Pete Buttigieg’s Faith-Based Balancing Act

Pete Buttigieg’s Faith-Based Balancing Act

3 mins read
Mayor Pete’s a complicated man. Photo: Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is not your average presidential candidate. Currently 37, if nominated, he would become the second youngest major-party candidate in U.S. history (William Jennings Bryan was 36 in 1896); if elected he’d be the youngest president by a wide margin. Despite his youth, he’s that increasingly rare commodity: a military veteran. He’s the first openly gay major-party presidential candidate. He has an unconventional résumé as the mayor of a relatively small city (South Bend, Indiana, population: 102,245). He harkens back to an abandoned tradition of multilingual aspirants to the presidency, as his campaign confirms his working knowledge of eight languages (English, Norwegian, Spanish, French, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, and Dari). That would put him in the same company as Thomas Jefferson, who was fluent in English, French, Greek, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, and knew some Dutch and Arabic (!) as well.

But Buttigieg stands out in an even less conventional way: He’s an observantly religious (Episcopalian) Democratic millennial, part of a party and a generation increasingly characterized by nonsectarian belief or unbelief, and prone to thinking of religious expression in a political contest as something those intolerant, Bible-thumping conservative Republicans do. That makes him an unusually effective scourge for politicized conservative Evangelicals who can’t begin to grasp the phenomenon of a married gay Christian who may go to church more often than they do. But if he’s not careful, he could alienate both irreligious voters and those whose view of the intersection of faith and politics don’t match his own. It’s inherently a balancing act.

very basic question from Religious Service’s Jack Jenkins about “the appropriate role of religion in American politics”:

Christian Left to fight the Christian Right for control of the Bible and the cross. Asked if he thought conservative Christians were “sinful” for their love of Donald Trump, Buttigieg stuck to criticizing the hypocrisy involved in that unnatural attachment:

Poor People’s Campaign (much of whose leadership, notably Rev. William Barber II, is very definitely faith-based), Buttigieg is particularly circumspect:

Tensions back home in South Bend over police misconduct toward black citizens have made this problem even more acute. Being conspicuously identified with someone like Barber (often considered the heir to Martin Luther King’s legacy of church-based social protest) would be worth its weight in gold to a white wine-track candidate like Mayor Pete. But Buttigieg takes his own religion seriously enough to avoid opportunistic use of it even when he really needs it. That won’t help him become the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. But perhaps he is storing up treasure in heaven.

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