No Pearl-Clutching Allowed

Voting is More than an Individual Struggle with Conscience

I don’t usually write when mad. 

Tonight, however, I’m making an exception.

While scrolling through Twitter, the headline for an opinion piece at Religion News Service caught my attention: 

Voting my conscience in this election may mean staying home

The author, Peggy Wehmeyer, who was the religion correspondent for ABC News, shared the struggle she is having with her pro-Trump (mostly Christian) friends and her anti-Trump millennial daughters (who are also Christians). “It seems my circle of family and friends are digging in against their opponents, turning blind eyes to the poisons in their own parties,” she writes. “Caught in the middle, I feel paralyzed between two alternate realities.”

She went on to describe the “two alternate realities” in equal terms – placing Trump’s moral shortcomings on par with what she believes to be Joe Biden’s “revolution” of “mob-wokesters” and pro-abortion policies. In her best journalistic objective voice, she relates how she watched both conventions, and finding both full of lies, neatly sets herself above the fray. “The only thing we can all agree on is if the ‘other side’ wins,” she asserted, “the wheels are coming off the bus.” Then, she concluded, “Choosing between the lesser of two evils is such a struggle, that I’ve considered staying home November 3rd.”

Sadly, she attributed all this to Jesus. Neither party meets her theological standards.  Therefore, neither party deserves her vote.

And that’s what made me angry. Because voting is more than an individual struggle with conscience. It is a right and responsibility we bear toward one another. What she deigns not to do, others died to do.

I know that white Christians love to hedge their bets on how Jesus would vote. But I’m not joining the equivocating, pearl-clutching throng. If Jesus were around during this election, there are four things I think he might say in response to this editorial:

1) The wheels are already off the bus. 

Have you noticed that the earth is burning? That innocent people are being killed in the streets because of their skin color? Millions of men and women are out of work? A pandemic is raging and thousands and thousands are dead who would otherwise be alive? 

Not only are the wheels off the bus, but the bus has crashed and there are people in the ditch. Think about the Good Samaritan. Don’t walk by and leave them there.

2) Politics is always a choice between imperfect parties and candidates.

No political party ever gets it completely right, all parties have entrenched interests of money and power, and none is morally upright. There is no Christian political party. You might even say that political parties are made up of sinners who fall short of God’s righteousness. Political parties are not religions (although some seem to have forgotten that) or utopian communities. They enact policies to benefit the common good - or not. There’s only one Savior and he’s not running for president. You should automatically discount any candidate who claims to be one. 

What’s the point then? You get to choose, use your minds to make choices that best serve your fellow citizens and that align with the clear priorities of God’s heart. Make decisions based on facts. Listen to the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized. Then vote for the candidates and parties that pay attention to the least of these – that’s your best bet in politics. 

3) Abortion is not the only issue.

Even though abortion is not a good thing, it is not the only thing – and Democrats actually have a wide range of perspectives and policy concerns on the issue. Please read the late Rachel Held Evans’ column on this subject from 2016: “voting pro-choice is not the same as voting for abortion.”

Also helpful is this piece by a Catholic and a Protestant, Patrick Carolan and Brian McLaren, on changing the abortion debate.

Also, if we don’t save the planet, abortion becomes moot.

4) Black and brown voters are telling white people that their lives are in jeopardy if Trump wins a second term.

Believe them. Most African-Americans and Hispanic Americans begged you not to vote for Trump in the first place – and are continuing to do so. Choosing between two “evils” is “such a struggle” for you? Not nearly the struggle that it is for black parents who worry their sons will be shot by a police officer in a traffic stop. Not nearly the struggle it is for Latino parents who fear their families will be split up in an ICE raid.

Not voting is injustice in light of their struggles and pleas.

The revolution people are demanding isn’t “woke-ness.” The revolution that is needed is one of human dignity, where Americans finally and fully embrace the vision of equality proclaimed at the founding of the nation – sometimes it is revolutionary to actually keep a promise.

Finally, Americans have risked their lives to vote, fought wars to protect the privilege of voting, struggled and died to expand the right to vote, and will, this year, stand in lines during a pandemic facing the possibility of illness to vote. Sometimes it is easy to vote. But, more often than not in American history, the conscience strained when faced with all the imperfect choices we’ve had to make. Imperfection, however, is not the same as both-side-ism. Imperfection doesn’t impede the quest toward a better society, but seeking perfection often contributes to injustice. We choose between less-than-perfect parties and candidates all the time - knowing it would be far worse if the right and responsibility to vote were either infringed or taken away.

The author worries, "My children think opting out in November would make me a hypocrite."

Listen to your children. They are right. Vote. And choose wisely.



For the Children
Gary Snyder

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
The steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

A Prayer
Lord God, in this world where goodness and evil continue to clash with each other, instill in us and in all people, discernment to see what is right, faith to believe what is right, and courage to do what is right. Keep us and preserve us, body, mind, and soul. Amen.

- Iona Community

THE COTTAGE publishes each Monday and Thursday, with occasional weekend specials, alternating between commentary on religion and culture and inspiration for a more meaningful faith - all from an unexpected point of view. Subscribe for free and never miss an issue.

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