I came into the office and one of my coworkers asked if I voted. I had. So I repeated her question to her. She said no, she hadn’t voted. I started into a rant, a small one. Then a second person came in while I was questioning the merits of the first coworker’s failure to vote. The second person didn’t vote either. I couldn’t take it.
I told them about a friend who wouldn’t let people she supervised come to work til they voted. I started to say things about absentee ballots and early voting and the effectiveness of sitting out as opposed to actually doing the thing. It’s sad to me that it’s too late for one of these ladies to vote. She’s not driving to her home state to do it. The other flat out said what she wasn’t going to do. Both had their reasons, all of which I disagree with.
I told them I was going to my office to write a blog post. I told them that I didn’t want to answer any of their questions. Am I wrong to be upset? Am I judging them when they’re able to say to me that if we had this conversation two months ago, maybe they would have voted?
To vote is to exercise faith. If Christians and people of other faiths do not vote, we miss one opportunity to live into what we believe. I get that not all people of all faiths would agree that voting is a matter of faith, but go with me for a moment. Faith is realized when we live it out. Faith isn’t altogether interior but it pushes us out and makes us aware of the world around us. A spiritual life that is Christian (and I’m talking specifically from my place in life) is concerned with the interal life and the external life. And that external life is what we we see in our cities and counties, how budgets are passed or stalled, how legislators conduct themselves or fail to. The spiritual life must be just as concerned in the political process because that’s a part of the world we live in and that’s one place people of faith can impact.
When you vote, you say in the public sphere that you have beliefs about policy and how a city pursues peace and justice and well being. When you vote, you say that you are choosing to support and elect a particular person for a specific role. What you are doing is exercising your trust in that candidate, that jurist, or that politician, expressing your confidence in that person’s ability to execute the office or role to which they might be elected.
It matters and it doesn’t matter whether they actually proceed in the way they said. It matters and it doesn’t. That’s why we vote: to hold people accountable, to change course, to remove leaders, to keep leaders. We vote because we are discouraged or underwhelmed by the last two years or four years or eight years. We don’t sit out. We get up and go out to vote.
As a pastor, I think one of the best things I can do during election season is encourage people to vote. Yes, to be informed about their voting and their values behind those votes, but to vote regardless. If you believe that certain policies and certain legislative agendas can advance or get closer to what you believe the city, county, state, or country should be, wouldn’t restraining from a vote be contrary to your faith? If you believe that your faith in meaningful for life now, wouldn’t it be fruitful for you to embody that faith in acts like praying for politicians, asking critical questions of judges, registering to vote, and following through during each election cycle by voting? If you determine that a person’s values and commitments are similar to yours, particularly as a person of faith, or that a candidate’s spoken words accord with your own, wouldn’t it be a small failure of faith to not vote? I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.
I haven’t even started on the whole thing about the actual historical and contemporary significance of voting. I’ll save that for the early conversations I’ll start with my coworkers in advance of Chicago’s February elections. So expect a few posts in late December and early January to anticipate the deadlines for voter registration and early voting.
So, am I wrong for having an attitude? Perhaps I’ll get to staff meeting and find out that more people didn’t vote. If I do, I won’t write another post, I promise.