This year has been intense, tumultuous, and traumatic for most of us on the planet. The emergence of Covid-19 has completely derailed at least some aspects of what many of us hoped would be a great year. At the same time, US politics has erupted into a brutal partisan battle that is soul-crushing, filling the most hopeful among us with deep dread and anxiety. Throw in the divides over marginalization, police brutality, social justice, social distancing, and mask-wearing, amplified by the news for profit, and we have reached a stage of abject chaos that few of us ever thought we would see.
When we are anxious, scared, and forced out of our routine and comfort zone, our natural reaction is to look for ways to increase our certainty and safety.
I am certainly guilty of it. There have been many days where I have been overstressed and thought only about myself and my family in this crazy year. But I need to do better. We need to do better. We need to somehow find the emotional energy to take a step back and look around us at what the United States has become and where we as Christians place our value.
When we are stressed, we center ourselves in the debate. We ask questions like, what is best for me? How can I eliminate uncertainty in my life? How can I ensure that I will be able to take care of my family? These are all valid concerns, and they become amplified in times of crisis like we are facing now. So we unfollow people who post things that we disagree with, we stop engaging with others around us to reduce the noise in our lives. We dig in and look for ways to increase certainty. We look for ways to reduce the cognitive dissonance between what we believe and what we see in the world around us.
However, we need to remember that these problems are more temporary in nature for many of us. For others, they are a way of life. More than 11% of the US population lives below the poverty line, and they are also asking these questions. More than 35 million people are economically insecure, health care insecure, and food insecure. The reality is that even above the poverty level, these conditions still exist. Medical issues cause 66% of bankruptcies in normal times. We are currently in the middle of a public health crisis that increases economic and health-related risks for vulnerable populations. Those who are vulnerable and marginalized live with these questions and stressors for years, even decades. At the same time, many of us are only forced to entertain them in times of crisis.
I keep seeing and reading articles by Christian authors that emphasize voting for politicians that support policies that mainly benefit Christians or focus on legislating conservative values. The idea seems to be that if Christians vote for what is best for them, then they can choose to help the less fortunate as they feel “lead.” The Republican Party and by proxy the church, has been voting against and shrinking social safety net programs for decades.
As Christians, by voting against social welfare programs, policies that increase access to health insurance, and increases to the minimum wage to a living wage standard, we are actively participating in the marginalization and oppression of millions of people.
Standing idly by as our elected representatives implement gerrymandering schemes to suppress the votes of people they have marginalized in our name makes us complicit in that marginalization and oppression.
Supporting a man like Donald Trump and his constant dehumanization and marginalization of others because the things he does make life better for us makes us complicit in the dehumanizing and marginalizing actions he commits every day.
The adverse effects of these choices, like reduced access to health care and welfare programs, disability benefits, social strengthening programs, and a living wage for vulnerable people in our country, are seen as tolerable losses to ensure the church’s core agenda is enacted, and privilege is protected. What is promoted as tolerable losses for the sake of political wins, with the end justifying the means, has life-altering consequences for millions of people.
The question I want to ask is this:
Should 35 MILLION PEOPLE (this is a low estimate) be forced to depend on our charitable inclinations for their survival and quality of life? Should they, as citizens of this country, be forced to depend on our vote to speak for them?
Why should their interests, and what is most beneficial for their quality of life, take a backseat to our self-interests? Why do Christians vote against a living wage, health care equality, and social safety net programs that protect millions of people while claiming to follow Jesus? Why do we allow ourselves to be caught up in the game of marginalizing and oppressing others for power?
Why is it ok for us as Christians to talk about charitable giving as a solution to all these issues while refusing to acknowledge that the policies we advocate for are central causes of these issues?
How dare we vote against the best interests of those who are marginalized and demand that our generosity and pity determine the quality of life for people our choices actively marginalize and oppress?
This attitude and the policies we advocate for as a result, attempt to place us in a position of power over the vulnerable.
By advocating against government policies that provide assistance to people we have marginalized, pushing for charitable solutions to the issues faced by people we have marginalized, and electing politicians that actively marginalize the political voice of millions of people, we attempt to gain control over their quality of life and try to conform it to what we think they need, even though we cannot individually or even collectively as Christians cover these financial costs, nor do we have any intention to do so.
As we make choices about candidates and policies, I would ask that we thoughtfully consider the plight of others and the impact our choices have on power dynamics and the rights of others instead of just what is best for us as Christians. Democratic policies favor the people the Republican Party has been working to marginalize and oppress for decades. I grew up republican and have lived most of my life, believing in these republican ideas.
It took me moving overseas and looking back to realize the effects of those ideas and policies. As Christians, we have a duty to follow Jesus’s example and actively work toward ending marginalization and oppression. I realize that many votes have already been cast, but we need to begin making choices that end dehumanization, marginalization, and oppression.
There is only one candidate that does not dehumanize and marginalize on a daily basis who is for equal access to health care, a reliable social safety net, and a living wage standard. If we are going to make this a single-issue election, let’s make it about dignity, human value, and upholding the rights of the people we have been marginalizing and vote for Biden.