Its time to think about voting again...

Without fail, every time we arrive at the season of presidential elections we hear from all quarters about our right as well as duty to vote. Immediately on the heels of such exhortations we hear about how we should vote, especially as "people of faith". Depending on the messenger, we are told that we MUST vote this or that way because of this or that issue or candidate. We are told that our future depends on it, that our freedoms are in jeopardy, that if we don't vote everything will fall apart. It seems that each and every election cycle finds itself on the brink of apocalypse and the only thing holding back the certain destruction of our 'way of life' is our vote.

If you will humor me, I would like to suggest that we remove the word how from the question and simply ask Should Christians vote? To put the question even more provocatively, Is it possible to vote and still remain a Christian?

My guess is that most of us have never even entertained this question. We have been so consumed with the question of how we are going to vote (or more accurately, how we think others should vote!) that it has never occurred to us to bring the question of voting itself under a critically sanctified eye. Have we ever sat with the questions regarding what the process of voting (and all that leads up to it) does to us as human beings? What kinds of people do we become as a result of the process of "educating" ourselves enough to be a "responsible" voter? What does this process do to us?

I have to be honest, I have no small amount of concern for the way I see the political process effect/affect my fellow co-religionists, especially during election season. Is it inevitable that the exact same fractures and fissures we see in the broader culture be reflected and reinforced in our churches? Where are those "voters" who are more interested in the words of James than their quick to hear and slow to speak? Must the same passions that are fanned into flame in the streets of our cities and the suburbs be ours? What kinds of disorders are smuggled into our sacred assemblies under the guise of "being responsible" or "doing our civic duty"?

Many of the passions that animate our partisan political world are sick and disordered at best and devilishly violent and destructive at worst. Sadly, the refusal or inability of our political leaders to have public conversations about anything only reflects what is true in the churches as well. The virtues of patience, deference, sustained attention, compromise, courage and most importantly love are almost completely absent in our political and ecclesial realities. Must it be this way?

Please don't misunderstand what I am saying. I am not telling anyone NOT to vote. I am not saying that voting is anti-Christian. I am suggesting that posing the question to ourselves of whether we should vote or not has the potential to open up a view into ourselves that may prove helpful. Whatever our personal choices are about voting or not voting or for whom we plan on voting, I hope that in the simple exercise of asking ourselves the question we are enabled to see how our involvement in the process itself may have had some negative effects on the way we live and speak and interact with those around us. And even further, I would hope that as a result of such self examination we may see that voting isn't the most important political action we can perform.
Remember, the greatest political act for the Christian was the willing death of Jesus of Nazareth, a poor Jewish man who was put to death by those in power in an attempt to bring political peace in a very tumultuous time. It was in this act that Jesus laid the foundation for the freedom of the entire human race. Forgiveness is the Christian's primary contribution to the political world. Let us pursue the courage and steadfastness required to make such forgiveness tangible and real, with the hope that the Church can help find a way to the peace and justice we proclaim. Amen.

- Chris




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