WASHINGTON, DC – Democrat Sen. Chris Coons, co-chair of the weekly bipartisan prayer breakfast, is challenging colleagues within his party to be more open about sharing their faith. His latest invitation came in an op-ed in the Atlantic.
Sen. Coons tells CBN News he believes Democrats have been too cautious over the years about sharing their faith values and how it influences their political views. Now, he thinks it's time for a change.
"This is an overwhelmingly religious country," Coons says. "The vast majority of Americans self identify either as people who regularly pray and regularly worship, or people who everyday pray and worship."
Coons says that while many associate religion with the conservative right, polls show about three-fourths of Democrats identify as religious or somewhat religious.
"And since most Americans get through their day, get through their challenges in faith, for us to hide the fact that it's an important part of our lives as Democrats would leave an unanswered question for millions of Americans who would find it hard to be comfortable with us, hard to trust us if they think we are not moved or grounded somewhat in faith," Coons continued.
While Coons strongly differs from conservative colleagues on issues like abortion, he looks for other opportunities to find common ground.
"I personally work for moments where there are common purposes rather than division rooted in our differences in faith," explains Coons.
And he says there are many issues where faith informs and influences his stance.
"Working against human trafficking, working on criminal justice reform, working to improve the environment are things that have brought together the whole range of our faith communities across the United States," says Coons.
Coons described his experience campaigning with his colleague Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and what happened when he introduced the senator and talked about how they got to know each other.
"I said I got to know him better when we were in a prayer group, a reflection group together, and I could see looking out at the audience dozens of people sort of (surprised face) – because that's not something Sherrod ever talks about," Coons recalls.
Coons repeated the same thing at the second event he introduced him at that day, and says by the third campaign stop, Sherrod was talking it himself – adding that Brown later quoted a passage from Matthew in his election night speech.
"I think it's valuable to show people our hearts, those of us in public office," claims Coons.
Coons is encouraged that many 2020 Democrat presidential candidates have already discussed their faith on the campaign trail, like Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who Coons has endorsed.
"It's quite a change I think from previous cycles," he says.
Coons says that, of the candidates, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar are regulars in the weekly bipartisan prayer breakfast.
"It's important for folks to know that a weekly hour spent in prayer with colleagues of a wide range of faith backgrounds from all over the country is an important priority for them because I think it helps folks see that we're more complicated people than the two dimensional caricature you often see on other news channels," he adds.
Coons says if you look back at our nation's history, some of the greatest movements were "centrally inspired by people of faith" – and he believes there is more great work that can be done if elected officials focus more on things that can bring Americans together.
"I think there is great work we can and should be doing together inspired by a common understanding of who is my neighbor that is broad, that is open-hearted, and can make a real difference," says Coons.