Vote today. Choose the candidates you think represent the best chance to bring God’s values of love, inclusion, justice, healing, and compassion into our world.
But don’t stop when you leave the polling place.
Bringing our faith to bear upon the political process is an endless endeavor. Choosing leaders is an important step, but only one. There’s much more work to be done.
There are many ongoing conversations to be joined yet again.
Going forward, let’s try to lead the conversation about how we’re treating each other in our society. Let’s anchor the conversation in the recognition that everyone is an equally beloved child of God – made in the divine image – and must be treated as such in all respects in our national decisions and policies.
To borrow from one of our founding documents: All are created equal – not just Americans – and have unalienable rights that are bestowed not by the hand of any government but by the very breath of God that animates each of us.
Let’s make that the starting point for our conversations.
Many people want to choose another starting point – self-interest, supremacy, nationalism. They assert that they alone enjoy God’s favor and thus should have full rights while others’ get limited rights.
We need to be another voice. Our faith calls us to be engaged in those conversations in a respectful, loving, persistent, and passionate way.
For instance, we need to encourage open-ended conversations about our nation’s immigration policies that begin with recognizing everyone is God’s child and must be treated accordingly. Then we ask: Do our policies reflect that truth? Are we treating immigrants with love and compassion? Are we honoring our tradition of welcoming immigrants who are not wanted by some our society?
Let’s also have a debate about our programs to help the poor. Are our attitudes and policies grounded in a recognition that everyone is our brother and sister? Do our programs recognize the dignity and infinite worth of each person? Do we accept the command to love the poor person as ourselves?
What about equal rights? Are we treating every person as we want to be treated? Are we demonizing those who are different than us? Are we trying to restrict equality and freedom to those like us?
We need to continue with those conversations, and many more.
And as we move past election day, we must challenge ALL politicians — especially the ones who received our vote — to heal and unite our society around those principles. We must persistently urge them to do better.
Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t endorse politicians or political parties. Instead, he challenged all politicians equally to do better. He understood that the political system is inclined toward what he called “gradualism” — take a small step toward equality and tell people that’s enough, then concentrate on re-election.
That’s why we can’t hitch our wagon to any politician or political party. In politics, retaining power is preeminent. Throughout history, we’ve seen what happens when religious leaders get in bed with power-driven politicians — religion gets perverted and great evil follows.
We see it today with Christians cutting political deals. In exchange for political favor, they do the politicians’ bidding by holding their tongues and granting mulligans like cheap indulgences when their values are trashed.
We see pastors turning into political lackeys and churches becoming little more than political action committees with steeples. They get their clout — and lose their souls. Our values have political implications but must never be confined to a politician or a political party — they’re always bigger than that.
Progress in building God’s love-based kingdom on earth comes day by day and must never be dependent upon any politician's whims or self-interest. Election Day ends, but our work isn’t done.
In many ways, it’s only just begun.