Voting: A Call to Action for Congregations

 
Voting is liturgical. It’s a ritual expression of love for others when we vote for candidates and for ballot propositions that help to assure the welfare of our vulnerable fellow citizens. Our votes are forms of tithes or offerings that deserve blessing or dedication in worship. By lifting up voting in worship, we take it to heart and commit ourselves to participate. With voter turnout in a steep decline in recent years, congregations are needed more than ever to make a difference. The time to plan election-related events in our churches is now! Here are some ways to do it:

In worship, pastors can lay hands on sample ballots and offer a prayer of blessing on voters. Or they can invite members to come forward to have the pastor anoint with oil the hands they’ll use to mark their ballots, in effect making a potent public pledge that they will vote. Such voter blessings in worship are good occasions for congregations to sing “Deeper Love” – see the words and hear the tune at pcu-la.org .

In many churches, forums are held to discuss candidates and ballot measures. Before general elections, Pastor Adam Edgerly of New Song Church in Culver City, CA, preaches that engagement with politics through voting is integral to Christian commitment. He does not preach his stands on issues or candidates, but convenes pre-election forums for church members to make respectful pro- or con- presentations on candidates or measures, with the requirement that they include biblical rationales for taking their positions.

Churches can encourage members to become “Votivators”, people who encourage and assist others in voting: https://www.facebook.com/groups/903379889717846/ . Many people are dissuaded from casting ballots because they feel they don’t know enough about the issues or candidates and despair of having time to research them on their own. But copying the votes of “Votivators” you respect and admire is a perfectly legitimate way to participate in the electoral process. It is voting by the “buddy system”. Churches can encourage members to join the “Votivator” group at Facebook – and then make their own “Votivator” groups where they can post their lists of voting choices and share them with other parishioners and friends. The greater the number of people who vote, the more politicians must pay attention to voters and respond to their concerns. The bigger the number of members of an individual’s “votivator” group, the more influence that “Votivator” will have with elected officials. As “Votivators’” profiles are raised, so rises the political influence of those who copy or consider their votes. Over time, people who rely on “Votivators” can become “Votivators” themselves, by doing their own research about candidates and issues.

If your congregation plans to ritualize voting or encourage it in other ways, please let me know! – jtburklo@yahoo.com – I will be writing more “musings” to highlight these efforts.
 
JIM BURKLO
Website: JIMBURKLO.COM Weblog: MUSINGS Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo
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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California
 

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