The recent presidential campaign, which culminated in the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, has undoubtedly left our country deeply divided. President Trump and his allies sowing doubts and conspiracy theories about the election results make it even more likely that millions of Americans will grow even more distrustful of our political process and government.
Some may claim that this election is a victory of secularism over religion, but I would argue that it is a victory of progressive, inclusive faith over conservative, restrictive faith. Crucially, Biden understands that religious liberty, part of the bedrock of this country, means not only freedom to practice our faiths as we see fit, but also freedom from having the religious views of others imposed on us, as well as the freedom to be free from religion entirely. His faith is about acceptance, an open-hearted, open-minded faith; not a faith that needs to dominate the public sphere and limit the rights and agency of others. His faith, like my own, is one that trusts women to make independent decisions about their bodies and their families, a faith that trusts people to decide if and whom they should marry, and a faith strong enough that it doesn’t drive him to force behaviors and decisions onto other Americans against their will. Under Biden’s leadership, the religious practices of all Americans will be protected without being imposed on those who do not share them.
For faith leaders, creating unity and making peace within our congregations and communities is a part of our daily work. We have a sacred obligation and opportunity to use those skills to help bridge our nation’s political divide. All faith leaders, regardless of our political views or religious beliefs, should be able to admire and respect President-elect Biden’s devotion to his Catholic faith. Through a series of profound personal tragedies and professional setbacks, Biden’s relentless commitment to his faith, his reliance upon it to help steer him through the most difficult times in his life, can serve as an inspiration for us all. And at the same time, Biden has demonstrated that as much as his faith buoys him and guides him, he has a healthy respect for the separation of church and state that has historically made the United States a bastion of personal liberty.
As easy as it may be to do so, it’s important to not view Biden’s election myopically through the lens of one particularly charged political issue, such as abortion. Throughout his career, Biden has demonstrated a clear respect for all Americans. During the campaign, he has shown a desire to leave the rancor and bitter partisanship of the last four years behind, even as we may continue to disagree on specific issues. His close relationships with other politicians who prominently express their faith, like Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, demonstrate that Biden will surround himself with kind and generous-hearted advisers and appointees – both religious and nonreligious – who truly believe in doing what is best for the country and in finding common ground wherever possible. Biden has also shown that he will be guided by values that many religions share: the importance of giving voice to the voiceless, feeding the hungry, elevating the impoverished, and removing obstacles to stability and success for the marginalized.
For so many Americans, this is a deeply emotional time; some are feeling frustration and sadness, some relief and hope; some all of those feelings at once. In the coming months, faith leaders should follow Joe Biden’s example and use our religious beliefs and our positions of respect and responsibility to open doors and build bridges, to acknowledge and celebrate difference, to be forces for justice and righteousness in our communities. If we accept this sacred obligation, we can strengthen not only our individual communities, but the nation as a whole and begin the process of putting the pain and anger of the last four years behind us.