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New ways for faith leaders to help with elections

The midterm elections Tuesday have motivated various faith communities and leaders to become more active in the political process -- not to tell people how to vote but to help encourage them to do their civic duty and to maintain the peace while they're doing it.

Divided-flagAs this RNS story reports, "Two years of disinformation and agitation over the 2020 election results have heightened fears of violence and mischief at voting sites this year. Poll watchers from both ends of the political spectrum have vowed to be out in force. . .

"The rising tension has prompted clergy groups to mobilize for the midterms with new approaches and broader coalitions. They are supplementing long-standing initiatives for voter registration, education and mobilization with voter protection and expanding efforts such as Sojourners’ 'Lawyers and Collars' program, which teamed poll chaplains with lawyers and advisers who could be called to answer questions and defuse tempers."

Many houses of worship, of course, open their doors and become polling places on election day. That's been true of my church over the years. And because my wife and I sold our house and moved a couple of miles north last year, we now vote at a church that's next-door to our apartment building.

Of course, there's no one from that church inside the building telling us how to vote, nor should there be. But using houses of worship as polling places is a reminder of how faith communities are part of the social fabric.

I'm not aware of Kansas City area faith groups organizing in the way described in the RNS story, though that may be just because I've missed that news. (And also because local media outlets tend not to cover much religion news. Sigh.)

But each person of faith certainly can be an advocate for full participation in our electoral system, remembering that voting itself is the very end of the process. If you aren't happy with the candidates, you need to ask yourself what you did ahead of the election date to make sure good candidates you could support were in the race. If the answer is nothing, you're looking at the problem in the mirror.

I was glad to read this in the RNS story: "Christian clergy who have long worked to get their congregants to polling places are also expanding their reach by including more non-Christian clergy in get-out-the-vote efforts."

Christians may make up a majority of American citizens, but the percentage has been shrinking for decades. That, in turn, means coalition building among other faith traditions is vital to help people be good citizens.

So vote on Tuesday if you haven't already voted early. And if you vote in a house of worship, you might take time to thank the leaders of that congregation for participating in our electoral process. (Well, thank them unless they're blatantly violating Internal Revenue Service rules about endorsing specific candidates or issues from the pulpit, as this story describes happening in various places.)

(Finally, here's a disturbing story about how Christian nationalism in politics is spreading around the world. Sigh.)

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The reaction of some Christians to the recent brutal attack on the husband of Speaker of the House Nany Pelosi has been both astonishing and putrid. Russell Moore, public theologian at Christianity Today, calls out such people and rebukes them strongly in this article. "This," Moore writes of one such response, "is not an isolated incident from one sad, angry, and 'extremely online' guy. It reflects an increasing trend among some Christians." One of the answers to the question "What would Jesus do?" in response to the attack would never be "praise it." Can we at least agree on that much?

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P.S.: You may be interested in a virtual interfaith panel on the death penalty taking place at 2 p.m. (Central) on Monday. It will be hosted by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder of Uri L’ Tzedek, an Orthodox Jewish social justice organization. The Zoom link to register for it is here


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