Sight Magazine – Essay: How Biden’s faith-based office advanced its wish to heal the nation’s soul



“Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.

These words of St. Francis to his followers come to mind this week as we mark Monday the one-year anniversary of President Joe Biden’s reinstatement of the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, just over a year since he put his hand on the Bible and was sworn in as our 46th President.

Looking back on this year, it is evident that President Biden deeply believes in the words of St. Francis.

President Joe Biden speaking to reporters February 3 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. PHOTO: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky).

Our President’s faith is private and personal; with rare exceptions, such as this month’s National Prayer Breakfast, he doesn’t talk about it at length in public. On the contrary, he demonstrates his faith by works and deeds. Over the past year, President Biden has used his service to our nation to show us his faith – a faith of empathy and compassion, a faith rooted in both the Social Gospel movement and the words of the Gospels. themselves.

I have been blessed to call President Biden a friend for many years and was honored to speak at the 2020 Democratic National Convention about his belief in the power of prayer. I’ve seen it in the most difficult times – when his beloved son Beau died of brain cancer or when my own father was in hospice – and in times of celebration, like before he was sworn in as president.

“In the year since his recovery, [the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships] has been part of the administration’s efforts to bring people of all backgrounds and faiths together, to connect faith-based and secular organizations in efforts to address racial injustice, support global humanitarian work, promote pluralism and fight against the pandemic. “

President’s belief in the power of faith led him to support the Office of Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships, whose anniversary we are celebrating [Monday]. The office grew out of a bipartisan idea, pioneered by President George W Bush and supported by President Barack Obama.

In the year since his recovery, he has been part of the administration’s efforts to bring people of all backgrounds and faiths together, to connect faith-based and secular organizations in efforts to address racial injustice, support for global humanitarian work, promoting pluralism and fighting the pandemic.

Since last February, the office has worked with religious organizations and places of worship, from historically black churches in Arkansas to Hindu temples in California, to convey the facts about the COVID-19 virus and administer more than 300,000 vaccinations.

He has connected congregations and nonprofits across the country with resources to ensure their members have the tools they need to access the Child Tax Credit and other crucial relief programs in the US rescue plan. He’s even started gearing up to help nonprofits and religious institutions make their buildings more energy efficient so they can save money and help the environment. It’s a key part of the administration’s job, in President Biden’s words, “to heal the soul of our nation.”

Over the past year, his actions have also helped drive much of that healing. With the tragic loss of life in the pandemic and larger natural disasters, ranging from wildfires to tornadoes due to global warming, all too often this year, President Biden has been called upon to comfort Americans enduring physical, emotional pain. or spiritual. We’ve seen him deliver moving eulogies to friends and former colleagues, or hug a Colorado man in shorts in the dead of winter because he’d lost everything in a fire.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul writes: “Praise be to the… Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, that we may comfort those who are in difficulty with the consolation we ourselves receive from God.” President Biden felt personal grief beyond the imagination of many of us and found strength in God; through this, he was also able to bring comfort to many. many Americans who are currently struggling with their own challenges and grief.

However, President Biden’s faith informed far more than his individual acts of consolation. His legislative agenda continues in a tradition of Democratic and progressive leaders inspired by the Social Gospel movement. Initiated a century ago by spiritual leaders like Washington Gladden and Walter Rauschenbusch, the Social Gospel’s belief in “social salvation” as a necessity for personal salvation has led its followers to commit to principles of justice. social. The influence of the Social Gospel was clear in the policies of early 20th century progressives and the New Deal, the Great Society, and the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The social inequalities in the nation that greeted President Biden at his inauguration were in many ways similar to those perceived by leaders of those earlier eras. In this world, he and Congress passed the American bailout, which contained America’s most effective memory tool for reducing child poverty.

During the Biden presidency, wages rose, and they rose faster for low-wage workers, bucking the trend of the past 40 years. He signed into law a bipartisan infrastructure bill that will help up to two million Americans experience the dignity of a well-paying job over the next 10 years, while also working to return custody of universal children, stronger labor rights, environmental justice and higher accessibility. education is part of the American fabric.

Such are the policies of a man who believes that we are all created in the image of God, that we are all, as Rauschenbusch wrote, “basically the same…starved for bread, sweaty for work, struggling to snatch enough from hostile nature and men”. to feed (our) children.

It reflects who Joe Biden is, someone who has leaned on his beliefs in times that are both terribly terrible and truly joyful. He is the man I know he will continue to be throughout his service as President.

Chris Coons is a United States Senator from Delaware.


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