BY RUTH COLE BURCAW |
I hear these sentiments often during this tumultuous campaign season. When we are overwhelmed with the negativity, frightening rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and mean-spirited debates, it seems easiest to check out of the process all together. And yet, I am aware that this year, more than ever, my Christianity, and in particular, my Moravian Christianity, will inform my responsibilities as a citizen.
It’s especially appropriate that Moravians are in the process of observing the August 13th spiritual renewal, where our ancestors of the 18th century felt the uniting presence of the Holy Spirit after months of sharp and divisive arguments. Earlier that year (1727), they adopted a covenant guiding their lives together and as individual Christians living in the world, named “The Brotherly Agreement.” Today, we call this document the Covenant for Christian Living, and in the section entitled “The Witness of a Christian Citizen,” it lays out clear guidelines for how we as Christian Moravians are to engage as citizens:
- Recognition of Civil Authority: We will be subject to the civil authorities as the powers ordained of God, in accordance with the admonitions of Scripture (Rom. 13:1) (I Peter 2:13-14) and will in nowise evade the taxes and other obligations which are lawfully required of us (Rom. 13:7).
- Responsibilities: Considering it a special privilege to live in a democratic society, we will faithfully fulfill the responsibilities of our citizenship, among which are intelligent and well-informed voting, a willingness to assume public office, guiding the decisions of government by the expression of our opinions, and supporting good government by our personal efforts.
- A Higher Loyalty: Through giving our loyalty to the state of which we are citizens, we do recognize a higher loyalty to God and conscience. (Acts 5:29)
- Peacemakers: For the sake of the peace, which we have with God, we earnestly desire to live peaceably with all people and to seek the peace of the places where we dwell.
Know what you believe. The election provides an opportunity for us to revisit our convictions. What are our own, personal non-negotiables? How can we balance our passionate opinions with a search for truth and fact-based learning? What do we want for ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our world? How do our prioritized convictions align with our faith? Our citizenship? If we want to live like Jesus and build others up in faith, love, and hope, how does that inform our voting?
Do your homework. Use reliable sources. Contrary to what you might find on social media or television, there are still many out there, for example:
- Factcheck.org is a nonpartisan website dedicated to “reducing the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” The website analyzes and reports the accuracy of claims or statements made by influencers in politics. This includes the monitoring of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.
- Votesmart.org is another nonpartisan resource for voters, offering lots of information on candidates and elected officials in addition to different political issues and systemic concerns. Find detailed descriptions of politicians and candidates such as their biography, legislation history, top campaign contributors, and stances on the issues, as well as voter registration and polling schedule information. Their VoteEasy research tool lets you see which candidates match most closely to your own stances on various issues.
- MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization, runs a website which explains to voters the influence money has in the political system. The website has information about campaign contributions and who has donated to political candidates on a federal, state, and local level.
- Preview your ballot by visiting your county’s Board of Elections website. (NC voters – this page shows you registration information and leads you to sample ballots for upcoming elections.) Once you know who all the candidates are, you can begin specific candidate research.
- Visit political party websites for the latest campaign statements and to check candidates’ stances on the issues, on the national, state, and even local level. For example, NC voters can visit the NC Republican party, the NC Democratic party, and even NC Green and Libertarian parties’ websites. These sites often contain hard-to-find info on local candidates or at least, links to local information.
Cultivate civility. The root of civility is “civil,” which most often means “polite and courteous.” But, civil also means “of or relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns.” What are your neighbors’ concerns? Why do they feel the way they do about a certain candidate or issue? Take the time to LISTEN. Hear their stories without thinking of your next sentence. Remember Proverbs 18:15 – “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Knowledge comes to us in many ways, especially if our ears and heart are both open.
We do not live in a perfect world. But we do follow a risen Lord! This gives us hope for ourselves, our neighbors, and this imperfect world. Consider the Ground of the Unity, our doctrinal statement adopted by the Unity Synod of the Unitas Fratrum in 1995, which provides some wisdom for us as we contemplate worldly issues:
Jesus Christ maintains in love and faithfulness His commitment to this fallen world. Therefore we must remain concerned for this world. We may not withdraw from it through indifference, pride or fear. Together with the universal Christian Church, the Unitas Fratrum challenges humanity with the message of the love of God, striving to promote the peace of the world and seeking to attain what is best for all. For the sake of this world, the Unitas Fratrum hopes for and looks to the day when the victory of Christ will be manifest over sin and death and the new world will appear.
–Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Here she is when her daddy was the preacher at Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy, NC.