Many Liberal Senators Actually Deeply Religious but Embarrassed to Share Faith, Democrat Senator Says

Forth District podcast with Sen. Chris Coons (left), Sen. James Lankford (right), and host Michael Wear (background, middle), March 6, 2018. | (Photo: Forth District)

A Democratic member of Congress has urged progressives in politics to "bring their faith to work" and be more open about their religious beliefs.

Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma were recent guests on the Church Politics podcast, which is hosted by former Obama administration official Michael Wear and Democrat political strategist Justin Giboney.

In an interview posted online on Tuesday, Senator Coons explained that he was concerned that many Christians in the progressive movement were not being open about their beliefs.

"I am concerned, frankly, that more and more Democrats feel embarrassed about or uncomfortable with sharing anything about their faith and how it connects to their service," said Coons.

"Some of the most progressive members of the Senate, members I'm very close to, don't ever talk about how it was their experience of faith, when they were children, that motivated them to get into public service and politics in the first place."

Coons added that he thought "many of their constituents would be very surprised to hear their deeply held religious views and how in particular the radical justice that the Gospel focuses on is really what motivated them to be involved in service in the first place."

Coons' comments came in response to a report released last July by Pew's U.S. Politics & Policy department, which found that 36 percent of Democrats in general and 44 percent self-identified liberal Democrats believe that churches' impact on society is negative.

"Liberal Democrats are about as likely to say the impact of churches and religious organizations is negative (44%) as they are to say it is positive (40%). By two-to-one (58% to 29%), more conservative and moderate Democrats say churches have a positive than negative effect on the country," noted Pew in their 2017 report.

"Majorities of both conservative Republicans and Republican leaners (75%) and moderate and liberal Republicans (68%) say churches and religious organizations have a positive impact."

The podcast interviewed Coons and Lankford not long after the two senators were announced as being the co-chairs for the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast, the annual event in Washington, D.C. that features a large number of prominent political and faith leaders from across the world.

The National Prayer Breakfast event is derived from weekly prayer meetings that members of Congress hold. 

Lankford talked about the value of those weekly prayer breakfasts on the podcast, saying that they allow for building relationships across partisan borders.

"It's a very private time and it's a time that's reserved just for senators. So there's no other staff there. There's no other outside entity. It's just senators and former senators that have the opportunity to be able to sit down and be able to talk about how we are really doing personally," explained Lankford.

"That does change the dynamic of the conversations. When you get to know someone, their background, what drives them, who they are as a person, you get to know more about their family, it does affect it. It is very easy in normal political life to demonize an individual based on how they vote and you just try to create a persona that's not real. This is trying to be able to move beyond the persona."

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