Election Day is almost here! Some people are excited about what the future holds while others are ready for advertisements and random text messages to cease. Soon enough it will all be over and we will move forward with those we have chosen to represent us.
I see voting as a civic duty. Its sharing your opinion on who you think can attack the relevant issues taking place both locally and nationally. Voting has become a mechanism for people to make change. It is where the collective voice is heard not just mine individually. Sometimes my voice will be with the majority while others it may not. Despite the outcomes it is in the act of voting that is important because it deliberately declares I have a voice and it will be counted.
How does this all relate to Christianity? Jesus wanted everyones voice to be heard. He overthrew the systems in place to turn everything upside down. He understood the discrimination and injustice and wanted to end it. Jesus healed the unclean, worked on the Sabbath, and spoke with woman and those outcast. He did this because he loved them, wanted them to be in relationship with God, and for them to have basic rights. Their voice mattered to him and he wanted the best for them. Today when so much matters on the resources available, economy, etc. voting matters. It gives people a voice and is a mechanism for change in this world. To me it seems like something Jesus would have advocated for.
Let's look closer at few things regarding voting.
Preventing individuals from voting has been happening since the beginning of the country. It was originally only white males that could vote unless you lived in New Jersey. New Jersey allowed single woman to vote up until 1807 when the state restricted their right to match the rest of the country. African Americans were unable to vote until 1870. And women who had campaigned for 70 years finally were given the right in 1920. You can read more about this in Erin Geiger Smith's new book "Thank You for Voting" which talks about the history and current dynamics of voting in America. One interesting fact is that voting is on Tuesday because of farmers schedule back in the 1700's.
Today allowing individuals to vote has become a political game. This comes with closing down polling stations so people have to stand in long line for hours at a time. Creating additional registration requirements or deadlines for people to access their right to vote. Moving polling stations outside of town so those without transportation are unable to vote. This strategy impacts the poor and impoverished by creating more difficulty for them to vote. Dodge City did this in 2018 which received national news. My point is Jesus fought for the poor and when we continue to create divisions to prevent people from acting on a constitutional right then I think we are not living up to our ideals.
Early Voting/ Mail In
Early voting or mail in ballots have been done state wide in Oregon since 1996 for all elections. They saw an increase in voting percentage meaning more people get to have a voice in what is happening. Washington moved to do this in 2011. Utah and Colorado started using mail in voting in 2013. The accessibility also saw an increase in voter percentage. In today's busy world and election day being on a working Tuesday, it only makes sense to give people additional options to fulfill their constitutional right.
For those worried about voter fraud with mail in ballots check out this New York City of Law report. You can also check out heritage.org and look at the numbers. It's not saying it doesn't happen its saying the number is so insignificant that it has no impact. Most voter fraud comes from clerical errors. Kansas, Kris Kobach only prosecuted 4 cases of voter fraud after indicating it was a major problem. Obviously we all want safe elections. We have been having elections for some time and I believe we do this well. In the middle of a pandemic we need to look at all options to keep people safe but we should be doing this anyways just to increase peoples rights.
The whole point of all this is for you to go out and vote and advocate for others to vote! If you really believe in the constitution and that everyone should have a right as equal people to have a say then get out and vote. Get your friends, neighbors, and anyone you can to fulfill their civic duty either by mail or in person.
This week advocate for others to vote!
Oftentimes we see the 10 commandments as laws to follow to avoid sin. Actions and things not to do so we can obey God’s teachings. When we view the text this way we miss the point of what God is truly trying to convey in the scripture. Obviously these are good rules to follow but we must look deeper to find the meaning, speaking to us in the word. If we look closer we will find Exodus 20:1-20 speaks about character. In fact, the commandments reveal the nature and character of God and who God is in this world. We learn what God values and who God hopes us to be. It’s a powerful scripture because we get to identify attributes of the divine and know that we too can live them out.
Let’s go through the list to identify the characteristics of God revealed in the 10 commandments.
1. You shall have no other gods before Me. - God is loving
The first commandment reminds us of the love God has for each one of us. It is a response to our love that we have for God which is shown throughout the Torah. God is saying just love me. Love me with your heart, life, and soul. God is loving and commands us to love the divine and others wholeheartedly.
2. You shall not make idols. - God is loyal
God demands us to follow the example set through Jesus. To be loyal disciples that focus our attention on God not other things in this world which grab our attention and pull us from the word. Work, sports, physical bodies, politics, social media, etc. We must figure out what those idols are in our own life and work toward worshiping God first. Ask yourself what do you fear losing the most? We must put God first in all aspects. God is loyal and commands us to show loyalty to the divine.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. - God is respectful
When I hear this I always chuckle a bit because I think about which name. God has many names, Yahweh, Jehovah, Elohim, etc.; God’s respect shows God’s love for creation. God created each of us and called us by name. It is in the name of each individual in which God understands there is something more. A name is who we are and that should be respected because we are God’s creation. Isaiah 43.1 - Don't be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. God is respectful and commands us to live with respect for others and self.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. - God is restful
God understands the need to refocus and find rest. This pandemic for some has forced us to find rest and identify what makes our lives work. I have heard numerous stories of people who have taken various things off of their plate understanding it was impacting what was important. They have had time to sit, reflect, and rest in the moment. We all need to find a work/ life balance that works for our lives. God wants us to be our best selves which means meeting our own needs by resting and recuperating. Genesis 2:2 - And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day. God is restful and commands us to rest.
5. Honor your father and your mother. - God is about relationships
God believes in creating deep relationships with others. As an example the love of fathers and mothers for their children. We have individuals who are lonely, isolated, and feel unworthy to be in relationships with others. This commandment calls us to do the work of being present with the people around us. Notice who they are and listen to their story. This is where God is and who God is. Deep relationships are at the core of the divine. God longs for a relationship with you. God is about relationships and commands us to focus on relationships.
6. You shall not murder. - God is peaceful
God values life and expects us to take actions that are peaceful and loving toward one another. It is through actions of peace where the holy spirit of God can work among us and our communities. God wants us to pursue wholeness, reconciliation, and justice in all aspects of life. Our daily prayer of peace is just one example of our church living out this characteristic of God. God is peaceful and commands us to be peaceful.
7. You shall not commit adultery. - God is faithful
God wants us to be steadfast in our promises to one another. To give respect by using our words and actions to match our beliefs. When we make commitments we need to follow through with them. We want to wholeheartedly follow through on our duties because it is good for us and others. The less we follow through the more and more control we lose over our lives. It becomes easier to fall into irresponsible behaviors and actions that harm our world. God is faithful and commands us to be faithful.
8. You shall not steal. - God is generous
God wants us to be sincere with one another and generous in nature. It’s not about stealing but giving to one another when there is a need. We must open our eyes and see the impoverished among us. Let your heart be broken and allow it to change your perspective allowing you to be generous with what you have. Being generous is about giving from our bounties so there is not a need to steal to make ends meet. It’s about going beyond our capacity to impact others in ways beyond our understanding. God works within our generosity. God is generous and commands us to be generous.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. - God is truthful
God is truth; We need to speak truth to our world and be honest in nature. Being truthful with one another is at the heart of God. Relationships are built on trust. If you cannot trust then you have nothing. Build trust with those around you by being sincere, genuine, and truthful. God is truthful and commands us to be truthful.
10. You shall not covet. - God is thankful
Often when we are thankful when we are content and happy with what we have. We forget about what we don’t have and can live in the moment with how things are. Thankfulness is an amazing characteristic as it brings us joy. The divine is telling us to live with gratefulness. Truly hold it in your heart every second of every day. God is thankful and commands us to be thankful.
It's About Community
As I indicated earlier these characteristics are both in God but what God expects out of us as disciples. He expects us to make responsible choices in our life by living these principles. But more than anything God sent Moses back with these laws for the community to live out. You see that is where the real heart of this message takes another yet deeper spin. It's about community, about supporting, loving, and being with one another just as God is with us.
So the question is how are you going to live these commandments within your community? I believe the change that is needing to happen starts with us and embodying these principles in our own lives and work.
A few people asked me to pass on these words after my message a week ago and I thought maybe others may benefit from this perspective. Thanks for everyone who follows our blog.
This week think about these characteristics and how you are living them out in your life.
Happy belated Father's Day to all those father's out there. I had a great time with my boys however I reflected more than usual on the short amount of years I had with my father. I remember we decided not to attend church the first Father's Day after he died as it was just too hard. However as years passed my family did start attending church on Father's Day again. I remember distinctly crying my eyes out when the hymn "This is My Father's World" was played. It written as a poem by Maltbie Davenport Babcock and was set to music by Franklin L. Sheppard in 1915. Here is a great video of it if you haven't heard it by Fountainview Academy.
For me I had a loving, generous, hardworking, and caring father. It was easy for me to think of God as a father because of the relationship I had experienced. However many have not had the same experience and relating God to a father may be difficult and put strain in their spiritual relationship with the divine. As a follower of Christ I must acknowledge words mean a lot and can cause much pain to people when they are used in the wrong context or cause past memories to surface. I believe churches have an obligation to try to bring wholeness to as many people as possible which means language plays an instrumental role. It is through our language where we hear who God is in our lives. It is through language in which we creatively understand our experiences with the divine. Often times we get stuck on tradition including our language instead of moving with the spirit of love and peace.
In Community of Christ Sings the lyrics for "This is My Father's World" were changed to be more inclusive and sensitive to those who do not experience the divine as a father. It is now "This is God's Wondrous World". Though I will always relate this song to my father I am extremely proud of the the change that has occurred because it shows an awareness to the use of language in our lives. When we are sensitive to the needs of others and take action toward those sensitivities, than we are walking in the Saviors stead.
There will be some who disagree with this and only see God as a man. Changing the words is not a challenge to your own perception rather an acknowledgment that it can cause deep pain in others. Continue to view God in your way, but know your perception is not the only one. If we as disciples can create healing relationships and acknowledge others perspectives different than our own than we are following Jesus.
What relationship do you equate with the divine?
Is there language you use that may cause deep pain in others?
How can you bring wholeness to others through your words?
I appreciate everyone who continues to spread hope and love in this world during this year where life has been turned upside down.
This week reflect on how you use language and take measures to make it more inclusive.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.