Many parents enjoy remembering back to special moments in their lives with their children. I am no exception. I remember when my daughter took her first steps and I remember my son's favorite Halloween costume. Out of all of my parenting memories, one I hold dear is taking my oldest child with me to vote. He was about 2 years old. I took him by the hand and we walked the two blocks to the church basement where our precinct voted. I held his small hand and I told him about what a privilege it is to vote in our country and how we all need to come together to make important decisions. I told him about brave women like Susan B. Anthony, who fought for my right to vote, and how my great-grandmother would not have been able to vote just because she was a woman.
When we got into the voting booth, I perched him on my hip. (Mothers learn that they can do all sorts of things with a small child perched on their hip.) It was a short ballot in that election and I shared with him what I was doing. I told him things like, "I am voting for this man because I think he will help the poor," and "I am voting for this new law because it will protect the forest." As I shared my ballot box decisions with him, I shared my values with him. It was a time of passing on important information between the generations. I am sure the people in the next booth got to hear it all too, but when it comes to teaching my children, I have no pride.
Voting can be a spiritual act. I believe that when we vote, we are putting our values into action. We are helping to make the world more just and we are shaping society to align with what we think is right. That is why I believe that voting is a religious thing to do, just like celebrating religious holidays or reading ancient texts. By voting, we, as citizens, put our faith and our values into action. It is standing up for what we think is right.
The founders of our country built provisions into our constitution that keep the government from interfering with our religious lives. The same provisions keep religious organizations from being sponsored by the government. We have no official state religion, as in some countries, and we are free to believe and worship as we choose. This is a wonderful privilege we enjoy as Americans. However, the separation of church and state does not mean that our individual faith does not impact how we view a just society. Our religious beliefs influence our values and our ethics. Our values and ethics influence our hopes and dreams for a better world.
Election Day is coming very soon. It is not the place of this article to tell you how you should vote in this election, or any other. It would be wrong for me to use my ministerial role to try to tell anyone how they should cast their ballot. But I feel very free to encourage you to cast one. Please vote. Voting is a privilege and a responsibility. You have the chance to use the democratic process to bend this society toward what you see as a better world. If you value compassion, vote for the path of compassion. If you value justice, vote for the path of justice. If you feel we should be good stewards of the Earth, let that be reflected on your ballot. Let your values be your guide and help our democratic process make a better world.
Rev. Sarah Schurr is a minister at the Juneau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
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