By Rick Jordan
The Hip-Hop musical “Hamilton” features a song called “The Room Where It Happens.” During the song, Aaron Burr’s character sings, “Hold your nose and close your eyes!” This phrase captures the essence of voting in the 21st Century.
When it comes to American politics, we are conditioned to think in oppositional categories. The two main categories, of course, are the Republican party and the Democratic party. There are a few smaller parties, but allegiance to the elephant and the donkey is prominent, dominant, and nauseatingly adversarial these days. It’s as if we are becoming the Divided States of America.
Some people choose to vote for the candidate who comes closer to inspiring confidence, regardless of party affiliation. Some people vote based on a singular issue. Many people still vote strictly along partisan lines. We vote “FOR,” but sometimes it is more accurate to admit we are voting AGAINST. We call it the lesser of two evils.
Hold your nose and close your eyes!
Are we sentenced to this polarizing “FOR” and “AGAINST” duality? Is there a better, deeper way for people of faith to vote?
Proverbs 31:8-9 informs my logic here. “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable. Speak out in order to judge with righteousness and to defend the needy and the poor.” (Common English Bible)
My wife and I listen to many podcasts, among them The Relevant Podcast from Relevant Magazine. In a recent episode, founder Cameron Strang was recounting a 2008 conversation with pastor Rick Warren about a more expansive definition of pro life. Strang said, “We need to change the conversation to more holistically talk about it as life and human dignity. And if you are to talk about LIFE, you need to talk about systemic poverty, preventable disease, unjust war and violence, the climate (climate refugees, the poorest of the poor, are the ones most affected and dying because of pollution), and also defense of innocents (from the womb to trafficking to whatever…).” Strang was defining “pro life biblical Jesus issues” through these five groupings. (The Relevant Podcast, episode 816, recorded 08/21/2020, 62:30)
Instead of voting based on who we are for or who we are against, how about voting WITH? We have the opportunity to vote in solidarity with the people Jesus prioritized during His incarnation, the people Jesus prioritizes now. Instead of voting based on which candidate we believe will improve our lives (what is best for us), we have the opportunity to selflessly vote based on which candidates have something sustainable to offer the people Jesus called “the least of these” – the poor ones, the hungry ones, the disconsolate ones, the hated ones, the excluded ones, the rejected ones, the sick ones, the vulnerable ones, the have-nots, the cannots, the strangers, the sick ones, the imprisoned ones, and the voiceless.
I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s creativity with John 1:14 in The Message. “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” Following Jesus’ incarnational lead, if we are going to vote with “them” or on behalf of “them,” it is helpful to actually know them in such a way that they cease being “them” and become friends, sisters, and brothers. For a reference point and for momentum, we need look no further than the gloriously diversified humanity peopling racial justice rallies all over our country.
At the intersection of the liberating Gospel and the issues facing the “least of these,” I believe we can experience meaningful and impactful voting clarity.
I commend to you this prayer from the Taizé worshiping community. “God of peace, your Gospel makes us sensitive to those who experience violence, persecution, exile. And you call us to alleviate the sufferings in the human family.” (Posted on the Taizé Readings app on August 15, 2020)
As a bonus, we may not even have to hold our noses and close our eyes!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the twelfth in a series of opinion articles on “Beyond the Divisions: Faith and Politics 2020.” We invite readers to submit perspectives of their own to email@example.com for possible inclusion in the blog series.
Rev. Rick Jordan is senior pastor of First Christian Church in Bonner Springs, Kansas. He is also a singer-songwriter. Rick and his wife, Carla, live in Shawnee, Kansas.