A pastor suggesting how you should vote

In case you hadn’t noticed from the million dramatic TV ads, Election Day is upon us. 
I hope every one of you in the US will vote – if you haven’t already.  
If you haven’t voted yet, I am going to give you a suggestion for how to vote.  
And I am going to begin with two important reminders.

The first is this: The Way of Fear gets a megaphone at times like these.  

The lie of the Way of Fear is easy to recognize by some key characteristics:
     It labels people as enemy, and points fingers at those people, dehumanizing the “other.” 
     It pounds home a message of scarcity and urgency, wrapped in language of warning and doom.  
     It tells you things that make dread or despair churn in your gut, or bring anger and rage bubbling up your throat, and then seeks to harness that negative energy toward its cause.
     It produces hopelessness, apathy, terror, fury or resignation that reduces and exhausts you.

Motivating an electorate in the Way of Fear sounds like this:  “We are divided between the good and the bad.  Vote for the good, or else the bad will win. If the bad wins, then your security will disappear and your future will be bleak.” 

You could vote the Way of Fear. That is an option you have.  LOTS of people will be doing this.  

But I am going to suggest you don’t.   
And here’s why.
It’s not true.

It’s not true that there are merely “good” and “bad,” and any one person or group of people is all one or the other.  We are all a mess of contradictions - beautiful and broken, lovable and unkind, vulnerable and valuable.  All of us.
It’s not true that there is us and them. There is only we, as in, “we the people.”  
And it's not true that there is any possible path to a good life – for anyone – that begins in keeping people angry or afraid.  All that leads to is more anger and fear.

What is true is that your neighbors, relatives, coworkers and even those far away whose lives are unimaginably different than yours – all have the very same needs and humanity, loves and hopes, as you and I do.  

So here’s the second reminder: 
The Way of God is the deep and real truth.  
Under all our bluster and false division the truth remains: 
We’re in this together. 
We are responsible for each other.  
There is enough for all. 
Nobody is less than. Nobody is unworthy.  
Every one of us can learn from how we demean, exclude, or injure each other, because every one of us does it.  But that isn't what gets to define us.  
And every one of us can choose toward one another’s well-being, and toward our own collective well-being. Because we belong to each other.  And because every one of us is deserving of love and has something valuable to contribute.

Each Friday when I Pray for the Nation, there is a pile of blessings/reminders in a basket in front of me to place on the flag.  They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). These are what the the Way of God looks like.  They are how you can identify the Real Reality.
The Way of God's recognizable characteristics include:  
-      It looks like generosity.  
-      It’s steeped in kindness. 
-      It multiplies joy and does the hard work of love. 
-      It moves in steady faithfulness. 
-      It’s grounded on the inner strength of self-control.  
-      It is patient and gentle with each other and ourselves.  
-      It produces peace within and between us.

The Way of Fear is a liar.  A loud one, but a liar nonetheless.  
The Way of God is the Truth.  
You belong to this truth.  
You can live from – and live out – this truth.  At any and every moment.  
That includes when you vote.

So, here’s my suggestion for how you should vote:

-      While you wait in line at the polling place, look at your neighbors and community members. They are not adversaries or allies in a brutal game.  They belong to you and you to them.  Let yourself feel that.

-      Recognize that you get to choose which message you want to embody.  Will you vote from fear and hostility? Or will you vote from open-heartedness and mutuality?  Ask yourself, as an American, How might my vote contribute toward the well-being of others?  How might I uphold our collective national belief in “we the people” and “justice and liberty for all” and “the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” with my vote?

-      Pray before you vote.  Ask God’s Spirit to ground you in love and fill you with peace.  Remember that sometimes it takes some work to see the Way of God beneath Fear’s tawdry vitriol and noisy rhetoric, but it’s there, unwavering and persistent. Let this act of voting be a concrete act of living in the Real Reality.  So, maybe sit somewhere in silence with God and breathe for a few minutes first.  Or maybe get together with someone who will pray with you that morning.

What if – in the midst of the divisive clamor and unsteadiness – you voted from a firm and grounded place of love?  What if you went in disconnected from the drama, and remained rooted in God’s goodness, remembering our mutual belonging as human beings and Americans? What might that experience of voting feel like to you? 

-      Pray after you vote.  No matter who wins or loses this round, or the one after that, the Way of Fear will continue to rage on, and the Way of God will continue its unshakable course of hope and healing.  All the rest will eventually fall apart and fade away – but the way of God endures forever.  Love is what life is moving in and toward.  And we get to live out of God’s future now.  This is an especially powerful invitation in those times when it feels obscured or lost.   Maybe light a candle to remind you to let go the voices of fear, or create a breath prayer that returns you to trust, (like, 'This world is yours / and I am yours, O God.')

    What if you found some small act of love or kindness that connected you with the Real Reality? Pay for a stranger’s groceries.  Say a kind word to a harried store employee.  Send a note to someone you know who is struggling.  Buy a coffee for your kid’s teacher or call up a friend you haven’t seen in a while.  Ask the person on the corner with the sign what their name is and tell them yours.  What might it feel like to actively remember and practice the deeper truth that holds us?

That’s what I’ve got. 
Thanks for voting. 
Thanks for helping me remember the truth and letting me help you remember too.  
I am grateful to be human alongside you.


PS – If you want to – let me know how it goes for you on Tuesday.  Share in the comments if you were able to disconnect from the drama, or connect with an act of kindness.  I’d love to hear your experience of the day!

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