As Election Day approaches in the U.S., many people have expressed dissatisfaction with all of the candidates on the ballot. While this sentiment is mostly centered on the presidential race here, it can also be found regarding candidates for state and local offices. Some may ask if there is any point in voting. Why should we engage with public officials who we feel do not represent us well?
In the Bible, 1 Timothy 2:2 reminds us to pray for our leaders, and many of us do. However, we have the ability to do more than pray for the men and women who are elected to public office. We can engage with them, speak with them, and make our views known. As Anabaptists if we seek to bring the peace of Christ into our communities and our country, we must utilize all of the resources God has given us. For those of us who are U.S. citizens, we have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to help choose our elected officials at local, state and national levels.
Many who reside in the U.S. still struggle for the right to vote, due to voter identification laws, prior convictions, or legal status. Even those who are not registered voters, however, can find opportunities to engage candidates. Anyone can write a letter to a local paper or attend public forums to engage with political candidates. Though it might be difficult for many of us to engage with presidential candidates, those running for local and state offices can be surprisingly accessible. We should focus our time and resources on the candidates that are most available to us, not the ones that receive the most media coverage.
When I visited Goshen College earlier this year, many of the students I spoke with expressed frustration in engaging with elected officials. What was the point, they asked, of speaking with or writing to a member of Congress with very different viewpoints? This is a question that often hinders participation in the political process. There are several reasons why engagement is important.
Even if you do not use your voice, others will certainly use their voices and those will be the voices elected officials hear. You can ensure that political candidates in your city, county, and state are aware of your Anabaptist views on peace and justice issues. Your elected officials represent you, whether you voted for them or not. Even if the candidate you preferred did not win, you can still engage with that elected official through letter, phone calls, meetings, and on social media.
Elections give us a unique chance to raise our voices about many of the issues we care about. Let us seize this important moment and take some time to make a ripple in the pond that is the election. For tips on how to engage with candidates this election season, consider using this resource from the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office. Pray for our elected leaders, tell them about the issues that are important to you and, if you are able to do so, vote.
Joshua Russell is Legislative Assistant and Communications Coordinator for the MCC U.S. Washington Office. Story originally published on September 2, 2016. Reprinted with permission from Third Way Cafe.