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Elizabeth Warren would never use faith to pander to the faithful, and other incredible myths

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Earlier this month, the Boston Globe published an article touting the depth of Elizabeth Warren’s Christian faith. While I won’t question the genuineness of her faith (or lack thereof, whatever the case may be), I do however question the timing of the Globe’s release of the article. Far too often, politicians have used faith to pander to the faithful for votes. Legal Insurrection’s William A. Jacobson explores this point in his piece:

Why this sudden focus on Warren’s Christianity? I consider it the start of the Warren rebranding for 2020. While a lot of potential Democrat candidate names are mentioned, Warren is at the top. Running hard left will help Warren win the primary, but will hurt in the general election. She’s going to have to appeal to those God-fearing Christians Democrats have long mocked as bitter clingers and deplorables.

He may well have a point. Those who have their eyes on either 2018 or 2020 may well start laying the foundations of their campaigns in the here and now. The New York Times pointed out Warren’s robust fund raising in their piece:

Ms. Warren has built a formidable online fund-raising operation, which has brought in $5.1 million this year for her 2018 re-election campaign and allowed her political action committee to donate $270,000 to other Democrats. Yet she also has joined a parade of would-be Democratic presidential contenders who have paid visits to the wealthy summer enclaves that serve as A.T.M.s for the party’s candidates.“I think Elizabeth is laying the groundwork for a run. She won’t admit it, but it looks like that,”

I admit that it may well be mere coincidence that stories about Warren’s “deep faith” are coming out around the same time as the New York Times is publishing articles about her “formidable online fund-raising operation. However, call me a cynic, but I doubt it. “Rebranding” oneself in the political sphere as a “devout follower of Jesus” may be a great ploy to woo naive Christians into casting a ballot for them.

Sadly, the use of religion as a tactic to sway the votes of the faithful has been used since time immemorial and it seems to work; otherwise, politicians wouldn’t keep doing it. The fact of the matter is a large portion of the country still identifies as religious in some form. Roughly 80% (depending on what poll you refer to) of America still identifies as some sect of Christianity. Practically speaking, it’s smart for a politician to dust off “The Good Book” and wave it around as if they’ve been a true believer all their lives. Many politicians have been guilty of this. From Trump’s now iconic “Two Corinthians” speech to Hillary Clinton waxing poetic in regards to being a Methodist while also stating that religious people need to “change their beliefs.” This is a phenomenon that is found both on the left and the right ends of the political spectrum.

Using Faith As A Prop

During the past presidential election, I didn’t support either candidate from the two major political parties. However, as a small-L libertarian, I was drawn to then Libertarian candidate Austin Petersen. I remember sharing a video clip with then-presidential candidate Petersen to my Facebook with words of approval. A fellow Christian commented on the video by saying, “Be careful. He’s an atheist.” My response was essentially one of, “Who cares?” Frankly, I found Pertersen’s honesty refreshing. Instead of pandering to me for my support with lies about his “deep faith”, he frankly admits that while he doesn’t believe as I do, he’ll fight to uphold the constitution, which includes my religious freedom.

However, I feel as though there are many among the faithful who would prefer the comfort of empty professions of faith, rather than hear truth: many politicians who claim to have faith, really have no faith at all. To that point, Jacobson is right to state that “…there’s very little historical evidence of Warren’s ‘deep’ religious faith, other than in a political context.” To contrast her professions of Christianity, he rightly recalls that proof Warren’s claims of possessing Native American heritage remain obscure at best:

…weaving stories from people completely unrelated to Warren as to their own experiences with Native America family lore or growing up as Native American in the 1950’s and 1960’s with bits and pieces of Warren’s story.  The end result is an attempt to paint Warren as a victim of circumstance and the times she grew up in, as a means of explaining away the many inconsistencies in her story.

Yet when one digs down into the actual facts in the Globe story, it actually is quite devastating to Warren, proving that contrary to her many recent accounts, Native American ancestry was not central to her life at any time prior to the mid-1980s when she claimed “Minority Law Teacher” status in a national law faculty directory.

The fact of the matter is, that many already see Warren’s truthfulness as questionable due to the sketchy circumstances regarding her supposed Native American heritage. People of “deep faith”, particularly the Christian faith, should never allow themselves to be put into a position where their integrity is questioned. As Philippians 1:27 states, “Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (NIV)” That includes honesty about one’s own heritage.

Putting Faith In Its Proper Place

Our faith should inform our politics, not the other way around. That is not to say that as followers of Jesus, we must completely remove ourselves from the political sphere. Dr. Vincent Bacote points out in his book, “The Political Disciple“:

“While it is vitally important to proclaim the gospel, introduce people to Jesus, and help them move toward faithful discipleship as they participate in church life, it is also tremendously important for Christians to see that it has always been our responsibility to care for the world, cultivating the flourishing of life through our activity in culture, politics, education, medicine, business and every public area.”

 However, he reminds readers:

 “Even if we live in a country like the United States that, as G.K. Chesterton suggested, in some way has ‘the soul of a church,’ our loyalty to country can never be confused with our prime allegiance to the tribune God with whom we are in covenant relationship. “

It’s important to remember that our politics shouldn’t overshadow the faith. Our faith must come first in all things. That being said, we should also practice better discernment. As 1 John 4:1 suggests, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (NIV)”. True, John was speaking of religious leaders, but I think that same healthy skepticism should and must be applied to our politicians.

Whether Elizabeth Warren is a woman “of deep faith” as the Boston Globe claims or not, I don’t pretend to know. People of religious faith should not simply take politicians at their word when it comes to professions of faith; but they should look closely at their voting records, their stance on various issues, and hold their feet to the fire should those same politicians fail to deliver.

Ultimately the question shouldn’t be why politicians continue to use faith to pander to religious voters, the question is: why do we as religious people keep falling for it? I only hope that one day the throngs of the faithful will stop buying into the empty words of politicians as they hollowly wave Christianity around for votes.

 

 

Born in West Virginia but raised in Chicago, Misty is a Fellow of the C.S. Lewis Institute and radio broadcaster. She has a passion for history, Christian apologetics, and great food! Misty also has a heart for spreading awareness about multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that claimed the life of her mother in 2013. She also occasionally writes for the Christian apologetics website AClearLens.org

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