The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Taboo dinner table conversation, as usual.

Lately (read: always) I have been doing a lot of thinking and reading about politics and religion. At my internship site, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, there is a new discussion/study/reading/activism group forming around ideas for new ways of advocacy in/from the church. It's a handful of interesting people, all of whom understand that there is more to scripture than just reading -- there's a serious call for doing. [Theology sidebar: Don't you dare say anything about works righteousness. We're not talking about action as requirement for salvation, we're talking about action as a visceral response to the grace in which we now stand. Just so we're clear.] They want to figure out for whom to advocate and how to advocate without the congregation crying partisanship. It's such a fine line to walk, because as soon as you talk to religious folks about anything remotely related to government, they go nuts about separation of church and state. Which is hilarious, because talking at church about eradicating poverty has absolutely nothing to do with establishing a theocracy.

In addition to the reading I'm doing for this advocacy group, this week I picked up Jim Wallis' book God's Politics, which he published in 2005 as a response to totally insane religious polarization in America surrounding George W. Bush's reelection. It's a really interesting look at what the prophets of our scripture were calling their communities to act upon, and how similar our struggles for peace, freedom, equality, and justice still are to this day. He and I don't agree about everything (he's anti-choice, but strives for civil conversation on the subject [as opposed to bombing Planned Parenthoods], which is nice) and the religious landscape of the Democratic Party has changed a little bit with President Obama, so some of his claims about the lackluster left have been improved upon since he wrote them. But the polarization of American "values voters" is still stark and still tragic.

In Bible study recently, we talked about how religious folks in this country argue at the top of their lungs about some pretty minute discrepancies in our interpretations of scripture (homosexuality, abortion, women in ministry) so that we don't have to address the deeply theological issues of poverty and peace.

It's easier to complain about "welfare queens" than it is to admit that we don't have a clue how to make sure our society's most vulnerable people are fed and clothed and sheltered, and way easier than admitting we just don't want to pay for it.

It's easier to picket at Planned Parenthood than it is to let individual women make health care choices that are different than ours, and way easier than admitting that the system we uphold keeps most women from access to the same resources we have.

It's easier to rally around nationalism and supporting the troops than it is to admit that a former President cowboy-ed us in to an unjust war, and way easier than admitting that the United States of America is not in charge of the entire world.

It's easier to yell about 9/11 and terrorism and freedom than it is to admit that we don't know any better than to fight evil with evil, and way easier than admitting we routinely act out of our fear.

It's easier to protest what exists than it is to offer alternatives for what could be the new American paradigm.

And because we are the people of a book of prophets and wisdom and freedom and grace, it is our responsibility to be the voices for the people who continue (thousands of years and miles later) to be the downtrodden and the outcast of our social order. It is not our job as Christians to take away the rights of people who are different from us, simply because we're afraid of our social status changing, and crying "abomination" is easier than crying out for justice.

It is safe to say that I am outspoken about how my religious tradition and political affiliation interact. And as we barrel toward this Presidential election, my voice is going to get exponentially louder in every possible venue. The next two months are not about saving face and keeping people who "don't want to talk about politics" or "don't think politics belong at church" from feeling uncomfortable. Your privileged comfort is not my priority. Hell, my privileged comfort is not my priority.

I saw President Obama speak at CSU yesterday afternoon. To be frank, it was a little underwhelming. I was hoping for the inspiration I felt in 2008 to make a resurgence. It's pretty likely that you know that I am an Obama superfan, so it has zero to do with him as a President. It was just like ten million degrees out and Kelsey didn't make it in in time, and I couldn't really see him very well and nobody around me actually seemed very "fired up and ready to go" either...there's just not the tenacity there was last time.

And my disappointment is also in the fact that many people whom I love and respect do not appreciate the gravity of the situation. They are a bunch of upper-middle-class white males, to be honest, and so they don't have as much at stake in this election (or at least they don't think they do). And I'm planning to spend the next two months getting aggressive with them if I have to.

I don't even plan to hide behind euphemisms like "think about who you're voting for" -- my goal is to re-elect President Barack Obama because to do otherwise is to send this country careening down a path to destruction. I do not believe that President Obama is the savior of this nation (no matter how much I would like him to be) and I also do not believe that any Administration can flip a country upside down in four years. And I know that some of my most liberal friends will wax poetic about third party candidates and I hear you -- I really do. But right now, a vote for a third party just hurts progress, because we're not at a point where third party candidates actually have a shot. Quite frankly, it's a vote for Republicans. And most importantly, I do believe that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would try their hardest to make sure that this nation works for them and their race and their gender and their tax bracket only.

There's no time to say "Barack Obama didn't do everything he said he'd do, so I'm not re-electing him" or "The economy is still awful so I'm not re-electing him" or "We're still at war so I'm not re-electing him" or "He's just politics as usual so I'm not re-electing him" or "He didn't support the Occupy movement so I'm not re-electing him" and do you want to know why? Because the alternative to the hope and the change is MITT ROMNEY AND PAUL RYAN, the two Americans least interested in anything that you stood for in 2008 and anything that you think Obama no longer stands for in 2012.

A vote for the Republican Party (whether for President or for Congress) is a step in the wrong direction. Don't agree with me? Tell me why. And if Jesus is part of your life, tell me where Jesus is pro-rich and pro-war and anti-woman and anti-gay and all the things that show up on the GOP platform.

I dare you.

Oh! And if you are even close to letting the words "my vote doesn't matter" out of your mouth, don't even bother speaking to me about this election. On one level, you're absolutely right because one vote does not sway the entire election. But thousands (millions?) of people believing their vote doesn't matter (and therefore not casting their vote) suddenly sways an entire election. You have to be part of the solution.

And if you live in a state that "always" votes one way or the other, you may feel like it doesn't matter if you vote or not. But if you skip the Presidential election, you skip local elections. And local elections are where all sorts of policy actually get enforced. It's where nut job Governors and Mayors and City Councilmembers suddenly do things like ban the teaching of evolution in schools and allow police to pull over non-white drivers on the suspicion that they're undocumented. And you skip some Congressional elections, and you allow people like Rep. Todd Akin to serve on the House Committee on Science while he doesn't even know the finer points of human anatomy.

I digress. Please. Vote. I'm begging you.

One voice can change a room.
And if it can change a room, it can change a city.
And if it can change a city, in can change a state.
And if it can change a state, in can change a nation.
And if it can change a nation, it can change the world.
Your voice can change the world.

Senator Barack Obama
December 9, 2007


Purple pants, among other things.