It certainly is no surprise that with November elections just around the corner, political debates rage hotly. Candidates, not content to debate the issues on their own merits, resort to character assassination and name calling. Social media is ablaze with pictures of angry politicians, and overly simplistic memes supporting various views. The whole political atmosphere has a tendency to make folks heart weary, cynical, anxious or apathetic – or some combination of those things.
And while Christians aren’t “of” this world, we are certainly in it, and we are both affected by the politics of our times, and also called to affect them through living and voting informed by our faith.
So, what do 21st century U.S. Christians do when it comes to social and cultural issues, that are also matters of faith and living? How does a Lutheran preacher, who likely pastors congregants spanning the entire political spectrum, speak to such heavily weighted issues as: (no special order!)
· Gun control
· Marriage equality
· School bonds
· Human rights
· Climate change
· Living wage proposals
· Voter registration requirements
· Public assistance programs
· Potty privileges
· Transportation issues/ bus, etc.
· Prison reform
· Mental health care
· Defense budgets.
· Violence in homes and streets.
· Foreign Policy
· Economic issues
Like many of you, I have strong opinions on some of these issues. I find others quite complicated, and many of them are interlinked. The only way I know to link my faith with my political practice is to prayerfully, and as fully informed as possible, both by world events and my understanding of scripture, exercise my right to vote.
As far as ministry goes, I will never tell a congregation who or what to vote for from the pulpit. I will however, frequently point out that when biblical prophets spoke of “justice” it was usually w/ regard to economic stability for the poor, and proper treatment of widows, orphans & foreigners.
I don’t hesitate to note that Jesus pointed to God through his acts of healing, forgiveness and inclusion of the outcast. You will often hear me say that Christ showed us that relationships are more important than rules. And I will strongly encourage every voting eligible person to prayerfully consider the issues and exercise one’s right to help change the community and the world we live in for the better.
Over time, some people have taken risky personal & public stands, because they perceived that their faith in God both called them to it, and gave them strength for it. Their willingness to be agents of change, has indeed tilted the world: Jackie Robinson, MLK Jr., Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, etc.
What the Holy Spirit calls each of us to might not be as public, or as extravagant, but may still feel risky to us. It might look like politely refusing to ignore the racism of a beloved cousin’s not so funny joke. Or voting to tax ourselves in an already stretched economy, in order that our children and grandchildren and our neighbor’s kids have food security, a decent education, and adequate health care. Maybe it is welcoming the marginalized, who for whatever reason, had previously found church and church people to be hostile and unsafe to be around.
Whatever it is, we remember human efforts matter, and that we are called in Christian freedom to be of service to our neighbor in order to bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is both our duty and our joy to do so.
However, we must also remember it is not our efforts that will bring ultimate healing to the world. Our efforts merely point to Jesus. It is Jesus himself who promises to make all things new! And in fact, what he does is not turn the world upside down, but turns a wonky world upside right again!
So my friends, exercise your rights: vote. And exercise your hearts: vote according to the love you know Jesus has for all. Then, whatever happens, trust God to be with us through it all!