Revving up a Religious Left - Pete Buttigieg
“If you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me; your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
- 2020 (hopeful) presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said, speaking at an annual event of the L.G.B.T.Q. pac Victory Fund on April 7. The comments were directed to Mike Pence. But the way Buttigieg weaves a considered, intellectually rigorous faith into his politics is directed to us who exist somewhere in the political left.
Pete Buttigieg is totally refreshing in how he talks unapologetically about religion, the intersection of his faith and his being gay, and what we on the liberal/progressive side of things have lost in giving away faith to the religious right.
A Washington Post “Post Reports” episode featured an interview with Pete Buttigieg, with reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey (@spulliam) engaging him explicitly on religion.
“I think there’s an opportunity for religion to be used not so much as a cudgel, but invoked as a way of calling us to higher values…[and] some religious principles that everyone can share and respect might guide us into a better place in our politics.”
I love hearing Buttigieg’s articulation of how he has threaded the best elements of faith - values of inclusion rather than exclusion - into his life and understanding of politics, public life and policy. I especially love that he speaks with a faith he moved into as an adult.
In reconciling his being gay and christian, he does what so many queer christians have done and continue to do: he connects to the overall story of the gospel, to the god of radical love it shapes and shares and let’s that god take lead: “I hope that the teachings of inclusion and love win over what I personally consider to be a handful of scriptures that reflect the moral expectations of the era in which they were recorded.”
“I do think it’s unfortunate that we’ve kind of lost touch with a religious tradition that I think can help explain and relate our values. And at least in my interpretation it helps to root 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, which of course the New Testament is filled with.”
Buttigieg underscores that religious left would need to be defined around inclusion rather than exclusion as the religious right has defined itself. He acknowledges that this is not a new idea; the left historically has been motivated to action by faith before (and is today in some places), but that it’s time to re-invigorate this linkage of inclusive, religiously-informed values and liberal activism.
By being 37, gay and bringing faith language into his political framework, it feels to me like Buttigieg is releasing the bind of secularism on the left and also the bind in the imagination of the left to a certain image of religiousness. It’s the combo of all three of those identities - gay, near-millennial, religious - that delivers the message as a relief. One need not be religious to act on progressive values, but the ability to access and express values rooted in (coming out of) religion which guide you to politics and policies of care and inclusion has significant power.