I’m voting for Black Lives Matter.
You won’t see that on a ballot, but faces come to mind when I get up before 6am to drive to the polls. Some of the faces I know; many I do not.
I’ve read articles about how Christians should vote–or NOT vote. I’m not discounting those, or the theology they invoke. But what I think is too often obscured in the steadily polarized debate is this simple truth, and it guides me today:
Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4
The passage goes on to describe Christ’s humility as he made himself a servant, died on the Cross for the world, and was then exalted before all else. He had the choice to grasp the lofty stature he rightly deserved; he chose to lower himself instead. This passage echoes the heart of the greatest commandment: To love God and love our neighbor. To adhere to this, we actively consider not only who is our neighbor, but how do we prioritize their needs.
In contrast, the anxiety of the self has driven conversations around this election. People like Trump rise because of it, speaking to fears regarding the Other and the threats they pose, whether they be Muslims or immigrants or “inner city” black people. Concerns over homeland security and economic stability are warranted, but when they warp into a distrust of the dehumanized Other and distort the nuances of their experiences, the implications are dangerous. The logical culmination of this anxiety: political actions that will surely preserve our own livelihoods, our own prosperity and safety at the expense of the least of these.
Our directive should be to look to the shivering rather than grasping our blankets and wrapping them around our bodies. Who in our country is most vulnerable right now? Who should we be protecting first?
The answer should not be yourself if you are a person with any privileged identities–race, gender, sexual orientation, citizenship status or otherwise. Privilege does not equate wealth or even physical assets, but it does signify that you have power. You have sway in certain spaces.
For those of us with both privileged identities and identities that set us on the margins, the most vulnerable can include our own communities. This acknowledgment, however, does not negate our need to consider the neighbors outside of those communities as well and stand by them. I’m a black and Latina woman, and my country’s policies and structures often attempt to rob me and mine of opportunity and dignity, but I am neither powerless nor voiceless. We should not shy away from this power but rather own it, use it, because we mirror our God who not only wields his own power well, but also endows us authority to act justly on Earth.
One insight gleaned from liberation theology is that we serve a God who is indeed political. God cares about the physical and economic circumstances of the people He created.He cares about black neighbors in Flint demanding clean water and white blue collar neighbors struggling to feed their families when factories close. He cares about Lakota neighbors lacking electricity and heat and Latino neighbors being treated as “aliens.” He cares when the ones designated with less power in our country are persecuted. He cares when they are mocked and their struggles dismissed. If we are His hands and feet, we must care for them too, stand in solidarity with our neighbors.
I joined a prayer march on Saturday with my indigenous brothers and sisters, and they reminded me through their stories that we have been appointed stewards. We steward the Earth and its resources, but we also steward our relationships with each other because we recognize that we belong to each other. Created for interdependence, we don’t get the option of apathy. If my neighbor cries out for justice and I fail to hear them, I am not stewarding my connection to them well.
So with my vote, I do my best to position people in power who will also listen to the marginalized communities in my country and advocate for them. I seek senators, representatives, a President, who will dignify them. No one person perfectly embodies this orientation, but I get as close as I can, not fixed solely on party lines but the parity of the ground on which I stand; I want it leveled so those in the valley are lifted up.
I vote for them–for my neighbors. I vote for Standing Rock. I vote for the poor–black and white (the majority of which comprise the population on welfare). I vote for Muslims. I vote for LGBTQ communities facing alienation and violence. I vote for immigrants.
Then, at last, I vote for myself, my mother beside me, my abuela waiting outside the door. We are the women changing the world with ballot sheets and ballpoint pens.