In less than three weeks, Americans will go to the polls. Some of us are already voting. If you ask me, that moment is long overdue. We’ve spent far too much money and hurled far too many words already.
As I listen to the vitriolic rhetoric of this campaign season, as I see the violence done to the truth as people seek to advance their candidate or their cause, I find myself remembering another campaign, another set of candidates, another season.
The year was 1978. My father-in-law was running for Governor of Massachusetts. It was an uphill battle. He was a Republican in a Democratic state. He was candid about his beliefs—his commitment to the environment, his opposition to the war, his support for a woman’s right to choose—not all popular positions at the time. Yet he was closing the gap. It looked like he might win. Folks were attracted by his solid reputation for serving the state with integrity. They liked the way he often stood above partisan politics. And then, the week-end before the election, some clerics put out the word—“tell your parishioners not to vote for Frank Hatch.” His goose was cooked. He lost by 100,000 votes. For years those sermons preached the Sunday before the election stuck in the craw of his supporters.
I do not believe that any priest or minister or rabbi or imam has the right to tell anyone who to vote for. Partisan politics has no place in the pulpit. Our primary relationship is not with a party but with God—the One who calls us to act with love and work for justice.
Remember that as you prepare to cast your ballot, for casting a ballot is one of the most important ways we, as people of faith, can bear witness to God’s love and justice. Make voting a prayerful act. As you take your ballot in your hand, spend some time in prayer. Reflect on those two great commandments—love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Ask yourself how the decisions you are making reflect God’s active and inclusive love. Look for the thread of justice and mercy in the propositions set before you. And then cast your ballot remembering that God working in us and through us can do far more than we ourselves can do. And yet the choices we make on election day are important. It behooves us to consider just how we make those choices. It behooves us to carry the law of love into the voting booth.
Three weeks ago, at St. Martin’s—the Homeless Shelter where I begin my Sundays—one of the regulars came up to me. He said, “I know people tithe to their church. I’d like to tithe to mine. Last night, I made fifteen dollars singing at 3rd and Central. Here’s my contribution.” He handed me two dollars and a pledge to give what he could when he had it. He was making a choice.
Choice. It’s important to make choice wisely.