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  • Writer's pictureSharon Beck-Doran

Vote Your Faith. But What Does That Mean?

It was a very hot summer day. I think I was around 3 years old. Our church, led by my dad the pastor, had organized a group to picket the local 7-11. At the time, I had no idea what pornography was, much less why we were there. I just remember the wooden pole that my sign was attached to gave me splinters. In retrospect, I would guess we did more to help business than hurt it. I imagine passers by saw our protest and thought, 7-11 sells nudey mags? I had no idea! How convenient. I’ll be by later.

I am proud to be the daughter of a political activist. My dad even held republican caucus meetings in our home. They raised me with the belief that voting is a privilege and a civic responsibility. I was also taught that my faith should always guide my politics.

I’ve been reflecting on this intersection of faith and politics. As I talk with people of faith, I find we are far from uniform in our political views.

There’s no question that we have been in an incredibly polarized and toxic political season. I uninstalled Facebook from my phone because political arguments were tearing my family apart and I needed to disengage. It feels like we were all stuck, briefly retreating to our corners before we are pushed back into the ring to bob and weave from the oncoming assault of hooks and jabs. Seriously, I just want to see my nephews and nieces and more cute puppy pics.

In 2016, news media credited white evangelicals as a driving force behind the election. Our country elected a president who had been married 3 times, was recorded talking about grabbing women’s private parts and kissing them without permission, paid a porn star to keep quiet about an affair, and the list goes on. That’s only to mention how he treats women, nothing about his claim that he could shoot someone in the middle of the street and not lose any voters or anything else. To any observer, this is entirely inconsistent with Christian values. It is confusing how on the one hand we talk about the high value of morality, and on the other hand venerate a political figure who is undeniably immoral.

When I asked why friends and family why they would support him, besides a strong dislike for his opponent, many said because he would appoint conservative judges. There was a push, led by church folk, primarily evangelicals, to see change. For many, the ends justified the means.

Not all Christians are the same. Even evangelicals, who now make up a minority of church goers in the US, don’t all vote the same. I was disappointed with the results in 2016, just like some of you were disappointed in 2020. We love our country and its frustrating when our leadership doesn’t reflect our viewpoint. But I am also reminded how fortunate we are to live in such a prosperous country. Believers throughout history have followed Christ through unbelievably hard political situations. God is certainly not dependent on us and our government.

Many Christ-followers disagree on political issues. Yet all aim to reflect their faith in their politics. Like my dad, whose zeal for political activism has seriously waned over the last thirty years or so. He is very smart and great to talk with about lots of different controversial topics. I think sometimes he wonders if it was a mistake to raise me to think for myself, but he says he enjoys hearing what I have to say. And I enjoy hearing what he has to say, too! Because he also raised me to seek God and pursue things like kindness, justice and peace. We just often disagree about whether or not guns should be involved.

My dad and I have had very different life experiences. We come at problems with different solutions. I think that’s a good thing.

I remember talking with my dad in the lead up to the 2020 election. I emphasized how much everyone hates abortion. Seriously, no one wants women to be in this situation, faced with such a painful choice. In a nutshell, I said that abortion and overturning Roe vs Wade isn’t worth talking about. It’s never going to happen. Instead, I wanted to focus on access to resources like healthcare, contraception, affordable childcare and housing. Essentially, I felt like a better strategy would be to focus on helping women avoid an unwanted pregnancy and offering support to those who choose to keep their baby.

Welp, I was obviously wrong… at least about the chances of overturning Roe v Wade.

As crazy as this sounds, it turned out to be easier to change the dynamic of the US Supreme Court and overturn 50 years of precedent than to do the hard and messy work of social change.

Seriously, hats off to conservatives. You all had dogged determination and effective strategy to bring about a significant change in the law. And you were the only ones who saw it coming.

And yet, access to abortion has only been inhibited in a handful of states. More than that, public opinion is shifting. People who were happy to sit on the political sidelines, comfortable with the status quo, are suddenly mobilized. Others who never had to think about where they fall on this question are hearing from women and wrestling with the implications of this change in legality.

I have a theory. To test it, I polled a few friends: all women, a couple religious, a couple non-religious. I asked, “Right now, what would you say is the most important political issue?” They all independently answered women’s rights. As in, the woman’s right to have an abortion if she should choose. I asked if that would have been true a month ago. “No,” one friend said, “a month ago I would have said gun control.” I recognize the answer might be different if I were in Hutchinson or Abilene rather than Overland Park, Kansas.

I have often wondered, why abortion? Why gay marriage? If the majority of evangelicals decided to pick a political platform, why have these two issues floated so prominently to the top?

I asked my husband, who identifies as a moderate Republican, the same question. What do you think is the most important political issue? Climate change, because his faith influences his value system. He must have read something in Genesis about humans being commanded by God to be caretakers of creation. But also, he loves to fish and hates to be hot.

For me, the most important political issue is immigration. As I read the Bible, the command to care for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner is repeated over and over again. Israel’s origin story as a people starts in captivity where they were taken advantage of because of their vulnerability as foreigners in Egypt. I also worked in construction where I met many successful business owners who swam across the Rio Grande to get here. I’ll never forget walking outside of Home Depot to witness a Hispanic day-laborer throw himself in front of a truck, demanding to be paid. I thought to myself, what recourse does he have in this situation?

All that to say, it's not just faith by itself that influences our politics.

I am challenged as I think about the influence that my faith might have, not just on my politics, but in the way I approach every part of life. I’m practicing for Sunday, singing this song “Holy Spirit.” The lyrics start,

There's nothing worth more

That will ever come close

Nothing can compare

You're our living Hope

Your presence, Lord

I’m challenged because of all the influences in my life: my thoughts, my feelings, on the way I see the world. I want to seek the perspective of the One who created the universe, whose Word spoke the world into existence. Who took a speck of dust, breathed on it and said, “let there be life.” And there was! I want that same breath to breathe on me, to make me alive and new.

I want to work to make God’s creation good. I am challenged because I go about my day with little thought to the divine perspective.

I need more of that. Every moment.

I’m thinking of what I can do to fanatically pursue change and the perspective I say I crave. First, I just sent an email to the volunteer coordinator at the Jewish Vocational Center (they resettle refugees) asking how I can help. Second, I want to be more meditative. I’m starting with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, reading a small portion every day, working to soak myself in faith.

Think. How could you pursue meaningful change?

Vote. Talk about important things. Get up off your ass and do something good. Think about your number one. Take action. Go after making whatever it is better.

If that’s the environment, pick up some trash or figure out how to compost something.

If it’s gun violence, rock my world and come up with some good ideas on how to impact change.

If you’re afraid the government is going to take your guns away, perhaps consider how to promote non-violent conflict resolution? Just a thought. Had to try!

Don’t just vote. Consider running for office or volunteering for a candidate you think can do some good.

If you are Pro-Life, think about what you can do to make an impact beyond legislation. I have several friends who are foster and adoptive parents. I really admire them.

If financial strain is the #1 reason women seek abortion, how could we better support low-income parents? Go after it with love, respect and a deep sense of compassion.

I challenge you to be intentionally influenced by your faith. Seek a glimpse of the world from the perspective of the One who made us. Let it change us for the better.

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