’s difficult, it means joining hands in prayer or reflection to remind ourselves that as public servants, we share the same obligations to do what’s best for the country we all love.”