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Voting as a Sacred Act

Rev. Kristi Denham
Congregational Church of Belmont
June 5, 2016

Voting is a sacred act. If it is done with compassionate intentions, we can learn to bring our whole lives into harmony, we remember that voting connects us to others. It is a sacramental ritual that brings body and soul together. Whether we do it by mail or at the voting booth, it can both evoke and express divine love.
The things we do to actually prepare to vote express our commitments. Learning about the issues, remembering to study the issues, do our homework is essential. Talking with friends and neighbors about the candidates, being open to learning from others, listening, respecting different points of view – essential! Actually voting, going to the polls, filling out the ballot, turning it into the ballot box, solidify our spiritual commitment to love our neighbors as ourselves in serving the common good.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if when we vote we remember and know that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because we have been anointed by God, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of God’s favor.”

“Voting is irrational,” writes Paul Woodruff, in his book, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue. “We do not vote because we think our individual votes will change the course of an election. We vote to express our values. We vote to act out our belief in democratic principles that our voices matter as much as those of the rich and famous. We vote to make a statement of faith that our hands have been called to do God's work in the ballot booth and in our daily lives.”

Rev. Anne Cohen, pastor, Mt Hollywood Congregational United Church of Christ put it this way:  "It is not only our privilege and our right to vote – it is our responsibility and our honor to cast our ballots – in June and in November and in all the elections to come.  We may not like any or all of the people on that ballot – but each vote is needed to keep evil at bay, to keep progressing in G-d’s plan for the Beloved Community, a Global Village of compassion and protection and inclusion and health.  If we are not G-d’s Accomplices in repairing the world, then we are accomplices of those who would tear it apart."

Rev. Jim Burklo says, voting is a tithe and offering to build the Beloved Community here on earth. Faithfulness to this task requires effectiveness at it; charity isn't enough. The total food aid provided to needy Americans by private charity amounts to 6% of all food aid provided by the US government. (According to Bread for the World—a Christian charity) To be effective at meeting the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors, we must vote for candidates who will use our taxes to provide for them what our market economy cannot.

Our churches serve as building-blocks of democracy. They are public gatherings where people encourage each other to be engaged in civic life.  They uphold and reflect the values that motivate us to vote. Our congregations are forums in which people can openly discuss issues and candidates in an atmosphere of respect. In these ways, voting is integral to the life of faith.

The separation of church and state is essential. Your pastor cannot tell you who to vote for. I can speak of values. I can even promote Propositions like AA which will greatly benefit our San Francisco Bay. But candidates for political office are off limits. We can talk about it in person. You can check out my Facebook page to know how I feel, but you won’t see political recommendations on our church Facebook page or website, except our Progressive Christian Voters Guide that speaks of values to remember when we vote. We could lose our non-profit status as a church if we break this rule, and that would be bad.

There are those who think this guarantee of our First Amendment of the Constitution is unnecessary. I get well-meaning emails all the time from friends asking me to protest the limitation against prayer in public schools (as if anyone could stop anyone from silently praying). But the wisdom of respecting the beautiful diversity of our citizens is to me essential and helps to make this country great!

Of course, there are those who would tell you our country needs to be made great again.

Marilynne Robinson, the author of ‘Gilead’, has written a brilliant article on ‘Fear’ that I highly recommend you find and read. She says that… “first, contemporary America is full of fear. And second, fear is not a Christian habit of mind. As children we learn to say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” We learn that, after his resurrection, Jesus told his disciples, “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Christ is a gracious, abiding presence in all reality, and in him history will finally be resolved….

“She continues: “Granting the perils of the world, it is potentially a very costly indulgence to fear indiscriminately, and to try to stimulate fear in others, just for the excitement of it, or because to do so channels anxiety or loneliness or prejudice or resentment into an emotion that can seem to those who indulge it like shrewdness or courage or patriotism. But no one seems to have an unkind word to say about fear these days, un-Christian as it surely is.”

“Perfect love casts out fear,” according to I John 4:18. We may not have perfect love but we can choose to be aiming towards it rather than cultivating fear.

Through voting and the democratic process, we affirm our collective responsibility to each other. We help our communities when people are sick, hungry, oppressed, at risk, or lack jobs or education. Through voting, we are able to make positive changes together that go far beyond any acts of private charity we can offer.

I invite you now to open your hands in front of you and meditate on their power to act as we pray together:

Spirit of Love, bless the hands we'll use to vote in the upcoming election. Guide our hearts to guide our minds to guide our hands to mark our ballots with the best choices we can make. May your kingdom, your divine commonwealth, of compassion and equity be more fully realized in this world. Amen."