By Elle Dowd
1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
[God] upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked [God] brings to ruin.
10 The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!
Many of us inherited the message growing up that our “faith should not be political.” But that idea fundamentally misunderstands both faith and politics. “Politics” is just another word that describes how we order our public life together. It is about how we act together, in community. It is about our relationships with one another. So although partisanship is often problematic, it is clear throughout scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ that faith is very much concerned with things like our public life, how we behave in community, and our relationships with one another. In that way, faith is inherently political.
Our faith is also concerned with our public witness – the way we live out our beliefs – particularly in the way that it affects the most vulnerable among us. Voting is one of many opportunities we have to reflect the love that we have for God and our neighbor. God asks us to order our lives with a concern for the needs of the most vulnerable among us. This includes our tax structures, our institutions, our social safety nets.
We are citizens of God’s kingdom, a reign that is breaking in and taking hold all around us, and a reign that has not yet fully come. But being citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t mean that we are indifferent with the material realities here on earth. Quite the opposite. Jesus’ ministry on earth was full of examples of providing for the physical, fleshy needs of people. Jesus’ ministry wasn’t just about lofty, heady ideas – it was rooted in the day to day lives of real people. It was a feet on the ground, dirt under the fingernails kind of ministry. Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, welcomed children, and proclaimed freedom to prisoners. It was Jesus’ radical and embodied prioritization of those on the margins that threatened the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was concerned with Making Rome Great. God cares about casting down the mighty and lifting up the poor and oppressed, like the prophet Mary, Mother of God taught us in her famous protest song in Luke 1.
Voting is in part about the beliefs and ideals we hold. It is about dreaming about a society that aligns with its stated ideals. But it is more than that, too. These are not abstract concepts. They are not hypotheticals. The decisions we make (or don’t make) have real effects on the daily lives of flesh and blood people. Our collective decisions can bring us closer to a Kingdom “on Earth as it is in Heaven” or they can draw us closer to the fascist Hell on Earth that many people in our ICE detention centers, prisons, slums, underfunded schools, and divested neighborhoods are already experiencing. There are real life and death implications of our choices, for both human and nonhuman nature. As a queer person and as the mother of Black teenagers, these choices are not philosophical questions. They have power to change the lives of me and the people I love, for better or for worse.
When I vote, I ask the people who cannot vote what they would have me do. I reach out to young people under 18, undocumented people, people whose status as an incarcerated or formerly incarcerated person makes them ineligible in their state. I vote in solidarity with the stated interests of people who are most affected by these choices yet have the least amount of say. There are prophets all around us who have been in our streets directing us towards freedom if we would only pay attention.
Our ultimate liberation will not come through elections and no politician or political party is our savior. Elections are one tool we have at our disposal in ordering a society that reflects a passionate concern for the lives of our neighbors. Running for office or supporting issue campaigns is another. Protesting and unionizing and organizing is another. Mutual aid and alternative economies is another.
God’s kingdom is more expansive and revolutionary than any political party in our country. I vote with the hope that even as we remain trapped in our current political system, we can preserve the life and liberty of as many people as possible until God’s day of liberation comes fully.
Let us pray,
God of All People, your borderless kingdom is more powerful and eternal than that of any earthly king. As we discern our decisions this election season, align our hearts with your care for the most vulnerable among us. Liberate us collectively and individually from systems that bind us; capitalism, the cis-hetero patriarchy, and white supremacy. Enable us to attend to the prophets in our midst pointing to the way forward. Open our minds and embolden our creative spirits, that we may dream up new ways of being in community that reflect your boundless love and mercy. In the name of your Son, our President, the slaughtered lamb, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God now and forever. Amen.
Elle Dowd (she/her/hers) is a bi-furious recent graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and a candidate for ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Elle has pieces of her heart in Sierra Leone, where her two children were born, and in St. Louis where she learned from the radical, queer, Black leadership during the Ferguson Uprising.
She was formerly a co-conspirator with the movement to #decolonizeLutheranism and currently serves as a board member of the Euro-Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice, does community organizing in her city as a board member of SOUL, writes regularly as part of the vision team for the Disrupt Worship Project, and facilitates workshops on gender and sexuality and the Church in both secular conferences and Christian spaces. She is publishing a book with Broadleaf about her conversion from a white moderate to an abolitionist to be released summer of 2021, with pre-sale orders going live in January.
Elle has interests in queer and feminist Biblical interpretation and liberation and body theology.
Elle loves spending time with the people she loves and on weekends when there isn’t a global pandemic, she tours the city of Chicago in search of the best Bloody Mary.
To get in touch with Elle and to keep up with updates, you can visit her website www.elledowd.com and subscribe to her newsletter. You can also see her online ministry via Facebook.com/elledowdministry or follow her on Twitter/SnapChat/Insta @hownowbrowndowd or on TikTok @elledowdministry