Last night at the Charge Conference someone asked why I hadn’t talked about the election very much. Given that early voting starts today I wanted to follow up on the conversation from last night with a few comments.
First of all, I believe it is the right and duty of every citizen of our country to participate in the process of governance. Voting is the primary means by which we participate in deciding the priorities of our nation, state, and community. As such, I want to encourage all to take time and energy to learn about issues and candidates and then cast their vote for those who they believe will offer leadership in ways that are consistent with their faith and values. But I also agree with Mike Rowe (the TV personality from the Dirty Jobs show) who believes that the responsibility of voting requires a willingness to engage and participate:
I can’t personally encourage everyone in the country to run out and vote. I wouldn’t do it, even if I thought it would benefit my personal choice. Because the truth is, the country doesn’t need voters who have to be cajoled, enticed, or persuaded to cast a ballot. We need voters who wish to participate in the process. So if you really want me to say something political, how about this – read more.
Spend a few hours every week studying American history, human nature, and economic theory. Start with “Economics in One Lesson.” Then try Keynes. Then Hayek. Then Marx. Then Hegel. Develop a worldview that you can articulate as well as defend. Test your theory with people who disagree with you. Debate. Argue. Adjust your philosophy as necessary. Then, when the next election comes around, cast a vote for the candidate whose worldview seems most in line with your own.
So by all means vote, but take the time to spend some time to learn who or what you are voting for beyond what pops up in your Facebook feed or in a random email.
Second, it was asked last night why I haven’t endorsed a particular candidate or candidates. That is tied to the non-profit status of our church, which forbids endorsements of individuals political parties. The laws that allow us the benefit of not paying taxes (laws that were created to support organizations that promote the common good) come with the responsibility that we are to remain neutral in relation to partisan politics. Non-profits ARE allowed to be involved in issue advocacy, but there are limits to that involvement that have to do with spending on that work. Thus I believe that I am forbidden as the appointed minister of the congregation to make endorsements as long as we want to keep our 501c3 status.
As important however is the reality that Rev. Harriet Bryan (the Nashville District Superintendent) expressed last night that people of deep faith differ in their belief about who is the right candidate to lead our community or country. The scriptures are clear that while we have a responsibility to participate (“…render unto Caesar’s that which is Caesars…”) the unity of the Body of Christ is of utmost importance, and that our focus inside the Christian community is about the Godly kingdom first. While I believe there is a means of talking about our differences in interpretation that lead us to differing opinions (one that is based in active listening and mutual love and respect) more often than not these conversations devolve into arguments that threaten the unity of the church. As such I prefer for those conversations to happen outside the church building (in the world, so to speak) than when we are gathered together.
Last, but not least, in the midst of it all, we MUST be guided by love. There is no room in God’s kingdom for the demonization of another, even when we vehemently disagree with the other’s point of view. The witness of Jesus Christ is threatened when his followers put politics ahead of the command to love. The Apostle Paul was clear in his teaching to the Corinthian church that anything without love is worthless. To quote that famous theologian Elton John, love IS what we are here for.
So vote . . . please. Don’t miss the chance to make your voice heard.
But in the midst of it all may you be filled with a love to overflowing that allows you to embrace ALL of God’s children — Democrat or Republican, red or blue . . . or even purple or green. God’s doesn’t see in a single color. His vision embraces all hues, and he calls those who would follow him to likewise have their arms open wide so that all the world will know of the love of God.