Why every vote matters

November 5th, 2018

I’m reading and recommend Doris Kerns Goodwin’s new book Leadership: In Turbulent Times. Her analysis of the process by which Lincoln led the way to the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment is more than worth the price of the book and should be read by every person in any role of leadership.

It reminded me that when the 13th Amendment went before Congress, there was no guarantee that it would receive the necessary two-thirds vote to pass. It was, in fact, on the verge of failing by two votes. Lincoln personally worked to find the two persons whose votes would ultimately change the course of our history.

It was followed by the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship. What frightens me today is not that the president could actually change the Constitution, but that because of either ignorance or arrogance, this president believes he could.

It’s another reminder of just how important every vote is. It really matters that every person have the right to vote without political manipulation and voter suppression. It really matters that every eligible voter do it!

Congressman John Lewis, one of the moral heroes of our time, reminded a rally this week that he nearly died in Selma and of the way others died to ensure every person’s right to vote. We owe it to all those who have gone before us to get to the polls. If you haven’t done it, I hope that you will get up and vote!

God doesn’t abandon the faithful

Goodwin’s books remind me of the amazing way in which leaders emerge at critically important times to reclaim the highest values of our nation’s founding.

A visit to Washington always inspires my patriotism. The memorials to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR and MLK, celebrate leaders who called us to “the better angels of our nature” when the vision of our founders and the values enshrined in our Constitution were at risk.

This week’s scripture readings include Naomi’s words to Ruth when she met Boaz. “May he be blessed by the Lord, who hasn’t abandoned his faithfulness with the living or with the dead…The man is…one of our redeemers.” (Ruth 2:20)

Let me be clear: God neither chooses nor “anoints” our Presidents. We elect them, which is why voting matters. We only have one Redeemer, but we do have leaders who redeem some part of our world along the way. I also remember the Psalmist’s warning:

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help… Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, (Psalm 146:3-5)

But I am also convinced that the Lord doesn’t abandon his faithfulness to the living and the dead. Lincoln wrestled with divine providence in the Second Inaugural Address, which most historians see as the most deeply theological address in our history. In the often mysterious way in which the Spirit of God is at work through faithful people, leaders do often emerge who become “one of our redeemers” in the way they call us back to the ideals of our founding.

My hope for this election is that people will see Trumpism — its vulgarity, racism, white nationalism, corruption, abuse of power and sheer meanness — as a basic contradiction of the values of our founders, the guarantees of the Bill of Rights, and the framework of our Constitution. My prayer is that faithful people will be led by the Holy Spirit to vote for the higher values of our people, both the living and the dead, and that we will once again rise to the “higher angels of our nature.”

Whatever happens and whoever we elect, my trust is not in political leaders, but in the God of Jacob and Jesus who never abandons the faithful. Our hope is in the Lord.

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