Billionaire Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer who said he believes America’s spirituality and religiosity is one of the nation’s “great strengths” is hoping the discussion of faith in America will seriously be acknowledged beyond the realm of the Republican Party this election cycle.
Steyer, who never run for elected office before launching his campaign, much like incumbent President Donald Trump, says he is as a Christian believer who embraced the idea of God through both his father’s Jewish and his mother’s Episcopalian traditions.
In a recent interview with journalist Paula Faris on her podcast “Journeys of Faith with Paula Faris," Steyer, a hedge fund manager and philanthropist who describes himself “as a political activist who’s running for president,” revealed how he finally found faith in God at age 30 and infused it in his life.
He believes the separation of church and state is important but also strongly embraces religious freedom, freely stating that his faith impacts his worldview including government.
“I think about my religion as giving me the values and the framework for thinking about everything including government. … I think everybody should be coming to questions of government with values in mind in trying to do the right thing. I say look, if you come that way, if you tell the truth and put the American people first in trying to do the right thing, if we disagree on everything, I’m fine with it … that’s called democracy,” he said.
“I think about religion as infusing you with the values you care the most about. But the reason the Constitution separates church and state, religion and government, is because if you bring it directly into the government where you say, I’m in contact with God, this is what I think because this is what God thinks, you really can’t have a conversation,” he said.
Steyer says when he made his decision to embrace faith in God his mother felt he was a bit “smug” about it.
“I was aware growing up that people could believe in God and pursue faith from different angles and still that didn’t reflect on them being right or wrong. It was their way of seeing it. So when I was about 30, I called my mom and said: ‘You’re not gonna believe this but I really believe in God,’” he told Faris.
‘She goes: ‘Sonny, there are a lot of people who are a hell of a lot smarter than you that believe in God. Don’t sound so smug,” Steyer said his mother replied.
He explained that at the time he decided to believe in God he was searching for something that would help him make sense of his purpose in life.
“I think what I was searching for then and what I think is important to me, is feeling like there’s a connectedness to my life. And that, in fact, what I’m doing makes sense while I’m on the earth, there’s a purpose to it and the values that I believe in make sense in the context of the physical world and the other human beings on the planet in kind of a continuum of life on earth,” he said. “I want to feel as if I’m part of that continuum in a positive way and that my time here is not empty, but it’s in fact infused with value beyond myself.”
His faith, he said, helps to drive the passion he has for some of the touchstone issues of his platform, such as climate change.
“Let’s talk for a second about climate change. I said I would declare a state of emergency on day one. I would use the emergency powers of the presidency to deal with it on day one. I’d call on Congress to pass something like the Green New Deal the first 100 days. I’d make it the No. 1 priority of foreign policy because unless we do that — re-establish the United States as a moral and technological and commercial leader in the world — we can’t get it done,” he said.
“When you think about it in terms of faith, you’re thinking about two things. You’re thinking about protecting God’s earth. … You can’t do that and not in fact take care of the earth and watch it change in ways that can be devastating, not just for us but for everything on earth,” he added.
Steyer added that while America has historically been an “overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian” nation, it's increasingly growing more pluralistic, especially with many young people “struggling with traditional faith."
“Historically, we were overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian and I think that even when you look at that description you can see that we are much more multiple than that. You have a lot of people who were coming here who are Muslims, Hindus. We have a lot of young people who are struggling with traditional faith and finding their own way to God, and to me that’s fine,” he told Faris.
“Everybody has to find their own way and I support that. But the key to me is not how you do it but whether you do it. I really think it’s really important for me. I hope other people see it this way, too, in finding that core of what we’re doing on this planet. How we’re making contributions. How we’re part of a positive force on this planet.
“We are a spiritual nation. We are a religious nation. I think that’s one of our great strengths. I think that that gives us the courage to do what’s right,” he said.