Election day Communion
From the editorby Everett J. Thomas
If the current ugliness of the election season taints relationships between brothers and sisters within the church, that’s evidence of “ballot-box idolatry.” So says a Mennonite pastor whose appeal for an election-day Communion service has gone viral on the Internet (see box below).
Mark Schloneger is attempting to help Christians across ecumenical lines find unity “in the midst of theological, political and denominational differences.” The website www.electiondaycommunion.org lays out a simple suggestion: Remember the body of Christ as the body of Christ, confessing the ways partisan politics has separated us from one another and from God.
In spite of the cacophony generated by this presidential election, I doubt it is the worst our country has ever experienced. I also doubt that Mennonites have been oblivious or immune to other, earlier election tensions.
For example, last year the Lancaster (Pa.) Mennonite Historical Society received a broadside (campaign poster) from the 1801 election. The poster called on Christians to vote against Thomas Jefferson. The propaganda was found in the attic of a Mennonite family, and it claimed Jefferson was not a Christian.
While the level of vitriol during this election season may not be all that extraordinary, what is different is Mennonite involvement. According to the most recent data, 51 percent of Mennonite Church USA members identify as Republicans, 22 percent as Democrats, and 11 percent as independents (Road Signs for the Journey, 2006).
But what is most striking about this data is the change in participation: In 1972, 37 percent did not identify with any political party. By 2006, only 11 percent refrained from partisan politics.
The problem is that different parts of our theology resonate with differing positions promoted by the political parties. For example, some of us care most about stopping abortions or slowing the trend toward same-sex marriage. Others of us care most about making sure the government takes care of the poorest in society and removing legal impediments to same-sex marriage.
These are deeply held convictions, and they polarize us. But if engaging in the political process to advocate for such issues ruptures our fellowship, then such temporal matters have crowded out our awareness of God’s presence in the Body of Christ. And that is idolatry.
There is an antidote. Vote on Election Day and then return to what matters most: the unity of the body of Christ. The most visceral way to express this unity is to share the cup and break bread with other Christian brothers and sisters.
In doing so after an ugly election season, we join all those who have followed Christ in previous millenia, all those around the world who may care a lot or little about our elections, and all those not yet living who will be the church in the future.
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Election Day Communion
On Nov. 6, 2012, Election Day, we will exercise our right to choose.
Some of us will choose to vote for Barack Obama.
Some of us will choose to vote for Mitt Romney.
Some of us will choose to vote for another candidate.
Some of us will choose not to vote.
During the day of Nov. 6, we will make different choices for different reasons, hoping for different results.
But that evening while our nation turns its attention to the outcome of the presidential election, let's again choose differently. But this time, let's do it together. ... Let's meet at the Lord's Table. Let’s remember together.