Being both a Christian and a Democrat is not impossible, but the media and some Democratic politicians talk like it is.
It’s understandable why some people think Christian and Democratic values are incompatible because of the political associations Christianity carries with it. In today’s politicized world, it’s easy for those who don’t know many Christians to think that all of them must be Republicans because segments of both groups are pro-life and against same-sex marriage. But that does not apply to all Christians.
I identify as a Christian and as a Democrat. I’m a pro-choice feminist, and I support LGBTQ rights. And although it comes as a surprise to some, my political beliefs have never been a source of tension with my politically conservative family members. Our religion teaches us to treat everyone with love and respect – regardless of what people think of politics.
Some of my liberal friends were shocked to learn that I identify as both a Christian and a Democrat because a Christian presence in the media basically consists of Republican politicians. This lack of exposure to Christians with diverse political preferences led them to believe that Christian and Democratic values were at ideological odds with each other. But I knew this wasn’t true. The majority of Christians I know, especially those who are young adults or students, are empathetic and open-minded people – and many tend to be Democrats.
Christianity does not have to clash with the social issues that Democrats are passionate about. But in order to convince the many people who don’t believe that, Christian Democrats need to start speaking up and asserting their political beliefs.
A study by the Pew Research Center found that most people who identify as Christian are pretty evenly split between the Republican and Democratic parties. The only two Christian denominations that overwhelmingly identify as Republicans are Evangelicals and Mormons. And perhaps even more surprising, most Christians held views on issues that were in conflict with the perceived teachings of the religion: More than 60 percent of Protestants believe abortion should be legal and 70 percent of Catholics believe that homosexuality is acceptable.
But even with these statistics, many Christian Democrats are afraid to reference religion at all because they fear people will question their loyalty to social issues. I’ve been in many situations with my Democratic friends where I feel like I need to downplay my religion in order to somehow prove that I have the same political convictions as they do. For many Christian Democrats, speaking up politically comes with the legitimate fear of receiving backlash due to the stereotype of Christians being close-minded. But the decision to not say anything, which leaves many people with little to no exposure to Christians who support a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage or anything else, can not be an option.
For those of us who aren’t public figures, it may seem like there isn’t a practical way to talk about being both politically liberal and a Christian. But students who are Christian Democrats, as well as those who support their Christian Democrat peers, can do more than they think by destigmatizing Christianity’s association with politics.
When you’re in a class discussion and someone makes a generalization about all Christians being close-minded, respectfully pose a counterargument. When you’re talking politics with friends and one of them mentions that Republicans are the only people who are still Christian, declare that you defy this stereotype and tell them why. And when you see members of another faith affected by an act of hatred – like the vandalized Jewish cemetery in St. Louis – condemn the act of violence on social media and tell your Christian friends to start collecting donations, like Muslim activists did. It can be uncomfortable to speak out about being Christian, but until we do, our silence is sending its own message.
I don’t blame the people who think Christians are all the same politically. It certainly frustrates me sometimes, but when I consider the exposure they’ve had to Christians through the media combined with Christian Democrats – who I’ve never heard speak out prominently – I can understand their logic. Their narrative is the one people accept right now, and until Christian Democrats speak up, that narrative isn’t going to change.
It isn’t enough to hope everyone understands that you’re implying inclusivity within the Democratic party by not mentioning your religion, and it isn’t enough to hope everyone understands that not all Christians are pro-life or against gay marriage. The perception about Christianity and about who Christians are won’t change until Christian Democrats start speaking up and acting out.
Natalie Prieb, a freshman majoring in English, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.