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faith, politics, and voting - part 4

Near the end of Everything Must Change, I wrote ...

If we disbelieve the dominant framing story and instead believe Jesus' good news of the kingdom of God, we will suddenly find ourselves making new personal decisions - not because we have to, as a duty, but because we want to...

Then I listed a number of examples, beginning with the way we pray, but not stopping there:

We will also buy differently. For example, when faced with a choice between an inexpensive pair of pants produced by a corporation that exploits workers (whom we now see to be our neighbors), we will choose a more expensive pair produced by a corporation that treats workers fairly. Maybe we'll own fewer pairs of pants, but we'll feel better wearing them.... We will vote differently, drive differently, invest differently, eat differently, volunteer differently, treat our neighbors differently, and so much more.

When I speak to large groups about the message of the book, I often ask people to do a little exercise. I have people check the tag sewn in the collar of one another's shirts and then call out where the shirt was made. Typically, in a group of 400 people, there will be 30 to 40 different nations shouted out. We then talk about what it means to see the people in these nations as our neighbors. We consider how we are connected to them by the shirts on our backs. We realize that our small buying decisions affect their daily lives. (For more on this important subject, check out the good work of Trade as One.)

Keeping that in mind helps US citizens like myself to put our voting in perspective. Voting is not the only decision that counts - in a sense, every dollar we spend is a ballot that endorses one company over another. Every time we choose to greet a stranger or smile or show kindness to another, we are voting for friendliness and warmth in the world. Every time we fail to do so, we vote for coldness and alienation.


We make a terrible mistake if we think we can compensate for 364 days of bad voting in our way of living by one day of good voting in an election.

But we also make a terrible mistake if we think that who we vote for - especially in a presidential election - is insignificant. Voting is one of our most important personal decisions. It affects millions of other people on the planet, not just in the US. On a spiritual level, voting affects the kinds of people we are becoming. Carelessness in this decision makes us more careless people. Rashness or superficiality make us more rash and superficial. And self-interest - voting without concern for how our decision will affect a little girl in Iran or a little boy in Congo or a sickly grandfather in Darfur - makes us more selfish.

But on a social and global level, if choosing a shirt affects others, how much more choosing a president of the most powerful, heavily-armed nation in the world!

So, in my view, voting in an election isn't the only important decision we make in light of Jesus' good news of the kingdom of God. We aren't insignificant players in the world's affairs 1,455 days every four years, and then we are significant one day in November when we vote. Each day, in a thousand ways, we cast our ballots.

But we make a terrible mistake if we squander that election ballot, either by not voting at all, or by doing so carelessly, rashly, superficially, or selfishly. It is one of the important and meaningful choices by which our lives are made, and by which our world is made.