Religion Biden

Will Religion Unite or Divide Under Biden?

Kennedy Lee on December 4, 2020

Will faith be a force in uniting — or furthering divisions — during the incoming Joe Biden presidency? Are divisions among believers an outlier or do they mirror trends seen in secular arenas in America today as well?

On Thursday, December 3, the Associated Press, Religion News Service, and The Conversation hosted a virtual conversation with four prominent religious scholars and activists to discuss these pressing questions. Where do we go from here; what is religion’s role in a Biden presidency?

Moderator Peter Smith, the former president of the Religion News Association and current religion reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, hosted the conversation with panelists Dilshad D. Ali, Dr. Steven P. Millies, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, and Dr. Russell Moore. Coming from different religious backgrounds, denominations, and political affiliations, the panelists discussed where we can find common ground — and where we can’t sacrifice deeply held convictions — during the next four years.

Williams-Skinner, CEO and co-founder of the Skinner Leadership Institute and co-convener of the National African American Clergy Network, emphasized that faith has become a divisive institution in America. She specifically highlighted divisions between white Evangelicals and African American Christians.

“The same time black religious leaders were holding 40 day fasts before the election, you had white Evangelicals holding prayer circles [for President Donald Trump],” asserted Williams-Skinner.

Ali, the former editor-in-chief of Altmuslim and current editor at Haute Hijab, and the lone non-Christian on the panel, analyzed the American Muslim community and faith communities who generally were not Trump supporters.

“We were looking for a definitive beatdown of the Trump Administration. That didn’t happen. At all,” stated Ali.

Ali was assumingly referencing a presidential election outcome that came much closer than polls predicted, along with down-ballot races that heavily broke for Republicans. As of this writing, Republicans won 25 of the 27 House of Representative seats rated as “toss-ups” by the Cook Political Report and will net between 12-13 House seats, in addition to a governorship and increased seats in several state legislatures. The elections were not a landslide rejection of Trump nor his party, which will have an effect upon Biden’s ability to govern.

“We’re not a monolith. We’re a coalition of numerous faith communities and we don’t always agree,” Ali asserted in regards to the Muslim American community. She herself wonders if the same interfaith alliances that held during the Trump presidency will continue for the next four years.

“Frankly, there were a lot of things that were frustrating to Muslim communities when Obama was president and Biden was vice-president… So, we’ll see what happens,” stated Ali.

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, refuted the claim that religion is a unique point of division in American society today. “I don’t agree that religion is a divider but rather that religion is divided,” said Moore.

Moore emphasized the need to work together when we agree but not capitulate our beliefs when we don’t.

“Getting into a mode where we can oppose one another on five issues and work together on one issue is a healthy place to be,” asserted Moore. He pointed to criminal justice reform as an issue in the past that has united conservative and more progressive religious groups.

The lone Roman Catholic panelist, Millies, who is an associate professor of public theology and the director of The Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union, addressed the challenges and divisions Joe Biden’s candidacy has created among American Catholics.

“Catholics have never been more divided than we are now, at least in the American context,” stated Millies. He continued, “Religion is a divider in our politics. And those dividers have made their way into our pews.”

Despite the objections to Biden’s presidency within his own denomination, mostly over the Biden campaign’s position on abortion, Millies believes that Biden may be uniquely positioned to give leadership to all Americans, but especially to Americans of faith.

Williams-Skinner, however, believes that it will be civil society and interfaith dialogue that renews our social fabric.

“I put more faith in interfaith leaders to bring us together than for him [Biden] to bring us together,” she stated.

The panelists agreed that the church and faith groups must work together with each other and the incoming Biden Administration on the pressing COVID-19 pandemic.

It will be interesting to see the role that religion and interfaith dialogue play during the next four years. Will the divisions that exist between conservative and progressive religious groups be exaggerated, or can leaders find ways to work together across divisions? Will the incoming Biden Administration include and listen to religious leaders that normally stand opposed to its agenda, or will the divisions of the past four years continue to strain chances for unity?

  1. Comment by David on December 4, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    With denominations dividing into liberal and conservative camps, I see no way that religion is going to be any sort of unifying force. In 1868 Ulysses S. Grant remarked that there were three great parties in the United States: the Republican, the Democratic, and the Methodist Church. Evangelicals have since displaced the Methodists in this list. In some ways, the Republican party has become a religious party and when “God is on our side,” there can be no compromise.

  2. Comment by Pem Schaeffer on December 4, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    If you are not familiar with “The Conversation,” they are a self-professed cadre of “academic experts” who established an imprimatur that allows them to send out op-eds to numerous print media outlets around the country because of their presumed wisdom.

    They are, instead, the incarnation of left-wing extremist college faculty types spewing their classroom ideology to a wider audience with sturdy straws.

  3. Comment by David S. on December 4, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    David notes below that the Republicans has become something of a religious party, but the same thing can also be said of the Democrats. The secularism that seems to have found a home with the Democrats seems to have done so at the expense of religion. As a number of various, primarily Evangelical observors have noted, as the influence of Christianity on the left has declined, it has been replaced with dome sort of religious creedal influence. No, it is not a religion, which we would ordinarily recognize, but the ideology that has gripped the left functions like one. As the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum, and if the traditional religiosity is rejected, some sort of religiosity will replace it.

  4. Comment by Douglas E Ehrhardt on December 4, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    And the Democrats are the party of 8 year olds transitioning . They certainly offer much to people with a Biblical world view. Personally I’m an independent.

  5. Comment by Search4Truth on December 5, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    Tripe is the most charitable term I can use for the above discussion. Biden has said the enactment of the “Equality Act” will be his first order of business. Read the act, any action or public statement of tradition orthodox religion will be considered illegal. People who believe in biblical principles and who try to live according to them will be barred from many professions such as law, teaching and medicine, to name a few. And you believe this will unite our people?

  6. Comment by David on December 5, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    I read the Equality Act and do not see the claimed prohibitions mentioned above. The act deals with places of public accommodation such as businesses and not churches. Churches are legally private clubs which can limit their membership to whomever they please. There is no provision for limiting free speech. I have no idea how these extremist rumors get started.

  7. Comment by Mike on December 5, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    David, you can claim that all day, but sooner or later some court will decide that this Act applies to churches somehow. After all, here in New York, some of our state legislators have publicly commented that churches should be forced to do gay marriages. I have no doubt but that many, if not most, Democrats think that churches should be subject to this Act.

  8. Comment by David on December 5, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    Churches are under no obligation to perform marriages of any sort. Indeed, marriage is the province of the state and not religion. Recall that Protestants refused to recognize marriage as a sacrament. Just because someone says something outrageous does not mean it will come to pass or is even widely supported. Your opinion of Democrats is far fetched. It is religion that tries to insinuate itself into secular matters. Note religious slogans on currency and the flag pledge that are not original to any of these. When the Civil Rights Act was passed, there were business owners who unsuccessfully claimed a religious right to refuse service to Blacks.

  9. Comment by Loren J Golden on December 6, 2020 at 1:26 am

    Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., is the President-elect of a deeply divided and polarized nation.  Although he won election to the highest office in the land by 57% of the Electoral College, he only garnered 51.38% of the popular vote, compared with 46.91% who voted to reelect President Donald Trump.  For comparison, although Donald Trump won election with 57% of the Electoral College in 2016, he lost the popular vote by 46.09% to 48.18%.  The constituencies which voted for Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are themselves divided.  A great many Americans voted for Mr. Trump despite deep misgivings about his seriously flawed moral character, because they fear the horrific social changes that will seriously curtail constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms that candidates such as Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Biden have promised to their constituents to implement if elected.  But conversely, many Americans (my wife among them) voted for Mr. Biden because they were voting to remove Mr. Trump from office because of his offensive character, not because they have any particular affinity for Mr. Biden or his party’s political agenda.
    In his victory speech, Mr. Biden said, “The people of this nation have spoken.  They have delivered us a clear victory.  A convincing victory.”  This is an overstatement.  The American people have given Mr. Biden a marginal victory, just as they gave Mr. Trump four years ago.  Mr. Trump used his as a clear mandate from the American people to implement policies which he saw fit, most often in service to the constituencies that elected him, with utter disregard for the policy aspirations of Americans who opposed him.  What assurance do Americans who voted for candidates other than Mr. Biden have that he will not do the same?
    Again in his speech, Mr. Biden said, “I ran as a proud Democrat.  I will now be an American president.  I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as those who did. Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end—here and now.”  Bravo.  Well said.  I agree with this statement.  The out-of-control, crass demonization by Mr. Trump’s supporters of those who disagreed with him—which demonization Mr. Trump failed to rebuke, and which demonization Mr. Trump tragically modeled with his own uncontrolled tongue—has been a serious problem, and this country needs to back away from it.  But this is not a problem on one side of the political aisle only, as one Biden supporter amply demonstrated recently, by his malignant attitude toward theologically traditionalist United Methodists in his address at the denomination’s online Inclusiveness Conference.  If Mr. Biden truly believes that “this grim era of demonization in America (must) begin to end,” will he truly have the political will to rebuke members of his own party who demonize their political opponents?
    But then Mr. Biden continued, “The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control.  It’s a decision.  It’s a choice we make.  And if we decide not to cooperate, we can decide to cooperate.  And I believe that this is part of the mandate from the American people.  They want us to cooperate.  That’s the choice I’ll make.  And I call upon the Congress—Democrats and Republicans alike—to make that choice with me.”  Does Mr. Biden believe that Republicans and Democrats are simply being cantankerous and stubborn when they refuse to cooperate?  Would Mr. Biden call upon Democrats in Congress to cooperate with Republicans seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade?  Does he think that Republicans would cooperate with Democrats in their efforts to stifle public opposition to the LGBTQ+ agenda, were he to call them to do so?  Republicans and Democrats in Washington are, for the most part, operating from two very different sets of beliefs and ideals that are, at certain flashpoints, diametrically opposed to one another.  And their constituents are not much different.
    What is more, liberals and conservatives in this nation do not live in community with one another, and this is where the basic problem lies.  They go to different churches and congregate in separate social groups.  They live in different states, by and large, and even in different neighborhoods in the same city.  They have no meaningful in-person interaction with those with whom they disagree; thus, they are seriously out of touch with what motivates their political opponents.
    Which brings me to one more point in Biden’s speech, in which he said, “The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season—a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow, and a time to heal.  This is the time to heal in America.  Now that the campaign is over, what is the people’s will?  What is our mandate?  I believe it is this: Americans have called on us to marshal the forces of decency and the forces of fairness.  To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time.  The battle to control the virus.  The battle to build prosperity.  The battle to secure your family’s health care.  The battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country.  The battle to save the climate.  The battle to restore decency, defend democracy, and give everybody in this country a fair shot.”
    To pick on one point in this paragraph, I do not believe we have “systemic racism” in this country.  I believe that is a misdiagnosis.  What I believe we have instead would be best described as systemic racial indifference.  While there certainly are racists in America, and I do not want to belittle the suffering that men and women of color have endured because of it, I believe the greater problem is that white Americans, by and large, are indifferent to the struggles of African Americans, Hispanics, and other people of color because they do not live in community with them, which goes back to what I said above.  Sunday morning worship in America is the most segregated hour of the week, because conservative white Americans are congregating in one set of churches, liberal white Americans are congregating in another, African Americans are congregating in yet another, while Hispanic Americans are congregating in a fourth.  To be sure, there are congregations that are working to break down these barriers (Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City being a prime example), but by-and-large, homogeneity reigns supreme in local American churches, and this, in turn, leads to lack of interpersonal interaction between men and women of different races, a lack of understanding, and ultimately indifference to matters of race.
    Which brings us back to the issues dividing conservatives and liberals.  Liberal Americans are largely ignorant and indifferent to the deeply held beliefs and values of their conservative countrymen, and vice versa, because they are not involved in each other’s lives and are making no attempt to get to know one another.  And this problem is getting worse.  Personal isolation from those whose values and ideals differ significantly from our own leads to misunderstanding, lack of empathy, distrust, fear, and hatred.  It is far easier to dehumanize and hate Them, when you personally do not know any of Them.
    If Mr. Biden truly wants to bring healing to the very deep divides in this nation, he is going to have to do something much deeper and far more meaningful than be a Democrat President who calls the American people to rally behind Democratic Party ideals, policies, and agendas for the sake of healing and unity, when political ideals, policies, and agendas will neither solve America’s divisive problems nor bring healing or unity.  He needs to establish a bipartisan taskforce with the goal of encouraging community leaders across the nation to create an environment in our nation’s cities, towns, and suburbs to bring men and women from disparate backgrounds together, not for the purpose of airing grievances or judging between their neighbors’ ideals and values and their own, but simply to get to know them on a personal level without being made to feel attacked or disparaged, and to thus foster community.  This interaction cannot be forced or somehow made mandatory, anymore than a man can be forced to love his neighbor as himself.  But the deep divides in the United States of America were not forced on the men and women of this country, nor will the healing that is so desperately needed occur if the remedy is forced.  There is no quick fix to these problems; it took many years to bring this country to this place, and it will take many years for these problems to be resolved.

  10. Comment by floyd lee on December 6, 2020 at 2:22 am

    The issue of “division” is more complicated than Barbara Williams-Skinner made it sound. She mentioned “divisions” between White Evangelicals and African American Christians. But equally serious divisions exist between some Black Evangelicals and the Blacks (and Whites) of the liberal persuasion.

    Not all Blacks support Biden, Not all Blacks support the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. Not all Blacks support the Equality Act, given its inherent and serious threat to the religious freedom of all Americans. And a footnote: We honestly refuse to be marginalized by the Left anymore.

  11. Comment by Douglas E Ehrhardt on December 6, 2020 at 7:06 am

    Democrat party platform is anti Christ.

  12. Comment by Star Tripper on December 6, 2020 at 9:10 am

    One, I don’t think Biden will be inaugurated because this election has been the biggest sting operation in history. In the interest of this academic discussion though, a Harris-Biden Administration means the loss of the US to China and the quick dissolution of the country. Many of us here would be dead or in prison by the end of 2021. It might be comforting to know that most of the leftist academics would be executed by our new Earthly masters as well but small comfort.

  13. Comment by David on December 7, 2020 at 6:32 am

    “All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”
    —Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf

    What is the current “big lie” that no one is able to support with evidence either in court or elsewhere?

  14. Comment by Bill on December 7, 2020 at 9:07 am

    One big lie is that gender is a choice with no evidence in court or science or anywhere else. Another is that sexual orientation is something you’re born with. There is no scientific evidence for that either. Which lie were you referring to?

  15. Comment by David on December 7, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    If you cannot figure that out based on previous posts, it is hopeless to try to explain it to you.

  16. Comment by Jeff on December 7, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    OK, David. I’ll bite.

    The Big Lie is that Kamala H… er, I mean Joe Biden was ever elected POTUS.

    2020 election is the biggest and most audacious crime that the party of satan has ever managed to pull off. It’s even more serious than the horrific murder of 62 million kids at the bloody hands of the ‘Rats, only because the stolen office will now do all it can to speedily murder 100 million more.

    The ‘Rat Party is on the WRONG side of a just and righteous GOD. My Bible tells me so!

  17. Comment by Loren J Golden on December 8, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from the one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.  And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
    “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you?  For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6.27-36)
    Elsewhere, the Apostle Peter enjoins us, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.  Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor.” (I Peter 2.13-17)  What is especially notable about this passage is that Peter wrote this epistle sometime between AD 60 and AD 68, when Nero was lighting his dinner parties with burning Christians, and the Apostle, with the authority of God behind him, enjoined his contemporary audience to honor him, for the sake of his office as one appointed by God to wield the sword for good (compare Rom. 13.1-7).  Joe Biden, for all his faults, is nowhere nearly as cruel and despotic as Nero, yet he likewise “is God’s servant for your good.” (Rom. 13.4)  Let us not disparage him, even should he prove to be the enemy of the Church of Jesus Christ.
    “But no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (Jas. 3.8-10)

  18. Comment by Jeff on December 8, 2020 at 8:28 pm

    “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…. have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose [them]. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil… For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenly [places].” [John 10:10; Eph 5:11-16, 6:12 NKJV]

    The ‘Rat party is an Ephesians 6 principality in every sense of the word. Like the thief, their purpose is to kill the innocent unborn; steal this election and every election in our republic from this day forward; and destroy the marriage covenant, the nuclear family, our schools, our heritage, and our cities. Like their father, the father of lies, they lie in all that they do. They were not always that way, but they have yoked themselves to belial and conformed to the world. We ought not to have fellowship with this thief and look away from its evil, but rather, shine light on it and expose it.

  19. Comment by Loren J Golden on December 8, 2020 at 11:09 pm

    Let me ask you this: If a blind man stepped on your foot, would you hold it against him?
    Most men and women in the Democratic Party support abortion rights because they believe that a human being does not become a person until he or she is actually delivered alive from his or her mother’s womb, and until such a time, he or she is nothing more than a part of the mother’s body, and they believe that, as such, a woman has a right to do with her body as she so chooses.  They do not set out with the purpose of killing innocent unborn children, even though that is precisely what happens in an abortion.  But I fail to see how using angry, denunciatory words like a loose cannon is going to persuade them to see the error of their ways and repent, rather than tune out your bitter rhetoric and dismiss you altogether.
    Again, they do not see that they are destroying the marriage covenant, the nuclear family, et al, by their policies.  But how is being uncivil toward them going to solve this problem?
    Those who support such policies are blind, and often willfully so.  But speaking bitterly and angrily to or about them will not help them to see.  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15.1)
    And one other thing: You claim that the Democrats “steal this election and every election in our republic from this day forward.”  Do you have proof of this?  Did they manufacture votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia, where Mr. Biden won by slim majorities and so garnered enough electoral votes to secure the Presidency?  If so, where is the irrefutable evidence that they did?  And if there is no evidence, then why are you testifying falsely against them?
    Remember: “One who sows discord among brothers” is listed among the things that the Lord hates (Prov. 6.16-19).
    “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be conceited.  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, say the Lord.’  To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12.14-21)

  20. Comment by Jeff on December 14, 2020 at 7:37 am

    Loren, the truth is divisive, and speaking the truth (however divisive, however unpleasant to your ears) is not sowing discord; rather it is our watchman’s duty. Or would you accuse of sowing discord all of the major and minor prophets, Paul, Peter, John, James, and Jesus Himself?

    Let’s examine Proverbs 6:16-19 in its entirety, shall we?
    “These six [things] the LORD hates, Yes, seven [are] an abomination to Him:
    A proud look,
    A lying tongue,
    Hands that shed innocent blood,
    A heart that devises wicked plans,
    Feet that are swift in running to evil,
    A false witness [who] speaks lies,
    And one who sows discord among brethren.

    Collectively and undeniably, these things represent today’s DemonRat party! Including the last one: it is they and their sycophants in the media (and, sadly, far too many of their allies who call themselves followers of Christ) who have spent nearly four years “sow[ing] discord among the brethren” with their attempted coup against the best friend in the White House that the unborn, the Israelite, and the Christian have had in quite a long time.

    And, yes, I have all the evidence I need to declare that this election is stolen — there are reams of evidence for the one who is not blind to examine. Do not confuse failure to examine and prosecute evidence with lack of evidence. Do not confuse criminal destruction of evidence with lack thereof! I care not if *you* believe it at this moment, Loren. The truth is the truth, and the truth WILL be outed. Jesus is Truth and the LORD sits on the principles of justice and righteousness.

    You’re engaging in sophistry, brother, with your trite comparison of thieves, destroyers, liars, and murderers with blind men. The *collective* (principality) and its *leaders* are anything but blind! Their feet are swift with running to evil. So even as I pray for its individual “flesh and blood” elements, I pray boldly in Ephesians 6 spiritual warfare against that evil principality that calls itself the ‘Rat Party. In Jesus’ name may it be confounded in its every effort to bring forth evil and call it good! May its leaders be confused and ineffective! May the evil their feet are running swiftly to accomplish implode upon them! May the party’s plans for the destruction of our nation and our families, its deliberations in dark places, back rooms, counting-houses, be exposed in the Light of Truth! May the schemes of the Devil so fully embraced by the DemonRats be exposed and neutered! May its individual elements see, and repent, and turn away in disgust from the collective’s evil and toward the salvation of Lord Jesus. Amen and Amen!

    No, the DemonRats are not blind, but you seem to be, Loren. I pray that the eyes of your heart be opened that you may see the truth. I have nothing further to say to you — help yourself to the last word, brother.

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