Being a Christian is the single-most important part of who I am. As a legislator, to try to minimize its impact would be unwise, unfruitful and frankly impossible.
You see, every legislator makes decisions based on morality, because every law has at its center a moral question and a moral judgment. The issues debated and voted on in the Legislature bear this out: abortion, immigration, marriage, tort reform, criminal justice, education, religious liberties, the budget and debt. If we accept that all law is moral, then it’s reasonable to think that the electorate cares deeply about the source of lawmakers’ personal morality. What informs their opinions? What do they lean on in times of confusion or uncertainty?
For me, it’s the scripture, the infallible word of God. The principles in the Old Testament and New Testament are a plumb line for my life. Jesus is the savior of my sins. My faith system undergirds not only my political life but every facet of my life. And I would posit that while not all of my colleagues share my Christian faith, they all have a moral system through which they view legislation — whether it’s theistic, pantheistic, agnostic or atheistic.
I get concerned when I hear lawmakers say that they can separate their personal beliefs from their work in the Legislature. And I have yet to see even one of my colleagues accomplish this feat.
What would it tell you about a person if they could bifurcate their belief system and their work as a legislator? Personally, I’d like to think people appreciate that my faith plays a role in how I go about my legislative responsibilities.
After all, scripture teaches Christians to “do justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Who doesn’t want a legislator who lives out that command? It also says that truth is paramount, that kindness and gentleness are hallmarks of the faith, and that love is supreme to all character traits. It seems to me that all Texans would appreciate those values.
My beliefs span party or chamber; sometimes they prompt me to take different positions from the caucus I am affiliated with. One example occurred during the recently completed 84th legislative session. I was proud to stand with my colleague, Democratic State Rep. Eric Johnson, whose legislation sought to curtail video visitations for inmates. Having served on the House Corrections Committee, I had come to understand the critical importance of in-person contact for those in prison and their families on the outside. While much of the data confirms that, so does scripture. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke approvingly of those who came to visit inmates. While this caused me to break ranks with some of my Republican colleagues, I relied on my faith and felt it was the right thing to do.
I hope to honor my Heavenly Father in all that I do, and I do it by keeping His commandments. One such command is to evince the fruit of the spirit in our lives. And that fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Who wouldn’t want that in a legislator?