The Politics of Poverty, pt. 1

In less than two months, America will head to the polls.

And, as in all presidential elections, this November 6 will be about much more than the two men whose names will appear on the ballot. Casting a vote means subscribing to a certain ideology, a vision for where the next four years will lead.

As evidenced by the past four years, the road maps that Americans carry into voting booths can not and will not be exact. But a vote cast represents trust that even in moments of compromise, your candidate will hold in the back of his mind the vision of a better tomorrow promised over months of cross-country campaigning.

The America of this election season is a wounded one. Roller coaster rides on Wall Street and suffocating unemployment rates have left the American ego bruised and begging for better, quicker solutions.

And perhaps also, at least for those of us in our first few decades, this election day will be the first in which we head to the polls fully aware of all that can happen in four years. Fully aware that there are forces at play far beyond the control of one man in an oval office. Fully aware of the suffering among friends and family members who aren’t just hoping for change, but truly needing it.

It is in this suffering that politics and the Christian religion find their most obvious overlap. Both address the world of tomorrow and yet orient us to the work of today.

Both also threaten to be caught up in abstraction, as debates, whether over democracy or doctrine, take the place of difference-making and decisions.

Six weeks remain between today and November 6. A month and a half of further political pleasantries and promises, as well as new answers to old issues. And, perhaps more importantly, five Sundays for the messages of our pulpits to urge us to continue thinking deeply about where we would like the next four years to lead, not just politically but also personally.

Moving beyond the unsettling ads, the political pundits and the high doses of drama, I find the part of the election season that I’ve come to truly love: Elections force us to consider our communities in very real ways. What’s missing? Where are we falling short? How can we strengthen our nation both internally and globally?

Considering our communities. Sounds familiar to those of us who make our way into church every now and again.

Casting a ballot on November 6 is an act of faith. A showing of support for a man that you feel has the best understanding of what the American community will need over the next four years. And just as faith in God is something that Christians wrestle with over the course of a lifetime, I urge you to continue actively engaging with the candidates over the next six weeks.

Because even if you feel your mind is already made up, questions remain to be asked. Acknowledging the compromises that pave the road of any political career, what issues will you stand up for on your own terms? How will you use your voice beyond the ballot box?

Yes, November 6 is election day. But every day of the year is an opportunity for change.

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