Not many Mennonites run for public office. Neither do many influenced by Ellul run for public office. Robb Davis is an Ellulian Mennonite and the mayor of Davis, California. For Davis, being a Mennonite who reads Ellul greatly influenced the way he ran for office and how he approaches the role. Davis is former executive director of Mennonite Central Committee. This interview by Mark Baker was published in The Ellul Forum.
Davis displays character and speaks with a tone very different than the current U.S. presidential campaign. For instance, Davis has sought to be confessional in admitting his part in societal sins. He says,
I was talking to a friend of mine, and we realized that if we had someone in office who was engaging in regular confession about our participation in that collective sin, maybe that would be helpful to a community. And so I’ve tried to make it my practice to be confessional.
That is certainly something that would never be uttered in a typical political campaign. Likewise, Davis has tried to prevent others from placing too much hope in him — against the advice of his campaign team.
When I was discerning whether to run or not, through a long series of conversations others helped me understand that it came down to two things. Could I run a campaign where I could be honest about my limits? And the limits of political power? I brought that commitment into the campaign, but my campaign team said, “Do not ever talk about that.”
Robb Davis’s approach to serving in local politics is certainly unique. It is an inspiring example of how an Anabaptist can faithfully function within the political system.