voting arrow sign - image by Justin Grimes on flickr

Values Voting

by Abigail Conley

Election season is in more than full swing. Occasionally one of my friends with a poorly curated list of Facebook friends will post something about who to vote for. At that point, I’m just there for the comments.

My own political affiliations are complicated, to say the least, but I won’t go into all of those. Suffice it to say I don’t talk about politics with my family for the most part. Every once in a while we’ll go down that road of values voting. It’s at least more civil than the Facebook explosions I occasionally get to watch. There are always two things that come up immediately: same-sex marriage and abortion.

I could hash out the ins and outs of those with no problem. However, I’m far more worried that those are the two values that are compelling your vote.

Let’s be clear: I think gay people should be allowed to marry, divorce, adopt, and everything else right along with the straight people. Ditto for trans folks. And if you want to talk about the biblical model of marriage, let’s go for it. There’s nothing quite so thrilling as prooftexting for this former fundamentalist, even if I know it only goes so far and is unconvincing in the end for most people. We can do the same with abortion. At the end of the day, we’ll probably still disagree.

Also, there are other deeply Christian values that demand your vote if you want to be called by the name of Christ.

Let’s talk about those. Actually, let’s talk about one.

As a Christian, the love of Christ compels you to care for the vulnerable among you.

Full stop.

And worth saying again: as a Christian, the love of Christ compels you to care for the vulnerable among you.

You. In everything you do, you are compelled to care for the vulnerable if you call yourself a Christian. That includes all your resources: your time, your money, and your vote. (If you are among those who thinks that it is the church’s job, not the government’s job, to take care of people, great. Let’s have your five billion dollars and make a game plan! You’ve got friends who can throw in a few billion more, right? Each?)

Because I’m a former fundamentalist who still likes a good prooftext now and then, here are a few things to consider:

  • “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
  • “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” (Luke 14:13)
  • “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish…” (Mark 14:7a)
  • “You shall not  deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge.” (Deuteronomy 24:17)
  • “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:5)
  • “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'” (Matthew 25:35-36)
  • “‘Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!'” (Deuteronomy 27:19)

Time and again, scripture reminds us to care for the vulnerable among us. In fact, read through the prophets if you want to hear lots of curses rained down on those who don’t care for the vulnerable among them. If that is not part of your faith, then your faith is not Christian. Then, we’re left with the question: in our time, who is most vulnerable?

  • Children, of course: the poorer they are, they more likely they are to go to underfunded, crowded schools. They don’t get enough to eat or healthy things to eat. They are, by merit of being children, vulnerable. Let’s face it, you could drop kick a two-year-old with no problem. (You shouldn’t, but you could.) By merit of being children, they’re dependent on someone else for, well, most everything.
  • Women: yes, the elderly women named as widows are vulnerable, but keep in mind that women still earn far less than men. Women whose male partners aren’t present are penalized further. Women are more likely to raise children on their own. Women are more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner violence.
  • Immigrants and refugees: move to a new place because your home is no longer safe. Surround yourself with people whose language you barely understand. See if you feel vulnerable. Never mind that many people are fleeing things those of us in the United States couldn’t imagine.
  • Elderly people: I mean, don’t you go check on your grandma?
  • People of color: you’ve heard about the crime that is driving while black, right?
  • The poor: here’s a lot of overlap with the other categories of vulnerability, but fewer financial resources mean more vulnerability. Choosing between food and toilet paper is no one’s idea of fun. Getting evicted because you had to pay for a car repair might be worse. Being sick and unable to take off work to go to the doctor or buy a $5 box of over the counter something doesn’t sound great either.
  • LGBT folks: I said I wasn’t going to talk about same-sex marriage, but yeah, you can’t talk about vulnerability without talking about LGBT folks. Homeless youth are disproportionally LGBT. Trans folks are murdered at an alarming rate.
Of course, I’m speaking broadly about groups here. For every case, there are a few people who break the rule, but many more who prove it. We have a culture with plenty of vulnerable people in it, often made more vulnerable by the systems we perpetuate.

If we even stopped the list at the clearly biblically ascribed categories of vulnerable people, you still have plenty of people to be concerned about. So here are my questions for you:

What are your values? Who has informed your values? What has informed your values?

Does Jesus inform your values?

Do people who like to use Jesus’ name without paying attention to what he said inform your values?

The answer might have a lot to do with your vote in a few weeks.