During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor said that, for a party that claims to defend religious values, the GOP’s policies appear to contradict major religions’ teachings about caring for others.
“For the party and the movement known for beating other people on the head with their faith or their interpretation of their faith, it makes no sense to literally vote to take food away from the hungry, to essentially be practicing the very thing that not just the Christian scriptural tradition but so many others tell us we’re not supposed to do, in terms of harming other people,” Buttigieg said.
The mayor, an Episcopalian who has made faith a key part of his campaign for the Democratic nomination, was responding to questions about his beliefs posed by one of the show’s hosts, Joe Scarborough. The host pointed out that Jesus’s teachings, which often appear in red lettering in Bibles, suggest Christians will be held accountable for how they care for those in need and how they treat foreigners.
“How do we have the policies that we have, not only at the border, but across this country and across this world by people who claim to believe the red letters in the New Testament?” Scarborough asked.
Buttigieg responded that this was a “mystery” to him.
“I do think there’s going to be a reckoning,” he said. “Because there are a lot of people sitting in the pews hearing political conservatism all around them, wondering whether that really matches what we’re being told to do.”
Buttigieg, on the campaign trail, cites progressive Christian leaders, such as civil rights activist the Rev. William Barber, as his spiritual role models. The ease with which Buttigieg speaks about religion has caused some consternation among evangelical Christians, including accusations from some leaders that his progressive faith isn’t an authentic expression of Christianity.
Earlier in the conversation, Scarborough, who has identified as Baptist in the past, asked Buttigieg if he has accepted Jesus as his “lord and personal savior,” using language about repentance and salvation that is common among evangelicals.
Buttigieg replied that while he does believe in Jesus, he hasn’t had a “road to Damascus” encounter, referring to a Bible story about one early apostle’s sudden and complete conversion experience. He said he came to faith through an “appreciation of mystery” and through understanding that there are limits to what he can comprehend. He added that he still struggles with “a lot of doubt and ambiguity.”
Buttigieg said he understands salvation by looking at the sacrificial love shown by Jesus.
“I don’t know how well that aligns with how others view their encounter with Christian faith, but I know that in my life, it has certain implications,” he said. “And I also know that it has certain moral implications that I think I can be responsible to, without saying that anybody else has to believe what I believe or has to believe anything.”
Buttigieg in the past has specifically questioned the faith of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
“I just don’t understand how you can be as worshipful of your own self as he is and be prepared to humble yourself before God,” Buttigieg said of Trump in an April interview. “I’ve never seen him humble himself before anyone.”
In March, he questioned how Pence, who says he is an evangelical Catholic, has allowed himself to become a “cheerleader of the porn-star presidency.”