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  • Writer's pictureMelvin Hardy

This Shared Life: The Theological Underpinnings of Voting and Democracy's Defense

Updated: Apr 30, 2022

Our faith leaders must be more consistent in advancing the theology of voting as a spiritual practice. U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock stated “The vote is a kind of prayer for the kind of world we desire for ourselves and our children. And our prayers are stronger when we pray together.” Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray of the Unitarian Universalist Association stated about American communities of faith: “… (our) commitment to justice, equity, and democracy is not just political or moral, it is fundamentally theological…grows from our affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person and the knowledge that we are all interconnected…reflects the fact that our theology… is accountable to human experience and the conditions of people’s lives here and now...such are the foundations of our commitment to a multiracial, pluralistic democracy.” Days before Christmas 2021, 800 faith leaders from across the spectrum of American religious practice appealed to the President and Congress in a signed letter referencing their being “…steadfast in the belief that we all have an equal say in choosing our elected leaders.”

Against these appeals, Rev. Elizabeth Theoharis observes “…an epic battle for the Bible is now underway in America…largely ceded to white evangelical Christian nationalists. Through a well-funded network of churches and nonprofits, universities, and think tanks, with direct lines to the nation’s highest political officials…they set the terms of what passes for religious debate and dictate what morality means in our society. Such religious nationalism developed as a reactionary movement that includes technocratic billionaires, televangelists, and armed militias to take root with the simple message: God loves white Christian America, favors small government and big business, and rewards individualism and entrepreneurship…while the poor, progeny of the global south (sic), and immigrants are blamed for society’s problems.” In the current environment, the White, Black and Latinx evangelical Christian nationalists are litmus to our nation’s political economy divide.

As religion, and selected religious activism, permeates the entirety of our apparatus of state, too often complicit in, sponsors of, legislative oppressions of civil society, what then of the role of our religious leaders, across the spectrum of religious and spiritual expression, to lift the theological underpinnings of voting as spiritual practice and as a fundament of human rights?

Interfaith clergywoman Mary Ann Brussat of the Practicing Democracy Project guides us that “voting encourages you to consider the larger whole of which you are a part. With voting as the predicate of democracy and its defense...our interfaith leaders are theologically bound to pro-democracy work.” Rev. Jim Chapman of Colorado writes “...over 2000 verses in the Bible speak to poverty and freeing the poor and the oppressed and that voting...must consider how elections will affect the poor, the oppressed, the undocumented”.

Auburn Seminary provided reporting on “The Pro-Democracy Faith Movement” exploring the values underpinning the faith community’s support of democracy and efforts advancing democracy protection. In my opinion, too little consistent support for voting rights protections is promulgated by our faith community. I advise that such should be delivered from our pulpits each Sunday. Having identified the credible faith leaders in both domestic and international fora, I call on our faith leaders to preach the theology of voting in the interest of their flocks, and all of their American neighbors.

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