Van Ens: Why President Biden practices a legitimate Christian faith
President Joe Biden’s Christian faith is deeply rooted in Roman Catholicism. His education in the church’s parochial schools strengthened faith practiced in Biden’s Irish Catholic home.
Biden places his trust in Christ. The president practices spiritual exercises drilled into him as a youngster that furnish vigor, devotion and legitimacy to his Christ-centered faith. The president regularly carries rosary beads in a pocket. Photos show him holding them while watching on a TV monitor during the raid when Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011 by Navy Seals.
Biden regularly attends Mass. He often speaks of how faith in the crucified Christ acted like ballast does to steady a rocking ship on angry seas. Such trust in the crucified Jesus helped Biden grieve the deaths of his first wife and daughter killed in a car accident during the early 1970s.
On the 2020 campaign trail, President Donald Trump’s fallacious argument that Biden’s faith is illegitimate sounded hollow. During his last campaign stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Trump railed against his opponent for opposing “guns, oil and God.” He wrongly accused Biden of chipping away at Second Amendment rights, going overboard on conservation regulations, and “killing babies” by supporting abortion on demand.
“If you’re against oil, that’s not good politics — right, Texas?” bellowed Trump to his midwestern devotees. “And he’s against God,” Trump wrongfully charged of Biden, who does not make abortion the litmus test for whether his Christian faith is legitimate.
Biden’s stance on abortion safeguards personal religious rights. He does not desire to “kill babies,” as Trump asserts. Abortion is never an easy decision. It defies an easy answer that fits every predicament with which pregnant women wrestle. Biden believes a pregnant woman, her spiritual counselor, doctor and trusted family members should share their convictions about this delicate matter before this woman decides to abort or not.
Biden believes the federal government overreaches when it curbs these personal rights by passing a “one-size fits all” judgment on abortion.
Trump does not think in religiously nuanced ways about abortion. He identifies as a “Presbyterian,” but his flimsy affiliation with organized Christianity did not last after he received a Bible as a youngster in Sunday School at a Presbyterian Church in Queens, New York.
Only God knows the hearts of people who claim allegiance to Him. Outward marks of devotion to Christ that Biden practices, however, are missing with Trump. This former president flip-flops on whether he OK’d payments to women, including a porn star, so they would not talk about his extramarital affairs. Early in his presidency, Trump referred to “Two Corinthians” [sic, First and Second Corinthians in the New Testament], a gaffe exposing biblical illiteracy. When asked about his favorite book in the Bible, Trump did not have an answer. He lacks Christian virtues, such as humility, compassion, truth-telling, empathy and decent speech.
In a 300-word personal confession of devotion to Christ, Biden confessed his faith’s legitimate strengths. “My faith teaches me to love my neighbor as I would myself, while [then] President Trump only seeks to divide us. My faith teaches me to care for the least among us, while President Trump seems to only be concerned about his gilded [wealthy] friends.
“My faith teaches me to welcome the stranger, while President Trump tears families apart. My faith teaches me to walk humbly, while President Trump teargassed peaceful protestors …” declared Biden.
The Roman Catholic heritage functions like a superhighway featuring several travel lanes. Some Catholics cultivate a contemplative faith; others, such as Biden, supply their faith with foundational “feet” and in their walk widen spiritual lanes blocked by hunger, loneliness, drug abuse and homelessness.
Biden broadens justice for all citizens. He erects social safety nets by advocating for soup kitchens, early childhood education and medical insurance for people left behind. He strives to offer health care to poor people. The president restores respect for immigrants at our borders and refugees running from dictators.
Jesus’ compassion inspires Biden’s passion for social justice, as practiced by Roman Catholic Dorothy Day’s helping hand ministries during the first half of the 20th century. Day [1897-1980] did not equate “church” with cathedrals; instead, she erected sanctuaries of compassion in alleys for people broken by life’s cruel reversals.
Day fell short of Christ’s virtues multiple times in her stormy life. Such disappointments caused by personal weaknesses inspired Day to rely on her Savior’s mercy. She served the “least of humanity,” as does Biden.
The New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks, in his book on what Christian character looks and acts like, sketches Day’s spiritual profile. It is reflected in Biden’s legitimate faith in Jesus, the empathetic Helper.
Like Day, Biden practices “Catholic social teaching … based, in part, on the idea [conviction] that each life has dignity, that the soul of a drug-addled homeless person is just as invaluable as the most laudable high achiever,” writes Brooks. “It is based on the conviction that God has a special love for the poor. As it says in Isaiah, ‘True worship is to work for justice and care for the poor and oppressed’ (cf. Isaiah 61:1).”
“This teaching,” writes Brooks,” emphasizes that we are one human family. God’s servants are therefore called upon to live in solidarity with one another, in community” (The Road to Character,” Random House, 2015, p. 96).
These convictions inspire Biden’s legitimate faith — to help the helpless — as Jesus and Dorothy Day did.
The Reverend Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the non-profit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (http://www.thelivinghistory.com) which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations that make God’s history come alive.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.