By Elizabeth Durant, First Congregational UCC, Portland, Oregon
As we approach the November election this fall, many of us are disheartened and weighed down by despair. For the first time in 50 years, voters will go to the polls without the protections of the Voting Rights Act. In the news, we read of discriminatory attacks on the democratic process at polling places across our nation.
In our families and neighborhoods, we experience divisive debate and polarizing rhetoric about political candidates and public policies. At times, it seems impossible to have a respectful dialogue about the key issues facing our communities.
Yet we know that church – our s
acred space where we encounter the face of God in one another — is not a “politics-free zone.” Our congregations are precisely the place where we need to model respectful dialogue about political issues and concerns.
Rev. Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister for Justice & Witness Ministries, writes:
“For people of faith, the public arena we know as “politics” represents much more than the partisan politicking we see on the news. It is a means by which we live out the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Scripture reminds us over and over that building right relationship in human community and with God’s creation is an act inseparable from our relationship with God.
So it is important for faith communities to engage in nonpartisan voter education and empowerment programs that help us reflect on our collective life and work to uplift the common good through the political process.”
Our national UCC offers an “Our Faith Our Vote” campaign with resources for enabling us to encourage the civil, respectful, informed dialogue that builds community and a hope-filled vision of the future that includes all people. Here are a few of the resources offered online:
- Learn more about how your congregation can legally engage in the elections
- Encourage your congregation to take a civility pledge
- Share these worship resources with your clergy and lay worship leaders
- Engage youth and young adults in the election process
If you are passionate about being involved this election season, consider leading your congregation by becoming an “Our Faith Our Vote” Captain! Captains assist their congregation in activities related to at least one of three areas:
- Voter Education – Hold issue forums in which church members can talk openly and respectfully about key issues in this election season on the local, state, federal and international levels. Create spaces to encourage people to connect their faith with their hopes for the 2016 election and beyond.
- Voter Empowerment and Mobilization – Organize nonpartisan get-out-the-vote activities for your congregation and community. Empower members of your community with the information they need to exercise their right to vote.
- Voter Registration – Make sure your congregation is 100% registered. (NOTE: If you live in Oregon, you may be automatically registered, but need help designating your party affiliation; visit http://sos.oregon.gov/voting/Pages/motor-voter-faq.aspx to learn more.) Register your church-based or community service clients. Provide your college-bound students with information on absentee voting or voting in their campus community.
We hope that these resources will enable you to be a role model for respectful dialogue in your congregation, and in your wider community, this election season.