Lutheran Pastor Running for Iowa State Senate as Democrat Says Campaign is a Test of Her Faith

Rev. Sarah Trone Garriott

Loving your enemies isn’t an easy thing to do on the campaign trail.

Even if the candidate is a pastor.

“(Faith) pushes us in ways that are not always comfortable, which means sacrificing yourself and caring for people that you wouldn’t want to care for normally, like loving your neighbor or loving your enemies,” said the Rev. Sarah Trone Garriott.

“Running for office is definitely a harder way of living that out.”

Garriott, an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who is running for state Senate in Iowa, is hardly the first faith leader to seek elected office. But in an era where the Republican Party often dominates conversations about faith and politics, the pastor is one of several Democratic candidates quietly mustering religion-conscious campaigns to take down powerful Republicans in 2020.

For Garriott, a background in ministry is a strength to be touted — not a weakness to be hidden under a bushel. And running for office is an act of faith.

Originally from Minnesota, Garriott served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in New Mexico after graduating from college, focusing on the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence. She then enrolled at Harvard Divinity School, hoping to learn how to help pastors address those same issues. It was there that she met her husband, then a scholar of patristics, and first began considering ordained ministry.

The two moved around the country for several years after that: first to Philadelphia, where Garriott worked as a hospital chaplain, and later to Illinois, where she enrolled in seminary at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

After seminary, Garriott served congregations in West Virginia, Virginia and Iowa before becoming an interfaith organizer for the Des Moines Area Religious Council in 2017.

“I like to connect with people, meet folks, make connections for them — I’m a connector,” she said. She explained that she was inspired to take the post after hearing about a rash of hate incidents in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s election.

Through her work as a pastor and an interfaith leader, she met Republican Charles Schneider, the lawmaker currently serving as state senator for Iowa’s 22nd District, when he asked her to open a session of the state Senate in prayer. After that, Garriott said, she began to follow the Republican more closely.

She eventually grew frustrated with his policies, sometimes even showing up at his events to pepper him with questions while sitting in the front row.

When she saw that Schneider was up for reelection, she decided to challenge him.

“I remember I had this dream that he had gotten new yard signs and I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, someone’s gotta do something,’” she said of Schneider, who serves as president of the state Senate.

A few candidate trainings and conversations later, Garriott announced over Facebook that she was running for state Senate on a platform focused on addressing local, practical issues such as water quality and education funding.

“Water quality and water management issues are huge here,” she said. “When it rains, people drown in Des Moines.”

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Source: Religion News Service