I read that the "Values Voter Summit" recently took place in Washington. I went to the web site and looked at the list of speakers. Of the 73 speakers listed, only 13 were women. Only a tiny handful could be described as people of color. Even more amazing in a political gathering in 2012, I found only one Hispanic surname. One. ¡Dios mío! Take a look for yourself: valuevotersummit.org.
White. Male. Politically ultra conservative. Religiously fundamentalist evangelical. This is a summit of angry white reactionary men. Is this what passes for "values" voting in America? Whose values are being advanced here? And whose values are being rejected?
These people attempt to portray themselves as representing values of religious people. The reality is that the opposite is true. Most religious people do not share the values of the extreme right. As a former parish minister and as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, I have worked closely with religious leaders of many religious groups. I have worked with Christians who belong to evangelical movements, with Protestants of the mainline denominations and with Catholics. My work brings me into regular collaboration with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs.
We are all values voters. Our values come from the core teachings of our various religious traditions. We -- Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs (and others, too) -- share a core set of religious beliefs and values that should guide our votes in this election and in every election.
Here is a list of beliefs and values taught by all the great religious traditions:
Compassion -- Every religion I know teaches that we should treat one another with compassion. Literally, we should feel one another's pain and seek to ease that pain.
Everyone matters -- I think of Jesus telling his followers that to help the most humble person ("the least of these") is the moral equivalent of helping Jesus himself.
Acceptance -- If we are to be compassionate and if every person matters, then it follows that we should accept one another. For me, that means I need to accept you as you are, whether gay or straight, white or brown, male or female, smart or simple, able bodied or handicapped, Arab or Chinese or African or Indian.
Generosity -- All religions teach that we should share. They also teach that avarice is bad.
Peace -- If we all matter, then we should live together in peace. And this peace is a lot more than the absence of war. We only have peace when we have some level of mutual respect, understanding and acceptance.
Stewardship of the earth -- The great religions teach responsibility across the generations. I have long wondered why many people who believe that every unfertilized human egg is precious are so indifferent to the destruction of the natural environment that sustains all our lives.
As I decide which candidates to vote for (and to support financially), I want to take my religious values to heart. These are decisions to be made prayerfully. As you and I prepare to vote, let us take our deepest religious values seriously. Let us ask which candidates are committed to building a world that is more compassionate. Which candidate will work to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity? Which one will seek peace among all people? Which one is committed to protect our natural environment?
The real values voters summit takes place on Nov. 6. I plan to be there. I plan to vote my religious values. Join me.
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