I wouldn’t tell you who to vote for or what party to support, but I do offer my opinions on what I believe people searching for God should look for in a candidate, whether running for president or weed commissioner.
People searching for God, after all, aim to be God-like, not principally moved by party affiliation or tribe or the need to be seen as liberal or conservative. We’re not called to be culture warriors, but peacemakers, who are sorely needed in today’s toxic political climate.
Those who seek belief as Christians need to make Christ-like decisions about everything. The Beatitudes, part of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s gospel, are a summary of how people searching for God should live. They should be touchstone for how they vote.
Poor in Spirit
The beatitudes show that Jesus wants people searching for God to be poor in spirit and a comfort for people who mourn; to be meek, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers.
How many of us, who call ourselves believers and people searching for God, pay attention to the beatitudes? Many, undoubtedly, see them as mournfully naïve and impractical. But in my view, we need to apply them as best we can to all our activities, including voting.
It’s ironic that when it comes to political candidates, “goodness” is often excluded as a qualifier, as if it were not important, or impossible to determine. Shouldn’t we want our politicians to be good people? Some may say it’s impossible to know whether a candidate is a good person. But don’t we make that call about people every day, judging by what they say and how they act – especially noting their attitude toward the “least among us?”
In a column last month, New York Times columnist David Brooks, a regular contributor to Public Broadcasting System’s News Hour and a former self-described atheist, posed the question, “How does faith influence a person’s political views?”
“In a society that is growing radically more secular every day,” he wrote, “I’d say we have more to fear from political dogmatism than religious dogmatism. We have more to fear from those who let their politics determine their faith practices and who turn their religious communities into political armies. We have more to fear from people who look to politics as a substitute for faith.”
The Catholic bishops of Iowa recently published a brief document called “Faithful Citizenship,” reminding citizens of their moral obligation to vote and listing some election issues they describe as threats to life and livelihood.
- The threat to life posed by the pandemic. The bishops recommend voting for candidates “who will act out of concern for public health, including their example of practicing safety precautions.”
- The threat to life itself, starting with threats to the unborn by abortion; to prisoners by the death penalty; to the aged and sick through assisted suicide and neglect. “Every person is entitled to good housing, clean water and air; education, health care and productive work for fair wages,” they write.
- The threat to human rights and the common good by denying people access to benefits and protections because of their gender, country of origin, religion or because of racism.
- The threat to immigrants. The bishops urge voting for people who “start acting to reform our broken, outdated immigration system.”
They urge people to form their consciences well by being open to the truth, by study of the Scriptures and prayer. Then they should courageously act on their convictions by voting.