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Living and Voting

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Living and Voting

by Archbishop Kay

In conversation recently with an American dinner companion it was impossible to avoid the forthcoming Presidential election, and from there to the pros and cons of various voting systems.

Unsurprisingly, I suppose, my conversation partner was convinced that true democracy means every elector having the freedom to choose to vote or not, even in the matter of voting for a nation’s leader, rather than our Australian system of compulsory voting. While our views differed, we both agreed that whether for a national Head of State, a Federal or State Government or a City Council and Lord Mayor, it is critical to the health of a society that citizens take part in shaping the common good, that we speak freely and take an active role in helping shape for the good of all in our communities at the local, state and national level.

As October dawns, the American Presidential election rightly looms large everywhere in the world, and not a day goes by without another headline, more analysis, more predictions, another twist or turn in the lead up to 3 November, while COVID-19 continues its voracious advance in so many places.

Inevitably, and uncomfortably given this President’s vociferous supporters, attention also increasingly focuses on the role and influence of conservative Christian groups in American politics and beyond. Christians know what it means to be lifted up by God’s love and goodness, and to participate in announcing the reign of God’s love for all in the here and now. We are called to live God’s vision of love grounded in Jesus’ own selfless and self-giving love, attempting to see with his
eyes what is central to serving people well. Christians sometimes quote from John 17 about ‘being in the world, but not of the world’. Living into the vision of seeking to see the love and justice of God’s kingdom dawning here and now means taking responsibility as we are able to bring hope and transformation for the whole community.

Following his election in 2016, rather than an ecumenical faith advisory council, Donald Trump appointed an evangelical advisory board, many of whom are understood as ‘single- issue’ voters, and who describe the President as a ‘born again Christian’. That there is no longer any Catholic, Episcopal or other main-line Protestant representative, let alone any representatives from Jewish, Muslim or other religious traditions represented, suggests that this single-issue perspective is all that matters.

However, the poor, the marginalised and refugees, never mind a divided nation and a frighteningly divided world, mean there cannot be a single-issue perspective for any of us. It is sometimes hard to hear a gospel word in the rhetoric of single-issue Christian lobby groups, and not just in the USA. To the outsider it seems to indicate that not all faith perspectives and voices have a role in offering wide perspectives and deeper nuances of faith lived in community. In Australia the rise of a Christian single-issue lobby has been evident in various ethical issues such as abortion, marriage equality and human rights.

Writing from the America-Mexico border, where walls rather than bridges are going up, the Roman Catholic Bishop of El Paso writes: ‘A deep faith rooted in love
is moved by the fragility of others and unsettled by systems that cheapen human dignity. The experience of the nearness of Jesus and the love of God, our common Father, creates in us a new mindset: We are dependent, we need one another and we really are responsible for one another
’. These life-giving words challenge us as much here as there, and just as urgently.

In the 2016 US Presidential election 60% of voters turned out to vote. Studies show that of those who didn’t, almost half were young adults, or vulnerable people of ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds, often less educated than those who did. Perhaps the call for those who haven’t voted before to step forward in 2020 will result in those usually silent voices being heard, more perspectives listened to, and different lived experience shaping their future.

There is no such thing as single-issue politics, because democracy shows how much we care – and not just for ourselves, our family and friends, but for all God’s sons and daughters. The single issue for followers of Christ must be reflecting by word and deed God’s unchanging, never-ending love for every place and every person, especially the most needy.

May our living and our voting reflect that love more clearly day by day.

Peace to you all

+ Kay


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