I was texting my dad this morning encouraging him to vote. He wryly commented on my newfound interest in politics, noting how when I was in college I was not so keen on engaging it. And I must confess that indeed I was late to experience the joys of fully participating in a democracy. I always felt that my vote was fairly small (it is only one out of so many) and that the political system was somewhat tainted (which it is–money and corporate interests play too large of a role). I’ve come to terms with these struggles (it is a messy system, but it is the best we’ve got).
The bigger issue for me, and I continue to grapple with this question, is the relationship between the church and the state. Jesus was executed as a threat to the state, and early Christianity was born in an apocalyptic milieu that in many ways saw the reign of God in opposition to Caesar. In this context the church and state live in a very uneasy tension. And just to be clear, I think the early prophetic critique of and challenge to unjust systems and structures needs to be reclaimed by the church.
That said, since I’ve begun to engage anti-hunger work more deeply, I’ve come to see the profound need for political activism. These are some of the reasons why I voted today:
1) The problems that face those who are poor and vulnerable are systemic problems. Laws and policies keep people impoverished, I need to vote for people and policies that will protect and empower those who are marginalized.
2) The church’s voice on social issues is key . People of all faiths need to live into and speak out about the values that their tradition holds dear. As I noted above, the church has a strong tradition of standing up for social justice (sorry, Glenn Beck, you are wrong).
3) It is a huge gift to have a voice (thanks to Christine Mangale in our Lutheran Office for World Community for pointing this out to me). And it is a relatively small thing for me to raise my voice with and on behalf of those who are hungry.
If you are still not convinced, or want to think more about the question, check out Paul Hanson, Political Engagement as Biblical Mandate. But before you do, get out and rock the vote!