October 24, 2020
I’ve been thinking about two comments from friends on social media in the past week. The first was a complaint from a guy who said that if he heard one more sermon encouraging people to vote, he was going to scream. The second was someone proudly saying that she had done her “Christian duty” by voting. I admit that I was a bit taken aback by both of these.
First of all, I can’t imagine encouraging people to vote from the pulpit. If I am preaching from the gospel, Jesus was pretty clear about not participating in the systems and structures of empire (Matthew 22:21). This doesn’t make voting wrong or something we shouldn’t do, but to make it the subject of a sermon never even occurred to me.
My reaction to the comment about Christian duty was much the same. We long for the reign of God, to be citizens of a world not yet brought to fulfillment. In as much as our vote helps to make real the promises we make in our baptism, then by all means, do vote as your civic duty, as a way of showing love for our neighbors whose voices are so often silenced by the powerful and privileged.
The voting effort by the Episcopal Church seems to me to send a message that we are people of faith and that we vote, just as the highly publicized conservative evangelicals vote. The hashtag #votefaithfully is a reminder of how we are to vote and with what values we make our decisions.
In our baptismal covenant, which we renew at every baptism, we promise to resist evil, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. Every issue of justice and the well-being of our neighbors must be viewed through the lens of this covenant, whether that is immigration and family separation or economic disparities in healthcare and a growing economy. That is what it means to #votefaithfiully.
So, of course, I hope all of us will vote as we believe our faith leads us. Which candidate supports policies that protect the poor, the oppressed, immigrants, and marginalized? Which ballot initiatives promote human flourishing? Who is committed to ending racial injustice and creating equity in housing, schools, jobs, access to health services, and economic security?
No candidate is perfect. No system of government is created in God’s image. The best we can do is live out our faith in this time and place in ways that “fill the hungry with good things” and “lift up the lowly” (Luke 1:52-53) until the day God reigns on earth as in heaven.
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’ (Revelation 21:3-4)
Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States and this community in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 822)