Somehow, I received two letters in one envelope from Dr. Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. Just one would have been enough for a Twilight Zone experience.
The Faith & Freedom Coalition describes itself as a “social conservative national grassroots organization.” Before the 2022 midterm elections, the coalition planned to spend $36-$42 million to rally the “Christian” vote. In 2024, they plan to spend even more.
Faith & Freedom events attract presidential candidates like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, and of course former President Donald Trump. “No group has fought harder in the defense of the Judeo-Christian values that we all stand for and uphold than Faith & Freedom Coalition,” Trump said at the coalition’s 2023 “Road to Majority” Conference. “And no group will be more crucial to our magnificent victory on Election Day 2024.”
So how the heck did I get on this mailing list? I’m no social conservative or Republican.
The one thing Reed and his team got right is that I am a Christian. Baptized at 7. Seventeen consecutive years of Christian private school education (K-12 plus four years of undergraduate college).
Church was a weekly destination during my childhood. Both of my parents were devout Christians.
My mother grew up in the Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Marianna, Fl. My father was a PK – pastor’s kid, one of seven – in the Faith Church of God and Saints of Christ. Both joined the Seventh-day Adventist church as adults.
I am also an SDA. Christianity is baked into my DNA. Just not Ralph Reed’s brand of the faith.
Headlines and scandals make it easy to forget that American Christianity is not monolithic. We all may worship the same savior, but our beliefs about when, where, why and how to do so aren’t all the same.
Christianity has layers. Different aspects, looks, and practices. Its differences are more than just denominational. There are ideological and philosophical differences, too.
You wouldn’t know it based on the popular Christian media – or influential advocacy groups like Faith & Freedom – but many of us are Democrats.
Some of us are even pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and pro-Black Lives Matter. Some even support the legalization of gambling and marijuana.
Not even. And that’s because we liberal Christians value that God-given attribute we call freedom of choice.
I think that’s one of the main messages of the Garden of Eden story. The very human characters Adam and Eve had the freedom to choose. They weren’t portrayed as flesh-covered algorithms or bots.
Humanity has always had the freedom to choose and think, to decide our own destiny. That was one of God’s first gifts to us. No government or society has the right to forbid or impede it.
Which means, to me as a Christian, folks are empowered to make their own decisions about the lives they want to live. Who they want to love, how they choose to identify, and what recreation they want to enjoy.
Live and let live, as long as one person’s right doesn’t infringe on another’s.
So yes, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. But color me blue politically and ideologically.
Reed and his cohorts probably think they have a monopoly on faith because of the high percentage of Republicans in some Christian groups. For example, according to the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of evangelical Protestants identify as Republicans or lean Republican. Among Mormons, the GOP dominates with 70 percent to 19 percent.
But 44 percent of Catholics call themselves Democrats or lean that way, compared to 37 percent Republicans. With mainline Protestants, Democrats edge out Republicans 44 percent to 40 percent. Among orthodox Christians, the Dems win with 54 percent to 34 percent. And finally, supporters of the Democratic Party dominate Black Protestants 80 percent to the Republican Party’s 10 percent.
That’s my kind of faith and freedom, Dr. Reed.