The struggle of faith in democracy: voting

Guest blogger: Ben Anderson

Living our faith means struggle.  I am reminded of this as I see this sign taped to door of an old Lutheran church:

Sign that reads "God's people have always led the fight for the right to vote."
“God’s people have always led the fight for the right to vote.”

In that church’s dusty dark basement I lead phone banks where church volunteers make calls asking people of faith to vote “no” on the voter restriction amendment this November in Minnesota.   The struggle for the right to vote has taken many shapes over our history and continues today.   

This story of faith and struggle must be the context when we think about our individual vote.  In a time of monstrous corporate power and of unprecedented inflation of wealth and money in politics, it can easy to be apathetic or even hostile toward casting a ballot.  Our politics can seem so frustrating and so many horrifying wrongs are done by our government here and abroad. 

Yet the very idea that not voting separates us from our communal sins is an individualist fantasy.  Participating is the struggle of faith in each other and our democracy.  I say faith because a Christian’s belief in democracy is not the optimist’s view of gradual progress or a hope that democracy would bring the kingdom if people were only more reasonable and educated.  It is faith because evil is present in myself and the world, yet God is also present and at work.  Resting on the love of God for our world and our inherent goodness, we must take responsibly for who we are and the pain and suffering that surrounds us.  We must struggle not only for charitable solutions for our immediate neighbor, but for political solutions for the entire community.  We must struggle for justice. 

Voting is only a small but important step in the struggle.  It is not the solution or a score sheet of our complete moral character.   We must make prudent decisions for our context that are difficult.  Here are three points I think best summarize our duty.  What leader and policy best: (1) responds to our most pressing local issues in a manner that is consistent with the common good, (2) respects the life and dignity of all, (3) empowers the poor and marginalized? (three steps adapted from: Evans, Bernard Vote Catholic: Beyond the Political Din, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2007)

I spend my evenings in church basements and my days organizing as a Jesuit because it is at the core of our faith to participate with God in working toward racial equity and an environment so all can flourish.   We can only do that if all have the power to be at the decision making table.  

A room full of people with hands raised indicating a vote yes.

In a time when states are trying to pass voter restriction amendments and groups are spending millions to intimidate and suppress minority votes, we cannot be paralyzed by our own moral quandaries.   

A billboard discouraging voter fraud
Visit http://www.colorofchange.org to tell Clear Channel to take these billboards down.

We must enter into the struggle, vote ourselves, and fight for the right so all people have a voice in our democracy on November 6 and beyond.”  

 

About this week’s guest blogger: Ben Anderson, S.J. is a Jesuit and an organizer with Isaiah, a faith-based organization that brings congregations together to work for racial justice and economic equity in Minnesota.