Over the last several days, the Believe Out Loud team has been posting, writing, emailing, and tweeting to encourage community members to share why, as LGBTQI-affirming people of faith, we all vote, march, disrupt, lobby, write letters, protest, or use other tools to press for justice in public life.
We’ve invited LGBTQI-affirming people of faith to mobilize for justice, and we’ve used the hashtags #ChristiansVote and #FaithfulVoters to do it.
This week’s United States elections will end the longest and most frustrating national campaign season in my lifetime.
It will be a welcome end for many of us. There’s also plenty of work still to do beyond the ballot: life continues after voting is over, and a nationwide season of healing and wholeness will be necessary.
For decades, state and local governments around the country have been busy debating and restricting LGBTQI people’s access to basic rights and public services. Trans people still face interpersonal and state violence at horrific rates, and too many faith traditions still scrutinize and marginalize LGBTQI people and our families. After Election Day, just as before, we’ll need to keep engaging our faith communities, and we have the responsibility of engaging our civic leaders as well no matter who they are.
Believe Out Loud is a politically diverse community. Regardless of our various political party affiliations, we gather on Believe Out Loud platforms because we’re people of faith ourselves or care about how people with power have used religion to shape not just their own private convictions but also our public lives.
But the reality is that constantly explaining our right to take up space in public is energetically expensive. It’s stressful. In a perfect world, we could put these debates on ice and live quiet lives away from the public protest frontlines. I would rather simply express my beliefs in a faith community where my thriving isn’t controversial, and I don’t have to argue for access to the communion bread or the privilege of serving others with my gifts and talents.
I like imagining what life would be like if that were the default experience for all of us.
For now, however, it isn’t the default for everyone. And whenever we leave the private social and religious sanctuaries we’ve found or made for ourselves, at some point we still have to venture out. We still have to encounter a wider world that doesn’t yet treat justice as normal.
And so over the last week we’ve declared that #ChristiansVote. Christians do vote, but we don’t all vote in the same way. Further, not all Christians vote, not all Christians can vote, and not all Christians choose to vote. Some of us are non-citizens, some of us are disenfranchised, and some of us choose from the many, many other ways we might participate on and beyond the polls.
For those with the ability and desire to vote, however, that choice is a powerful way to leverage individual convictions and choices and connect them with the convictions and choices of millions of others: at all levels of society, not just the level of the federal government.
On Election Day and beyond the ballot, we need an active, engaged, responsible population.
We need people with the conviction that we’re connected, that our futures are intertwined, and that we are accountable for each other:
“We have to consciously decide that to the best of our individual ability, and out of respect for life and all the beings, animals, and plants, we will live our lives in a way that doesn’t bring harm to others. The decisions we make must take into account our connection to the greater community. The greatest contribution we can make to our community is to have lived harmoniously. To have been in sync with life rather than perpetuating pain… We don’t want to soil [our existence] with harmful actions, words, or thoughts.” —Angel Kyodo Williams
As we dig into the ethical heart of our faith, we come to realize that our common destiny isn’t the sole responsibility of either our clergy or the people we vote into public service. Our common destiny is our common responsibility—the health of the body is up to every member (1 Corinthians 12)—and it’s up to us to decide what we’re going to do in our spheres of influence regardless of who gains formal power.
On the evening of Election Day, and for the days and nights immediately afterwards as analysts rehash the results, I invite you to make a conscious choice to care for yourself and the people around you.
Nurture yourself, reach out to others, and be the embodiment of love, compassion, and care wherever you are, however you can.
Your core values took you to the polling station or inspired you to discuss the practical forms of justice we’ve highlighted at Believe Out Loud over the last week. How can we wrap flesh and blood around those values and make the intangible good more real? What actions can we take where we live and work and worship? How can we make more space in our lives to learn about, amplify, and practice LGBTQI, racial, trans, reproductive, disability, and immigration justice? How can we declare through our daily lives a constructive vision for our world?
The LGBTQI movement and the communities and nations we’re part of need us to pull together, step up, and stay organized. Our power of choice and action does not lie in the hands of our country’s visible leaders, state governors, local school boards, or neighborhood congregations. Now is the time for all of us to claim our individual and collective power and commit to work Beyond the Ballot—for the good of our communities and our country.
Whatever meets us all this week, you can trust that the Believe Out Loud team will still be here.
We’ll be holding to our values, we’ll be working alongside you, and we won’t stop until the world is made whole.
Stand with us! And join us for our work Beyond The Ballot!
Photo by Alison Amyx