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The Cost of Serving Portland—and Jesus—as an Oregon Politician

The Cost of Serving Portland—and Jesus—as an Oregon Politician

State Representative Jules Bailey, an unlikely Christian, has drafted some of the most innovative environmental legislation in the state.

It's perhaps no surprise that Oregon State Representative Jules Bailey has ended up serving the very district where he was raised by politically progressive parents. The 32-year-old, elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2008, says he had "the quintessential Portland upbringing" on Hawthorne Boulevard in the southeast end of the city, where his family preached civic engagement and environmental responsibility.

What may be surprising is that Bailey—now among Oregon's leading legislators on the environment and job creation—has returned to his hometown a bona-fide Christian. On a rainy December morning in December, Bailey sat in a Portland café wearing jeans and a sweater, recounting his story of coming to faith while sipping locally roasted coffee. "I didn't grow up in a faith tradition at all," Bailey said. "My parents weren't opposed to it; they just believed in letting me figure it out for myself."

While attending the private Lewis & Clark College to study environmental policy and international affairs, Bailey began reading Dostoyevsky's sprawling The Brothers Karamazov, the spiritual drama full of ruminations on suffering, free will, and the goodness of God. And it didn't make much sense to Bailey, who had never read a Bible and had been implicitly taught that faith and intellectual pursuits were separate. He decided to read the Bible cover to cover.

"It was honestly just a literary exercise," he said. But when he read the New Testament, he realized the Bible was a lot different than he had thought. "It was pure truth," he said.

After graduating from Lewis & Clark, then working on the Senate election bid for Bill Bradbury, Bailey thought he was through with politics. He earned a master's in public affairs and urban and regional planning from Princeton, then moved back to Oregon to work for a private economic development firm. "But it wasn't enough," he says, "sitting at a desk cranking out spreadsheets and numbers."

And then, in 2008, his district's representative moved from the state House to the state Senate, and the seat became available. Bailey's friends encouraged him to run for office, but he hesitated, and not because he was a new Christian. "Honestly, I didn't think I was cool enough," Bailey said, noting that unlike most of his young constituents, he doesn't have piercings, tattoos, or a customized bicycle. But he was passionate about creating a stable economy and a sustainable environment in his district. What finally convinced him to campaign was the chance to emulate Christ, who was the ultimate servant. "Christ lived to serve us, and he died to save us," Bailey said. "No matter how much we do for others, we'll never be able to give as much as he gave to us."

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Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Michael Nacrelli

February 10, 2012  10:00am

Dan, I agree with you about the Republican Party largely overlooking other issues of justice. I don't think either party's agenda is biblically balanced. We need more Christians to adopt a consistent pro-life ethic that transcends partisan ideology. I've been a pro-life and environmental activist for many years, and it's a lonely place to be. When it comes to voting, I hate having to choose the lesser evil, but I've concluded that the astronomical death toll of abortion on demand (over 1 million per year) dwarfs all other issues combined.

Dan Scoggins

February 09, 2012  1:14pm

To answer Michael Nacrelli - I can't stand how Christian Conservatives only read "part" of the bible. The part that supports their civil religion and America First Values. They forget the part about doing mercy, loving justice and walking humbly with God. Abortion is not going away. In the meantime, Christians lose their voice in society, since they are wedded to the "values" of the Republian party - which do not represent God's values in the bible in so many ways - all in the name of a pro-life platform. God is neither a republican or democrat. Life is not so black and white. Bailey sounds like a great representative of his district. I would like to think God could be very pleased with him.

Michael Nacrelli

February 04, 2012  11:57am

It's too bad the interviewer didn't ask Bailey about his endorsements by NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and "Basic" [Gay] Rights Oregon: http://www.oregonvotes.org/pages/history/archive/nov022010/guide /juleskopelbailey.html

Cornelia Seigneur

January 16, 2012  2:37pm

It is great to learn more about Oregon State Representative Jules Bailey and to see this man of faith making a difference in the political realm. It is evident that Jules lives his life with integrity and conviction. -- Cornelia Seigneur

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