To the people, pastors, and deacons of the Southwest California Synod, ELCA, and to all who read this letter: Grace and peace to you in Christ!
Jesus’ great commandment both calls us to the love of God and links that love inseparably to the love of neighbor. These twin instructions to love God and our neighbor are at the core of how we live our Christian lives in society. In all that we do, we are to live in trust in God and in care for our neighbor – which we Lutherans define as working for the neighbor’s good in all things that lie within our power.
On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, all our levels of government will be holding a general election to choose elected officials, ratify office-holders, and decide on voter initiatives. Our participatory democracy depends for its decision-making on the active participation of all qualified voters, and I urge you – as citizens and as Christians – to take part in this and every election, to the very best of your abilities.
Being qualified and empowered to join in our government’s decision-making processes through voting is our right and our duty to our community. Inasmuch as it is also a way in which we can have impact on public policies and – through them – on the lives of our neighbors, our exercise of the right to vote is also an important part of our Christian vocation to live in service to others.
When we vote, we do not lay our faith aside – we vote with all that we are. As Christians, convinced that God has given us the responsibility to do as much good as we can, we vote as we live – for our neighbor’s sake. When we vote, we should do so in good faith – though ourselves imperfect and only ever in possession of part of the truth – and make the best judgments both of character and policy that we can. This requires us to work to be informed voters, and to cultivate reliable and trustworthy sources of information.
We also make choices based on our beliefs and values, and in our choosing we are sometimes caught in either/or choices, neither of which seems fully clear or entirely good. But we do our best to consider carefully the outcomes, take advice from those we trust, and pray that God will bless the ultimate outcome with the greatest possible good. We may also, especially in times of national crisis, also reasonably choose to vote in ways that seem to us to avoid the greatest evils. As Christians, we need to take a stand particularly against sentiments and policies that may hurt our neighbors, especially those already vulnerable because of their minority status, poverty, or other social disadvantages.
Whether we are happy about the options our system gives us or not, we have the obligation to use the common sense God gives each of us to make the best possible choices to benefit our neighbors and strengthen justice and equality in our society.
To those who have voted already: thank you. To those who will be voting on Tuesday, may God bless you, and through you, bless everyone in our community. I give thanks to God for this way in which you show neighbor love in our city, state, and nation. God bless you all!
Bishop Guy Erwin