Rev. Erika Hewitt reflected this week on the role of religion in politics, in her weekly “Braver/Wiser” column on the UUA website. Her thoughts are relevant to my Election Day experience as I worked as a poll monitor with two other UU ministers.
Rev. Erika begins her piece by recounting a conversation she has when reaching out to voters. One voter says to her, “Honey, it’s all too confusing for me. I’m just going to pray. I trust God to elect the right man.” Erika reflects on this attitude and the theology it represents: If you tell me that God exerts sovereign power over our free will and even our democratic elections, it sounds a lot like absolving yourself of our shared responsibility to shape the world we live in. I recommend reading the full piece at https://www.uua.org/braverwiser.
I agree with Rev. Erika’s perspective: that our UU theology is vastly different from a theology that says “God will take care of it.” As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that we are called to participate in saving the world. Our values say that we must do what we can. For this reason, it felt religiously appropriate for me to spend Election Day monitoring polling places with two of my colleagues. I even wore my collar that sends a very clear signal that I’m a clergy person – in this way I was using the power of my clergy status, bringing (or so I hoped) blessing and peace to the polling places.
Another colleague, Rev. Ashley Horan, sent an email this week with a poem entitled “On Praying While Waiting for Election Results.” The first lines of her poem are:
There are no atheists in foxholes, they say–
Even fewer on campaign trails and in canvass headquarters
Those final hours before the polls are closed
Indeed, Election Day is a religious occasion: it is a day when we dare to hope for the best of humanity, and when we sometimes witness the worst of humanity. As we engage by voting and by whatever form of activism we choose, we are not just passively hoping and praying, but trying to create the world we want.
The people I encountered at the polling places might not have understood my religion and my theology – at a glance, my collar might suggest Catholic or Protestant – but I brought the fullness of my religion to the task of helping voters and checking to see that polling centers were running smoothly. I found the divine in the connection I had with my colleagues and with the encounters I had with all those involved in voting. To my Unitarian Universalist way of thinking, this is holy work.
May well-deserved rest come to all those who worked at the polls from dawn through the evening hours yesterday. May our communities be strengthened by the engagement of voters and by the promise of democracy.
May we continue to exercise a religion that calls us to act in the hopes of bringing forth the best of human community.
Amen. Blessed be.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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Rev. Andrew Frantz
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