Political Season as Spiritual Practice Revisted

I published a similar piece back in March that (considering the happenings of recent days) is even more relevant now.  Here is an updated version. Please feel free to share this blog post with your friends. – Rev. Jeanne

Several of you have shared with me in recent days how the nominating process and hoopla around the Presidential elections is making you anxious and upset.  There are some very good reasons for this anxiety. Choosing who we are going to vote for (or not) in any election is a very big deal - something that we should all give some thought to. And when candidates behave and speak in ways that are offensive and violate our deeply held values, and the values of our beloved community- it is distressing. And it is up to us to respond.

The IRS forbids me/us from formally endorsing candidates. I am not allowed to tell you who to vote or who not to. We are not allowed to distribute voter guides for either party. Churches have egregiously crossed this line in our nation in recent years. And you know I believe strongly in the separation of church and state - so we won’t cross those lines.

Here is what we can do - we can hold conversations weighing candidates from both parties equally. We can talk about issues - and I want to strongly encourage you to think and talk about how the values we hold at UCH and represent in the world may or may not be congruent with the way candidates see the issues and with the way we vote. Religious communities have a long history in our country of protest, and political involvement. Our Congregationalist ancestors and the United Church of Christ have long encouraged being active and aware.

That all being said, I have some suggestions to help us all maintain our sanity and our integrity during this strange and unprecedented election season.

1)   I invite you to use Political Season as spiritual practice. Use the actions and words of the candidates as spiritual practice. Use the actions and words of the candidates’ supporters as spiritual practice. What do you resonate with? What upsets you? Ask yourself- Why? The great spiritual teachers of the world invite us to watch our own anger and reactions to people who are difficult for us - to watch the emotions that rise and fall in us - and to be present with them.  What does what we are feeling when a candidate speaks say about what we value? What do our choices say about who Jesus calls us to be in the world? You will learn a lot about your anger, your sadness, and your fear. You will learn about what you resonate with, where your values are, and what triggers you. And you will know how to proceed when you go to the polls in June and November. Ask God to help you be a more compassionate advocate and justice seeker as you do this. This is the work of our spiritual journey.

2)   I invite you to unplug from it.  Turn off the television. Get off social media. Miss the debate if you need to.  And turn off those infinite loop news channels and negative radio programs. Most of all - don’t get caught in the quagmire of posting or respond to “knee jerk” responses on the internet.  (Are angry, pithy, clever, “knee jerk” responses something you want to fill your thinking with, or something we value at UCH?)  Instead, participate in the discourse in sane life giving ways that demonstrate God’s values of deep relationship, self-care, and care for others. I encourage all of us to unplug whenever we are getting triggered or overwhelmed. The benefits of the spiritual practice of “unplugging” go far beyond politics. Unplugging helps us create peace.  The practice of “unplugging” (which can be a little like modern day, short-term, Sabbath-making) can be life changing. 

3)   Vote.  Participate. Protest. Reflect on your party choice before the Primary Voter Registration Deadline. Engage in Sane Discourse. Protect yourself from abusive situations. Write checks and click “donate” buttons. Call and write to our Representatives. Intervene - stop injustice when you see it - but move from a place of spiritual centeredness and awareness.  Be allies. Be involved. Make a difference. We are called to take the values we hold as a faith community out the doors and into the world. No exceptions.

4)   As your Pastor, I trust each and every one of you to take the values we hold at the United Church of Hayward, and in the United Church of Christ, with you to the California primary and then to the Presidential election - and vote accordingly.                                  

Here are some questions for you to ask in your voting considerations. How does the candidate match up with our values at UCH? How does the candidate propose to welcome and care for “the stranger” or “others?” (immigrants, refugees, unsheltered people, poor people, people with mental health issues). How does the candidate value women? What is the candidate’s history on racial issues? What is the candidate’s relationship with LGBT communities? Is the candidate trustworthy? Would the candidate be a good steward of our nation’s money and resources? Does the candidate favor caring for the poor? Does the candidate have the emotional maturity and boundaries necessary to be POTUS? Would the candidate use our nation’s tremendous resources to create peace in the world and feed the hungry and care for the sick or would the candidate create more conflict? Look for congruency with the values we hold as individuals, at United Church of Hayward, and in the United Church of Christ. (P.S. The congruency is not going to be perfect - but it can get us closer and clearer. To use a Facebook metaphor - our “relationship status” with political candidates may be “complicated.”)

Perhaps you have other ideas to share about how to practice self-care and be sanely engaged during our election season journey?  We are going to have plenty of time and many opportunities to dialogue about this between now and June/November.  The journey is sometimes challenging isn’t it? 

Much love and Blessings,   -Rev. Jeanne