South Bend Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg has officially entered the 2020 race for the democrat nomination for President of the United States. He has gone from a no name mayor of a modest sized midwestern city to a national figure in a matter of months. He’s enjoyed press attention and has even overcome his unpronounceable last name (boot-ti-judge). However, there is an aspect of his platform that has already given some people, including this writer, some pause.

Gimme That Old Time Religion

Pew research recently did a study about party affiliation and religious affiliation and the results were not surprising in the least. “None” was in the top 3 for democrats led only by buddhism, jewish and hinduism. Islam also ranked quite high. Meanwhile, the republican respondents were much more likely to be some variety of Christian. This is an important difference between the two parties. Unless you’re Pete Buttigieg.

Democrats are Delightfully Non-Religious and That’s a Good Thing

One of the biggest things that is different about Mayor Pete is his faith and his homosexuality. It’s a fascinating case. How that has articulated itself into the race is his constant harping on values and that to be religious doesn’t mean that you can only be within the evangelical right. He advocates for a “religious left” that is both grounded in traditional christian values while also espousing the political views of the democrat party.

Long time readers of my personal blog will know that I was once a republican. I did not join the college democrats when I was in college and it took me a long time to come around to agreeing with gay marriage and universal healthcare. I was president of a chapter of the Young Republicans and I was state secretary of the Colorado Young Republicans briefly) and I was a national delegate to the YR national convention in 2009. I grew up in church and attended TeenPact at the state level and on a national trip from 2003-2005. I know and understand the Republican party like most people on the left don’t and one of the things I really enjoyed when I finally left the republican party was the lack of religion. I had left the evangelical church by that time and one of the best things about any meeting of democrats was no pledge of allegiance and no ecumenical prayer. Within the democrat party you never had to worry about someone hurling religious dogma at you. However, how would mayor Pete’s “religious left” handle a diverse party of immigrants, LGBTQA+, and non-religious folks? Recently, the Methodist church had a massive denominational split over gay rights within their churches. Many have welcome LGBT people while others have been hesitant.

Atheism is on the Rise

Throughout the country, the largest growing faith group is “none.” Many Americans, especially if they are under 35 are leaving churches and places of faith behind in large numbers. Being an Atheist doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be democrat. The above chart shows that indeed 23% of those polled identified with the GOP and were Atheist. However, much like what Europe went through in the early 20th century, the trend is broadly towards less religion: not more. I can see how Mayor Pete might use this to bring in independents in the midwest who value their faith and aren’t always comfortable with the seemingly faithless democrats, however, that lack of overt faith is a strength, not an area where we need improvement on the Left.

A Gay Man of Faith

Mayor Pete is hanging his campaign on faith, values, and a renewal of the American dream has he has observed it and lived it in South Bend, Indiana. We’ll dig into him more here at Rouges when we publish our series on “Presidential First Looks” on all the candidates but for right now, Mayor Pete needs to know this: we on the Left don’t need any old-time religion. We’re doing just fine.