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Loving politics

Loving politics

Sam Portaro writes on the uneasy relationship between politics and religion on the CREDO Spiritual Blog, but also points out that the relationship should not be ignored.

Our forebears understood well the political nature of religion and spirituality, and the spirituality inherent in the practice of politics, at least in the American experiment in democracy. Owen Thomas writes of ”… something which is rarely, if ever, included in Christian formation, namely, instruction in our responsibility to and means of access to the political process. By this I mean the whole political process from running for public office, seeking good candidates, campaigning, keeping in touch with elected officials, and if necessary, using legal means to redress injustice. … If the primary axiom of Christian ethics is love of neighbor, and if our neighbor is anyone whose life we can affect by our actions, including our political actions, then for U. S. citizens our neighbors today include everyone in the world.” (Anglican Theological Review, vol. XXXII, No. 2, p. 279)

Portaro cites apathy and disgust with the political process, but is quick to bring us back to our responsibility:

For all our belly-aching, we remain one of the few peoples on earth who can, on a regular basis, take into our own hands the reformation and remediation of our own government. And, as Thomas rightly notes, these are the same means by which we exercise a faithful spirituality and a profound influence over the welfare of our immediate and our global neighbors. We cannot abdicate or absent our place in the voting booth and remain responsible citizens, credible critics or committed believers.

Study of the nominees, parties, platforms and possibilities is a spiritual practice. Participation in the process is inherently holy; casting one’s ballot is the sacrament of American political life, a deeply incarnational participation in communion. Pray the ballot, if you will. And by all means, cast it.


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Dcn Scott Elliott

I have never encountered an election in which none of the candidates or ballot initiatives deserve to be voted for, or against. But I have also never encountered one in which all of the races deserved a vote.

So I routinely undervote — there are many contests in which I don’t case a vote — so I do both: vote, and not-vote.

Bill Dilworth

Gary, just to make sure I understand what you’re saying, if someone found no presidential candidate they could vote for in good conscience, but voted in lower elections, would they still fulfill their duty as a responsible citizen in your opinion?

If there’s any doubt that one might not be able to vote for any of the candidates for President that appear on your state ballot, then imagine that you had the bad sense to live in Oklahoma in 2004, and were a committed member of the Green Party. Or the Libertarian Party. Or the Populist Party. Or any political party other than the Democratic and Republican Parties. Neither Bush nor Kerry convinces you that you should vote for them; neither have the policy positions you adhere to and you trust neither one to run the Executive Branch the way you think it should be run. Well, you’re SOL, because on the 2004 Oklahoma presidential ballot the only candidates listed were Bush and Kerry, and Oklahoma does not allow write-in candidates. In this scenario, it’s not that there weren’t any candidates you wanted to vote for – there were simply no candidates you wanted to vote for and for whom you were allowed to vote.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Bill, I find it hard to believe that none of the candidates would be acceptable. There are many races in most elections. Without the form of democracy substantive democracy has no chance.

If the voters were more involved there would be better candidates.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Bill Dilworth

Gary, I can very easily imagine a scenario in which none of the candidates on the ballot would be acceptable, especially the more local the race. Insisting that a voter cast a ballot for one out of a slate of unacceptable candidates strikes me as preserving only the form of democracy, without the substance.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Bill, The least that a citizen can do is vote. Voting in itself is not enough but at least it is a start.

Citizens have the responsibility to find out as much as they can about public policy. Granted the American media do a less than good job on reporting on policy and tend to focus on personalities rather than facts.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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