It’s election season.
This past week I saw on Facebook an image of a roasted turkey with the words “Thanksgiving: A Time to Convince Your Family Not to Vote for the Political Party They Are Voting For.” Elections are important. They speak to some of our deepest concerns, dreams, and values. They can be occasions of tremendous hope and change. But they can also be divisive, emotional, and even nasty as we have already seen on the campaign trail. This thanksgiving I jokingly told one person that perhaps we should just stick to discussing sex and religion at the dinner table for the time being just to avoid family conflict!
You may have also noticed that I generally steer clear of specific politics as your Pastor. There are a lot of reasons for this. Divisiveness is one of them, certainly. But it goes deeper than that. I believe that it’s far too easy to equate one’s personal political opinions and partisan preferences with God’s opinions. As someone who has been untrusted with a position of leadership in this faith community, I believe that passing off my own partisan political opinions would be an abuse of that relationship and a breach of the mutual trust that we share in our life together. I am entrusted with the Good News of Jesus Christ first and foremost. And it is not affiliated with any political party.
Having said that, this does not mean the Good News is only “spiritual” or a-political. It’s not that we believe as the church that “faith and politics don’t mix,” or that spirituality is private and politics are public. If “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” that all of life belongs to God, as the Psalmist says, surely God is as concerned with what governments do God as what individual people do. And if we proclaim Jesus as “Lord” in the words of the Apostle’s Creed, and “our judge and our hope” in the words of a New Creed, surely we follow Jesus not only into our houses and workplaces, but into the election booth as well. Being a disciple involves just as much concern with the common good for all people and all creation as it does the individual good life.
With all of this in mind, I invite us to consider two things before and after this election:
First, as a community of faith our identity as children of God and Disciples of Christ is more important than our party affiliation. Our baptismal certificates matter more than our party memberships. While the name of the game in politics is to divide, we are a community that prizes unity, compassion, love, and mutual respect. This means that we are committed to love one another and to be in relationship with each other through our deepest disagreements. This is what living in covenantal community means.
The second is connected to the first: we do not wipe off our baptisms when we enter polling stations or the public square. Our political lives belong to God as well. As in all areas of our lives, we are invited to look at the world as it is, and ask the question, “is this what and how God wants our world to be?” From the care of those who Jesus calls "the least of these" and reconciliation with our First Peoples, to generous hospitality towards refugees and immigrants, to the integrity of God’s good creation. Regardless of the political party or candidate we vote for or the outcome on October 19th, we all pray together the same prayer that says “thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In all of these things we must ask not what decisions might only be best for us as individuals and families, but what decisions our leaders make best reflect God’s will and dream for the earth as a whole.
So my friends, whether you are heading to the polls on Monday, or have already done it; if you are involved in the political process in any way helping candidates or knocking doors; or if you are on the ground working for the common good in other less formal ways; no matter what you’re up to this election season, simply remember who you are: disciples of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace who came to bring life, and life abundant for us and all creation. May we be Christ's instruments of peace in all that we do and say.