Saturday, July 05, 2014

Loving Our Neighbor: The Center of Political Engagement

Jesuit motto, Georgetown University
At  Bread for the World Offering of Letters around the country, we sometimes hear comments like "religion and politics don't mix."  Many of us would argue that politics and faith action are one and the same.  Here is an excerpt from Bread for the World's The Biblical Basis for Advocacy to End Hunger.

"In scripture, God calls people into community and sets the expectation that leaders (whether they are kings, pharaohs, or governments) should care for their people. Therefore, we also reflect Christ’s love by challenging individuals and institutions that have the power to change laws and structures that keep people vulnerable. As God’s hands and feet in the world, we work toward a beloved community in which every person has an equal opportunity to thrive."

The Catholic Church's Jesuit order promotes the value "Women and Men for Others." This philosophy, presented by then Jesuit Superior Pedro Arrupe in 1973, insists not only on a spirit of giving and providing service to those in need and standing with the poor and marginalized, but also the pursuit of justice on behalf of all persons. (Read award-winning essay by Kieran Halloran)

UCC document urges politcal engagement
Some communities of faith are indeed encouraging their congregations and followers to become active in the electoral process. The message is clear: political engagement is not necessarily about the candidates but about issues and principles. (However, people are encouraged to work individually on behalf of a candidate  if they feel that candidate's views are compatible with their values).

The United Church of Christ is among those that have developed a campaign for political engagement with a document entitled Get Active in the Elections.  A point of emphasis are the two great commandments, which are spelled out in Luke 10:25-28, Matthew 22:35-40, and Mark 12: 28-31. (Those teachings of Jesus are based on Deuteronomy 6: 4-5 and Leviticus 19:18).

Here is what the UCC says:
Politics is often taken to be a dirty word, but political processes are simply the way communities organize their common life. For people of faith, public policyis never merely politics. It is a way of living out the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

It is fitting for local congregations and church structures across the country to develop nonpartisan programs to help the faith community reflect upon the political order. The Our Faith Our Vote Campaign is designed to help you discover the ways in which you, as an individual and as a congregation, can get involved in the political process.

Our country is in crisis in many ways. It is time for well minded, engaged and faithful people to speak out and get involved in the political process. Let's go public with our faith! We'll show you how! 

Bread for the World's Biblical Basis for Advocacy to End Hunger reinforces this UCC statement. "Our proclamation of God’s love and our demonstrated concern for others are two sides of the same coin. We work to end hunger and poverty in our communities, in our country, and in other countries because we hear God’s word and see Jesus’ model of compassion and justice. We express and embody God’s reconciling love at all times and in all places."

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