This election cycle has been divisive and draining. It’s forced Americans across the spectrum to interrogate their own beliefs, make compromises and reflect on how much further we have to go to reach our democratic ideals.
It’s brought out some of the worst of American society, exposing the fear, xenophobia and sexism that seems to always lie just below the surface of our politics. And understandably, it’s left many feeling spiritually bereft.
But Nov. 8 is when the rhetoric ends and the action begins. On this sacred day, Americans from all backgrounds will step away from their newspapers and televisions and put conviction into action by casting their vote.
On the occasion of the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ― which prohibited racial discrimination in voting ― President Lyndon B. Johnson famously said: “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”
Voting is a right, a privilege and a powerful act of civic engagement ― and, according to many people of faith, it’s also a moral act and a righteous one to boot.
Here’s how seven HuffPost bloggers and religious leaders explain the moral imperative of voting ― and why voting, itself, can be a spiritual act:
“Like many people of faith, I turn to my spiritual side to come to terms with what is happening this election year and to find solace as well as guidance on how I should be responding and behaving. Like other people of faith, I rely on my religious convictions, my spiritual center — to guide my decisions in life.
My parents came to America from environments of oppression to live the American dream. Voting has always been a testament to what my parents and ancestors have endured. I will always exercise my right to vote. My faith in Islam also inspires me to vote. God does not answer prayers unless you are doing your part, unless you are trying. He makes it incumbent on all humans to continually strive to improve their condition. Islam is an active religion, not a passive one. Sitting home is not an option Islamically speaking.”
Meditation teacher and co-founder of Insight Meditation Society
“It may seem strange to relate spirituality and voting, especially in a country where religion becomes the source of policy-related conflict during political debates. But the faith that I think about in the context of voting is completely non-partisan. It’s about recognizing voting as an immense form of freedom we’re given; we have the choice to participate in the outcome of our lives, the lives of others, and the country as a whole. Each of our influences on any outcome may be incremental, but it exists, and is a critical component of change. In that way, each one of our choices to step up and take action has immense impact—on each other, and on our world’s future.”
Professor of Religion, Saint Olaf College
"An election should be a time when a nation engages in a process of deep discernment... Discernment must be guided by the light of knowledge and not ignorance, by a passionate concern for seeking truth and not falsehood, and by a commitment to what ultimately matters and not the trivial. Sadly, what we see today is a reckless indifference to truth and an appeal to narrow self-interest. Untruths that demean others, and that stir hate and fears are peddled daily. The attainment of power, and not truth and wisdom, has become the object of ultimate value. Truth is equated with expediency and convenience and redefined as that which ensures electoral victory; the means justifies the end.
More specifically, what is the truth that matters in the voting booth? The Hindu tradition answers with an explicit moral criterion. The Bhagavadgita advises us, twice, that all choices must be exercised with a concern for the universal common good."
Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis
Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
“Voting is a way to use our voices to steward our neighbor’s self-interest. Neither the candidate nor the office matter. What is on the ballot is clean air and water, food enough, clothing enough and shelter enough for folk to be safe. Schools in which to learn and grow and play—they are on the ballot. City streets described by the prophet Zechariah—clean and hospitable so that old folk and young folk can hang out in them—they are on the ballot. Health care is on the ballot; humanity is on the ballot.
What does your neighbor need? What do you need? That is all on the ballot. So, it is our turn to love God with all we have and love our neighbor as ourselves. It is our turn to think of voting as a holy act, as a mitzvah, as a right and as a calling.”
Attorney and visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal School of Islamic Studies
"With all that’s at stake it’s hard to imagine why Muslims would not want to vote. Why would we not want our voices to be heard?
We are being given an opportunity, even as a minority, to contribute to the future direction of our nation—not unlike the opportunity that the Prophet Muhammad afforded religious minorities in his time. We should not be fooled into thinking that our votes do not matter. We needn’t even look to 1400 years ago—just recall the few hundred votes that decided the 2000 presidential election. Back then George Bush won nearly 80% of the Muslim vote. Local elections have been decided by even less. The US Constitution grants us this right to come forward and help determine the future direction of our nation, and the Qur’an commands us to judge with justice and embrace our responsibility to assert our voice.”
Rev. Emily C. Heath
United Church of Christ minister
"Justice, kindness, and humility are wonderful things...and they all take work. Every day we have to recommit to them. And every day we have to use them to push aside the baskets that cover our light. But more than that, if we want to be a City on the Hill, it is not enough that we ourselves commit to these things. We must also demand them from our leaders. What would our national political stage look like if we took this bedrock of our faith, these real Christian values, and made them our non-negotiables? What would happen if we refused to vote for anything less than real justice, real kindness, and real humility?
That may sound naive, especially in a year like this, but if enough of us demanded it, things would start to change. And so would our leaders."
Rev. Wayne Meisal
Executive Director of the Center for Faith and Service at McCormick Theological Seminary
"As people of faith, we are called to live through prayer, reading of scripture, studying history, engaging in communal worship and sharing in conversation. These are the spiritual practices that influence my political leanings as a Christian... It is my Christian faith and not my political allegiances that define my conscience and that determine my vote. It is my faith that makes seven issues – poverty, peacemaking, safety, equality, care for the earth, prisons and immigration – central to my decisions when voting.
On Tuesday, when I “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” and translate my faith into action as I cast my vote, I’ll consider seven questions relating to these seven issues. It is these questions that will guide my vote."