When Pete Buttigieg launched his first statewide television ad in South Carolina two months ago, its opening lines may have sounded familiar to a churchgoer.

The ad opens with footage from a speech by the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor in which Buttigieg says that if he’s elected president, Americans wouldn’t have to ask themselves, “Whatever happened to, ‘I was hungry and you fed me? I was a stranger and you welcomed me?’”

Buttigieg is hardly the first Democrat to invoke the biblical verses of Matthew 25 in which Jesus Christ reminds his followers that their true measure comes from how they treat “the least of these my brethren.” Former President Barack Obama quoted from that biblical passage in 2008, while addressing popular megachurch pastor Rick Warren’s congregation during his first White House bid, and a political action committee that helped Obama’s campaign that year was dubbed the Matthew 25 Network.


Another prominent Democrat and former presidential candidate, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, candidly discussed his own response to Matthew 25 in an interview last year with Jim Wallis, an influential religious progressive who has described that passage as a conversion text that connected him to Christianity.

Booker told Wallis that when he dug into the verse for the first time, “I realized I don’t live like that” and felt inspired to match more of his actions to the selfless message of the text.