Homily: How To Vote Like A Christian
Today’s Gospel couldn’t come at a better time. Coming right before our very important presidential election in this country, it answers our basic question: How do you vote like a Christian?
It seems so easy, doesn’t it? Love God. Love your neighbor. The two greatest commandments encapsulate the core of faith and could–if we really were to trust God–transform the world.
Similarly then, and with election day looming, voting should be an easy affair: people of faith should vote for the candidates whose policies would most embody a love of God and neighbor.
It seems so easy, but it isn’t if we are honest with ourselves and gracious towards those who disagree with our political persuasions. No single party or candidate has a monopoly on loving God and neighbor.
Some Christians will vote for President Obama, arguing that the most loving thing we can do for our neighbor is to build a stronger social net. Some Christians will vote for Mr. Romney, arguing that the most loving thing we can do for our neighbor is let loose the power of the market to create good-paying jobs for all. Some Christians will cast a ballot for Mr. Romney in support of his stance on abortion. Some Christians will cast a ballot for President Obama, noting that the availability and affordability of basic health care is a pro-life position.
All of us, if we are honest, will vote for a flawed candidate.
In today’s Gospel passage, a scribe–that is, an expert at preserving and interpreting theology–approached Jesus with an important question. “What is the first commandment?”, he asked. That is, what is at the root of our theology? What first principle holds our faith together?
The responses Jesus gave were simple: love God and love one another. Our relationship with God is always seen from our relationships with one another. For Jesus, these two commandments are inseparable.
The scribe recognized the wisdom of Jesus’ response. As important as the offerings and sacrifices were, they paled in comparison to this first principle of loving God and neighbor. Or, speaking in today’s terms, as important as our church traditions and even our political commitments are, they pale in comparison to Jesus’ unswerving call to love God and neighbor.
How do you vote in love?
Scripture often provides a reminder of the tensions people of faith feel as we support mere “mortals” in office. Such leaders are like the rest of us: frail, bent towards error, bound to disappoint. In contrast we praise God as one who rescues the oppressed, feeds the hungry, cares for those most exposed to the cruelties of this world.
We vote like a Christian when we vote for the sake of our neighbors. In short, we trust in a God of justice and love. And att the same time, we also necessarily have to rely on the execution of God’s hopes for the world at the hands of fallible leaders, whether secular or religious. But God has set a clear political agenda for all who wish to follow a path of holiness. The vulnerable must be protected. The oppressed must be set free. The broken must be made whole.
Far less clear is whom we can trust to lead us as we seek God’s hopes for the world. Far less clear is how exactly we join God in making such a world a tangible reality.
It is ironic that modern presidential campaigns seem to function like time warps. It took a massive storm to draw our eyes away from the campaign trail. Such a time warp too often highlights political and ideological disputes instead of the very real needs of our neighbors.
Next week’s election will resolve one important question. Who will be our President for the next four years? One thing it won’t resolve is a long-standing conundrum: How do we love God and neighbor?
How then do we vote like Christians? We vote with forgiveness, love, and grace in our hearts towards our neighbors but especially those with which to disagree on political questions. We vote without commitment to political ideologies or personalities. We vote without expecting mere mortals to do the work of God. Yet we vote with hope that God will meet us in the messiness of our political lives. In short, we vote like a Christian when we vote for the sake of our neighbors and for the sake of those the world and politicians are most likely to neglect. In doing so, even in our voting we show our love most deeply for the God that we obey and follow. Eric D. Barreto