Vote. It Matters.
A lot of us grew up with the notion that one should never bring up the topic of religion or politics in any gathering of people if you want to keep things civil.
While, I’ve never been one to advertise my political affiliation or views via bumper stickers, pins, or t-shirts, over the years as I’ve continued to learn and pay closer attention, I’ve become more inclined to not only “wear” my support, but more importantly, to talk about the ideas I support—those values and ideals I believe matter most.
We can’t afford to ignore political and religious discussions.
Both politics and religion affect our everyday lives whether we realize (or feel) this fact immediately or not or whether we claim to be religious or not. Everyone is affected. And, in our current, über religio-political environment, this fact couldn’t be truer. So, with the election right around the corner, time is of the essence.
There is a great bumper sticker that reads: “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” If the tone of the current political rhetoric is any indication of the direction our country is heading in, we should be angry and greatly disappointed. It’s become a politics of…
“Us over here, you over there;
We’re right, you’re wrong;
We work hard, you don’t
We’re saved, you’re not.”
And, with each passing day, we’re becoming a land of the “haves and the have-nots.” Which, of course, is the opposite of the “American Dream,” and more importantly, the opposite of the Kingdom of God.
For a self-proclaimed Christian nation this should cause us all to pause.
It’s time to regroup—to stand up and say something.
Vote. It matters.
We can’t have it both ways.
We can’t be both Christian and greedy. We can’t be a land of the “Haves and the Have Nots.” Either we represent the Kingdom of God—where we care about our neighbor’s welfare as much as our own, or we represent the kingdom of greed—“winning” at any cost. As we know all too well our nation recently suffered an economic melt down of monumental and disastrous proportions because of this one nasty, very unchristian reason: Greed. Profound greed.
The irony, of course, is while it’s usually the uneducated and the poor who get the bad wrap for allegedly “abusing the system,” it was America’s top one percent—the most educated, ultra rich that brought America financially to her knees. And, shamelessly, these insidiously dishonest, unscrupulous, Wall Street abusers—these supposedly “Too Big to Fail” bank and investment giants—cried out for help (to the tune of billions of dollars) to a government they continue to accuse (when convenient) of being too fat; a government they claim should only reward those who work hard and earn an honest living. Ironic indeed.
What has become glaringly obvious is that abuse happens both at the bottom and the top. And, one could argue, that the “educated” top should know better. In fact, I’d argue further that those who abuse the system from the top—knowing it will affect the vulnerable at “the bottom”—indeed knowing their “success” is dependant on the fact that it will negatively affect those at the bottom—are the greatest abusers of all.
I have no problem with money or with people being rich.
Money in itself isn’t evil.
But wealth creation that is dependant upon exploiting the vulnerable is.
What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)? Well, let’s talk about What Jesus Did (WJD).
Before there were “Christians” there was Jesus. For anyone who has read anything about him—both from a historical, secular perspective and from the perspective of the New Testament writers, what is utterly clear is Jesus was for the people—especially the most vulnerable. Historians have taught us that the Roman Empire was no “push over”—it didn’t mess around when it came to imperial authority and dominance. Indeed, when it came to the Empire it was, as the saying goes, “My way or the highway.” More graphically it was, you can comply with Roman imperial authority or you can suffocate to death on a cross. The emperor ruled with a bloody, iron fist. He is always first and the people always last. Social injustice within the empire was the norm and the idea of economic fairness was a fantasy on par with “when pigs fly.”
I guess one could say, “This rubbed Jesus the wrong way.” He made it his life’s purpose to speak up and act on behalf of the poor, the sick, and the outcasts—the marginalized. Contrary to how a lot of us grew up thinking about Jesus—that he was a soft-spoken, peacemaker who said nice things while carrying a baby sheep under his arm—this really wasn’t the case.
Jesus—rather, The Way, as his first followers use to refer to him, was a radical who voiced a big, resounding “No” to accepting Roman Imperial authority as normal. He said, “No” to the injustice and inequality of the culture he grew up in—it was unacceptable and against the very heart of God.
Jesus was bold. He was willing to “rock the boat”—and to shake his fists at those in power because he believed in something bigger and more powerful than the Roman Empire.
Rome loved power. Jesus believed in the power of love.
Jesus was brave. He fought for “the least of these,” and against the infrastructures that created poverty.
Jesus was angry. In a fit of rage he turned over the moneychanger’s tables because of their gross abuse of the poor—he just wouldn’t stand for it—he demanded justice then and there.
The Roman Empire may not have been a push over, but neither was Jesus.
His life told a story of Love at all costs. And, in his case, it cost him his life.
As someone for whom Christians believe was the human revelation of God, knowing then how Jesus lived, what he stood for, believed in, fought for, and ultimately what he was willing to die for, should cause us to think twice about the way we live, and about those things we hold most dear.
As a self-proclaimed Christian nation, what might following Jesus look like today?
During these highly charged political times, I think we best mirror the way of Jesus when we stop name-calling and finger pointing and start finding ways to work together. Instead of standing firm in the belief that “The Right is wrong” or that “The Left can never be right,” we might consider the fact that both sides have something valuable to offer for the common good.
I’m willing to bet that most Americans believe in taking personal responsibility and helping others.
These are not mutually exclusive ideas. Also…
Instead of spending time memorizing creeds and fighting over doctrine, perhaps we should be memorizing names at the local homeless shelter and fighting the government on behalf of the poor.
Instead of spending our days promoting biblical literalism, we should be promoting adult literacy.
Instead of worrying about securing our place with God, we should be worrying about securing a place of employment for the many who’ve lost jobs due to “corporate downsizing.”
Instead of being so concerned with being saved we should be concerned about saving our neighbor’s home from foreclosure.
Instead of wasting time pondering whose religion is better, we should be pondering ways of being better.
Instead of being comfortable we should be comforting.
Ultimately, perhaps we should be spending less time worshiping Christ and more time following Jesus.
What we say and do makes a difference.
I’ll be the first to admit that I can and must do more. It starts by not looking the other way because I think the problem is too big for my one, small voice. I can’t turn the other way knowing people have lost their homes, their jobs, and can barely afford to feed their families. I can’t look the other way knowing millions of people are being treated unfairly (or worse—being beaten, raped, or killed) because of their socio-economic status, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or physical disability.
To be silent is to be complicit.
This November I’m going to start turning over tables.
I’m going to vote.
For those who think their vote won’t make a difference:
It has only been through the collective power of individual voices fighting for a common cause that the best parts of America surfaced: the end of slavery, a women’s right to vote, and the civil rights movement, to name a few.
For a political party to secure my vote that party must speak to me intelligently and thoughtfully. Its over-arching theme must be one I believe most closely mirrors what the Kingdom of God looks and feels like as revealed through the life and death of Christ. My president must be one, who like Jesus, is willing to live and die fighting for liberty, justice, and the dignity of all people.
So I say, to our politicians: Forget about hiding behind the smoke and mirrors of political rhetoric and name-calling; forget about using the same tired, emotionally charged, so called “moral issues” as diversion tactics (Gay marriage, Abortion, a women’s right to choose), and let’s focus on the real moral issues and family values at stake:
Jobs and Justice. Every person should be able to secure a job that pays enough money to keep a roof over his or her head—a job that pays enough to put food on the table. This is just and fair.
Health Care and Hope. Every person—every family should have access to health care. We simply can’t afford not to afford health care—it’s good for everyone no matter how you slice it.
Education and Equality. Every person should have access to a good and affordable education. Education provides the map to a better future (in all respects) and to equality here and now.
Come November, my hope is that we all think long and well about which person we believe best exemplifies the ideals, values, and truths of the Kingdom of God. My prayer is that we think long and well about which person we believe will best lead our nation forward in the path of The Way.
Then, I hope we all vote.
My voice, your voice, our voices together make a difference.
Vote. It Matters.
I understand that all wealth creation to some extent takes advantage of the less fortunate. But, I also know some business practices are more ethical than others. Of course, this is a topic of great debate and should cause us all to think more carefully about money and wealth creation.
The following is a short list of references on the subject of early Christian church history, the Christian gospel through the lense of social justice, and the politics of the Kingdom of God: Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003); Marcus Borg, Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power—and How They Can Be Restored (New York: HarperOne, 2011); Brian D. McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (New York: HarperOne, 2010); Robin R. Meyers, Saving Jesus From the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus (New York: HarperOne, 2009); Robin R. Meyers, The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012); Jim Wallis, The Great Awakening: Seven Ways To Change The World (New York: HarperOne, 2008); Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get it (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005).
I owe this line to author and social activist, Robin R. Meyers
Regardless of where one stands on these particular, “hot button” issues, I’d argue that most Americans agree that being able to provide for one’s family—to be able to feed, clothe, educate, shelter, and provide basic health care—is the most fundamental and cherished of family values.