Ex-White House Aide Denise Grace Gitsham: Our Christian Identity Is Above Partisan Disagreements

Denise Grace Gitsham
Denise Grace Gitsham
By Karen Luo, Katherine GuoMarch 7th, 2024

In a world where faith and politics often intersect, Denise Grace Gitsham stands as a unique voice, blending her experiences as a lawyer, political commentator, and devout Christian. In an exclusive interview with China Christian Daily, Denise shares her insights on the role of faith in politics, the challenges facing American Christians, and the potential contributions of Asian American communities.

Denise, born to a Chinese immigrant mother and a Canadian immigrant father, found her Christian faith at the age of 15 through her high school teacher. With an extensive career spanning the highest levels of federal government, including roles at the White House for President George W. Bush, the Department of Justice, and the US Senate, along with a congressional run in San Diego in 2016, Denise's identity is firmly rooted in her Christian faith. Despite her various professional endeavors, she asserted, "The most important thing about me is that I am a Christian." 

Her newly released book, Politics for People Who Hate Politics: How to Engage without Losing Your Friends or Selling Your Soul stems from her realization of the misalignment between her Christian beliefs and actions in the political realm. 

Throughout her political career, she observed a prevalent culture where Christian values often took a back seat to political expediency. When she decided to run for the U.S. Congress, Denise made a conscious decision to uphold her Christian morals and values, pledging to run a campaign centered on honor, civility, and respect. This commitment garnered significant attention and urged her to live up to that standard in her campaign, which prompted her to reflect on the disconnect between her faith and political engagement.

Drawing from her experiences in politics and the challenges she encountered in upholding her principles amidst the adversarial nature of political campaigns and pressure to conform to conventional norms, the book explores how Christians should perceive themselves when engaging in politics.

Denise posed the question, "Are we going in and leading with our political affiliation and saying, 'I am a Republican or a Democratic'? Or are we saying, 'I'm a Christian, and I am part of the Republican Party or part of the Democratic Party?... When we get our identity correct, then we are able to engage in a manner that's worthy of Christ.”

In her book, Denise candidly discusses the mistakes she made during her political career and the lessons she learned along the way in the book. 

Moreover, she underscores the urgency of unity. "There are 179 verses in the Bible where God talks about the importance of unity, especially in the body of Christ. It's non-negotiable.”

"I'm very concerned about my country... At any moment, we can lose what we value the most about our nation."  Denise invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War: "A house divided cannot stay standing.”

Denise urges Christians to prioritize kingdom principles over partisan agendas, advocating for unity among believers and transcending political divisions in pursuit of common values rooted in faith.

She hopes Christians can bring people together based on Christian values and morals. "Even in the middle of our differences, we look at each other and we say, I recognize your value as a child of God... We may disagree. We may fight about them. But we're not going to let it break us apart. We're going to hold on to the relationship." Rather than insist on our partisan stands, she urges Christians to pray for God's help to unite people on the principles God gives, not the politics.

"We are not fighting against politicians who disagree with us, a government, or a party, we are fighting against Satan, who is coming up for our souls and wants to divide us by hating people whom we disagree with.”

Identifying herself as a conservative Republican, Denise acknowledges that many conservatives align their political beliefs with their understanding of biblical principles. Issues such as marriage, personal responsibility, and morality often form the foundation of conservative political platforms, drawing upon interpretations of Scripture.

However, she warns against the dangers of self-righteousness among Christian rightists, cautioning against an attitude that condemns those who hold differing views. She emphasizes the importance of humility and love in political discourse, urging Christians to engage in dialogue with empathy and understanding rather than resorting to judgment and condemnation. Denise highlights Jesus' teachings, which prioritize love and compassion over rigid adherence to doctrinal correctness.

"Where we get lost is when we make what we think is true in the Bible something that we feel like everybody else should live up to," Denise suggests Christians advocate for their beliefs while remaining open to dialogue and understanding, recognizing the humanity and dignity of those with whom they disagree.

According to Denise, convincing Christians to vote is not an easy thing. "In America, we have a participatory democracy. Everyone has a chance to change our government,” she encouraged. "Christians should engage in politics, and in the way they engage with other people at church, with their family, with their neighbors, or on any other issue or at work.”

Dealing with the hot issues discussed in the U.S, like LGBT, abortion, racism, etc., Denise expressed the same idea, standing firmly for biblical principles without compromising in the face of societal pressure or opposition, while at the same time being accompanied by love, humility, and compassion towards those with differing views.

"In some cases, the church has gone too far and sacrificed love to stand for truth," said Denise, and there are reasons. Christians are facing great challenges in speaking out the truth aligned with the Bible, they may lose their job or be tagged as racist or homophobic. "Ask God for the wisdom and courage to speak the truth, and to speak it in love.”

Concerned about the direction the church is going, Denise asks for more prayer for churches and Christians in the U.S. "We seem to be separating ourselves a little more from the world and saying we don't want to be as involved. Or on the other side, the more political church, has said we're going to take over our country and impose our beliefs on everybody, which is also not always exactly what God calls us to do.” A balance is needed, churches should honor culture and, at the same time, not be shy about engaging.

COVID-19 has influenced churches greatly, and Christians are sort of out of fellowship with each other, she added. Besides, the generation that's coming up now doesn't believe very much. "I think many people find different ways to put other things above God and think that they don't need God.” Denise believes the reason there is so much tension, turmoil, and chaos in America is that Americans are on a decline in terms of their desire to know, love, and obey God. Therefore, the bigger fight in America is how to keep people humble and aware of their need for God. "We need more prayer," Denise urged again, "and engage more politically as Christians rather than Republicans or Democrats so that we can get our country back on track.”

As half Chinese, Denise got much support from the Chinese community during her campaign. She witnesses that God is elevating Asian Americans and putting their ethnicity in the spotlight. Since they still so often stayed in the science and math lane, Denise encouraged them to get more involved in politics.

Recalling her short school days in Beijing in 1997, she kept attending an international church. She praises Chinese Christians' efforts to share the love of God with their fellow Chinese citizens. "I wish we had some of the fire that the Chinese people had to love their neighbors and bring people to Christ.”

Denise gave her blessings to Chinese Christians, "In the same way that I pray for my country, I pray for the Chinese Christians because you're my brothers and sisters... It is my prayer that you have more and more freedom to speak about Jesus and to be bold about it; you would feel that you were free to love people, treat people with honor, and be everything God has called you to be... Be bold and put God first. Know that nobody can touch you if God has protected you. Our lives are so short on this earth. This is not the end of our lives. Forever is a really long time—eternity. What we do with our lives here really, really matters.”

With the help of her mother's translation, Denise read in Chinese what she would like to say to Chinese churches and Christians: “我们要爱我们的邻居,也要爱我们的敌人,如同爱我们自己。基督教徒最重要的事是要尊崇上帝的话去做", which means "We should love our neighbors and our enemies as ourselves. The most important thing for Christians is to honor God's word and do it."

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