As a theologically and politically progressive Christian, I’ve always been envious at the sly wit of my righter-wing brothers and sisters. The conservative movement owns all the best language. For instance, the title “Values Voter.” Those who vote in this manner–who identify with this movement– who attend events like the Values voter summit– have values. I do not and so, I suppose, the implication would be that I do not have values. Or at least that I don’t vote with them. It is some very clever language.
Similarly, I’m not usually considered part of the Moral Majority. Unlike many of my more evangelical, conservative brothers and sisters in Christ, I don’t align myself with the religious and political movement that describes itself as moving the United States toward firm moral standards.
So, I stand (or blog) before you both immoral and valueless.
I spend a lot of time, good Calvinist that I am, worrying about the moral and the good and if I’m living up to those standards. One of the great gifts of religious practice is the powerful imagination to begin to look toward a better world and to believe it is possible.
In my tradition, we think about that imagined future and we call it the Kingdom of God or the Commonwealth of Heaven. It is the world where all are equal, where needs are met, where lions lay with lambs, and where war is no more. Jesus spent most of his ministry trying to orient his followers toward it and away from the structures of his day. We believe this Kingdom of Heaven is the world that God is always urging us toward.
In one of the more beautiful and mystical affirmations of faith, we say that it is always here, and also, always just about to break into existence. We are responsible to the creation of it, right here and right now even as it constantly eludes us, always going before us. I believe in the Kingdom of God, even when I can’t see it or feel or hear it or taste it, and that is the reason why I vote.
Politics and religion ask many of the same questions. Who has the right to power? How should power be appropriately shared? What is the right balance between responsibility and freedom? What are our obligations to one another? While it is fashionable, at least in the crowds I run in, to try to dissect religion from public life and most certainly from the political life, I’m not convinced this is possible. We vote our values every single time we vote. Sometimes we vote values we haven’t even fully articulated to ourselves. We often don’t frame our political choices in these terms, but the order in which we rank our concerns, healthcare, economic stability, human rights, tax plans.. however you order these is a reflection on your values.
When we vote, we make a decision about what we think that imagined world could be and then we act on it. Our votes are professions of faith (limited professions of faith) about how our society should be fashioned. Who should have the power? How it should be shared? What do we owe to one another?
As a Christian, one of my central beliefs is that neither political party is going to save us. For salvation, I turn to God. And as our daily prayers remind us, God has no hands in the world, but our own. I think that means, we are responsible for saving ourselves. Which means to me, that we must be guided not by self-interest, but by a clear vision of where we would like to be headed. We are voting for the world we want to see appear on the other side of this all. We are voting for the world we imagine. Or as DeRay McKesson so clearly said, the world on the other side of freedom.
It is to that world that we are held accountable. I vote because it is one way that I assert my belief in a world that serves all people, a world in which power is shared and in which needs are met. I vote because I believe the Kingdom of Heaven is here, just about to break forth at any moment.