Feb. 29, 2016.
You’re voting tomorrow, right?
If you’re an eligible voter, I hope you’ll make it to the polls tomorrow for Virginia’s presidential primary. I don’t have to tell you there’s a lot at stake this year. I hope we all get out and vote according to our values.
For some, it’s been a tough choice to figure out where to cast our votes this time around. And for some, personal relationships have been tested, even strained. One of my dearest friends has been very active in supporting a different candidate from the one I prefer. And it’s been a little challenging. We both feel passionate about our hopes for the future of our country, and though our visions are pretty close together, our opinions on the best way to get there are not. We’ve had to lean on our love for one another, nurtured over many years, to get through this time of tension, suspense, hope and anxiety. Luckily, the love we feel for one another is real, and strong enough to carry us through our differences of opinion.
I do wonder, though, about how our neighborhoods and communities are going to fare as the election cycle moves forward. It can be such a nasty time. I remember back in 2008 when an extremely divisive anti-gay measure was on the ballot in California, where I was living. My UU congregation was on the front lines of the battle – and it did feel like a battle! – organizing rallies and protests, writing letters to the newspaper, distributing yard signs. Oh, the yard signs! Many of my congregants had their yard signs stolen or vandalized repeatedly. Others, including some of our LGBT members, reported how deeply disconcerting it was for them to watch their neighbors, with whom they had gotten along peacefully for years, put up their own yard signs against marriage equality. It was a rough time for our local community. Relationships were strained, a sense of community solidarity severely damaged. I don’t want our communities here to go through that kind of fractious, fracturing election season. And yet, I worry that that’s where we may be headed this year, with so much at stake and the choices between parties so stark.
So I’ve been asking myself, what does our Unitarian Universalist faith have to offer at this critical time? First, the clarion call to live by our values. To vote, and if you are moved, to campaign for the candidate you think will best help our country live into a future of more justice, more love and more compassion for all. First and foremost, vote your values.
But don’t forget what our faith teaches us about respect for every person. And about love that reaches across the divides of opinion and belief. This is what will hold our communities together, now and in every season. I come back again and again to these words of Hosea Ballou, the greatest Universalist theologian of the 19th Century: “If we agree in love, there is no disagreement that can do us any injury, but if we do not, no other agreement can do us any good.” If we agree in love – that is, if we as neighbors and friends agree that love is a priority for us and our communities; if we agree that we will love each other, come what may; if we stay faithful to the commitment we have made to practice love – then our disagreements cannot hurt the communities we have built together. In this election season especially, I challenge you to be agents of love in your neighborhoods. Vote your values, but love your neighbors, no matter who they are voting for. Vote your values and love your neighbors – this is how we build the world we seek.