This past weekend, over 40 people from the FirstPres community gathered for 2 voter education forums- one on Thursday night and one after our weekly Sunday service.
These forums created space for people to gather, to learn, to dialogue, and to prayerfully seek God’s wisdom around the upcoming California election. We also had time to learn the basics on each state proposition, and held a more in-depth conversation regarding a few of the (more controversial) propositions.
From what people told me, this event was the first of its kind in the history of FirstPres. For many in our church, to talk about ballot measures together (especially in our church building!) was an entirely new experience. Politics have generally been kept separate from the church space. Information about how we are voting has generally been kept private.
But it was a gift to be in community- to realize that we weren’t alone in our questions, ignorance, or even skepticism, and to collectively recognize the responsibility we have as voters. We were reminded of the importance of using our political voice and the imperative to seek the common good through our vote.
A few highlights from our time:
- As a group, we acknowledged that voting is both a responsibility and a privilege- that throughout our nation’s history, there have been segments of our society who have not had the ability to vote, whether due to the color of their skin, their gender, their immigration status, their criminal history, etc. We also mourned the realities of voter suppression occurring in our country, and felt sobered by those in our lives who may not have the ability to vote for various reason. And ultimately, we also stated that we don’t have a right to complain about what’s happening in our country or state if we don’t actually go and vote.
- We learned together about the history and the nature of California propositions- what they do (alter one or more articles of the CA constitution, CA codes, or another existing law in the California statues), how they are put on the ballot (by signature via initiatives or veto referendums, or by legislators), and the influence of special interest groups who fund particular initiatives. We talked about the uniqueness of California’s legislative process and touched upon the legacy of Proposition 13 in California.
- We discussed some of the major questions we should ask when deciding on a “yes” or “no” vote for particular propositions. These questions included: Who will it impact- both in positive way or harmful way? What is the current reality and what will it change? What is the fiscal impact? Where will the money come from(bonds? taxes? etc) and how will funds be administered? Who is supporting it and opposing it, and where is their money coming from? What’s the history and how/why did it get on the ballot in the first place? What might be hidden away in the actual text, or sections of the text that might be overlooked or “hidden away”? How might advertisement be misleading or sensationalizing aspects of the propositions?
- We reflected on how our identity as followers of Jesus may impact the ways we think about our vote. We talked about our vote as a way to “speak up” for those most vulnerable and honored in Scripture- foreigners, orphans, widows, the poor. We talked about the call to seek God’s shalom, preserve the common good, and honor the interests of others, not just our own interests. We talked about our vote as a tangible response to the command to love God and love our neighbors. And we talked about all the complexities of living our these principles in the context of our political system.
- We did some general and cursory learning together about all of the CA state propositions, and then spent some time going more in-depth about a few of them. Both of my groups voted to discuss Proposition 8 and Proposition 10, two of the more contested propositions on this year’s ballot. We also spent some time discussing Prop 1,2, 6, and 11.
While not everyone may have been agreement about every proposition, I was genuinely surprised and grateful for the approach that many in the FirstPres community had towards our vote. I was encouraged by everyone’s desire to seek God’s wisdom and to be faithful with the political voice that they have. I was convicted by the approach of many- to seek the good of the most vulnerable, to vote out of compassionate and not just self-interest, and to try and seek good for everyone.
Ultimately, my hope and prayer is that all those who have the ability to vote during this election would go out and do so. That we would remember our church’s call to be political, not partisan, and continue to be faithful in all spheres of our lives- not just the religious one.
May we all continue to lift up the elections in our prayers!
“O God, You are actively involved in every part of Your creation at every moment. Grant to all people in the U.S. a willingness to get involved in the upcoming elections, resisting complacency, suspicion and passivity. Let us all know the value of our individual and collective vote, and let us exercise our right with diligence and faith. Amen.” (based on Amos 6:1)
If you’d like some more info about the propositions, here are a few different resources:
BASIC VOTER GUIDE: http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov
ONE MINUTE VIDEOS FOR EVERY PROP https://elections.calmatters.org/2018/california-propositions-explained/
SHORT SUMMARIES OF EACH PROP: https://reason.org/commentary/voters-guide-to-the-2018-california-ballot-initiatives/
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: https://www.vote411.org