Going into the 2020 Democratic National Convention, party officials released a 60-second digital ad promoting the presumptive nominee’s Catholic faith. The ad shows former Vice President Joe Biden making Pope Francis laugh during a meeting in St. Peter’s Basilica and speaking with a group of smiling nuns on a street in Rome. In a voice over, Biden talks about the importance of his Catholic faith and how, for him, the nuns epitomized the church’s teaching that “we are our brothers’ keeper,” a biblical idea that shapes his liberal politics.
It will not be the last time the Democrats spotlight Biden’s lifelong Catholicism. A political action committee announced last week it will spend $50,000 on ads highlighting religious reasons to vote for Biden and the convention this week will feature a nun and a Jesuit priest in high-profile speaking spots.
Experts on the historically complicated relationship between American Catholics and evangelicals say this emphasis—primarily aimed at Catholic and mainline Protestant voters—may not help Biden win over white evangelicals, a core part of President Donald Trump’s base. But it also won’t hurt.
“He is viewed as having an authentic faith,” said Richard Mouw, former president of Fuller Theological Seminary and professor of faith and public life. “He may not be the conservative Catholic that a lot of evangelicals would like him to be, but when he talks about his faith, it rings true.”
モウ氏は、超教派による歴史的な書籍『福音派とカトリックが一致できるもの』（原題：Evangelicals and Catholics Together）を福音派の指導者たちと共に著した。共著者には、チャック・コルソン、ビル・パッカー、そしてビル・ブライトといった著名人が並ぶ。この本には、信仰義認などの教義に関する高レベルな神学的議論、中絶などの政治問題において両者が一致する部分、福音派の一般信徒が隣人であり同労者であるカトリック信徒に抱く想いがまとめられている。
Mouw was one of the signers of the historic ecumenical document “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” along with evangelical leaders Chuck Colson, J.I. Packer, and Bill Bright. According to Mouw, the 1994 statement was partly the result of high-level theological discussions about doctrines such as justification by faith, partly the result of political alliances over issues such as abortion, and partly the result of lay evangelicals responding to the heartfelt faith of their Catholic neighbors and co-workers.
“Most evangelicals didn’t care about the Catholic-Lutheran dialogue on justification. They said I know a Catholic at work and he loves the Lord,” he explained. “People believe Biden’s faith is real. He has a pastoral tone. … A lot of evangelicals who support Trump do worry about his mean-spiritedness and the polarization and we’ve been missing that pastoral tone.”
These two issues will be the sticking point for many white evangelicals. When it comes to religious outreach, conservative critics of the Democratic candidate will likely argue that Biden is not Catholic enough, according to Baylor University historian Barry Hankins, who has written about evangelical opposition to the first Catholic candidate from a major party, Democrat Al Smith.
In 1928, Smith said he didn’t believe Catholic teaching (at the time) that pluralism and democracy were inherently anti-Christian. He accepted the American set up that separates church and state—and thought it was a good thing. Many conservative Protestants, looking at authoritarian Catholic regimes in Europe, didn’t believe him. Biden, in some ways, faces the opposite problem. He disagrees with church teaching on some issues and evangelicals do believe him.