In January of 2015, there were over a half million people who were homeless in America. This included children and veterans, some of the most vulnerable among us (End Homelessness). Even though the United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, 1 in 7 people struggle with hunger (Feeding America). Our political system is broken, corrupted by big money, and we see the wealthier get richer as more and more people fall below the poverty line (PBS NewsHour). It is easy to lose hope, to give up, and to wash our hands of this mess we call our country, but what does that accomplish?
As a Christian, I look at the upcoming election as a chance to use my vote as a statement of what I believe it means to be a follower of Christ. This doesn’t mean that I vote for the candidate who claims to be Christian. Nor does it mean that I pick one “Christian” issue and back the candidate who supports my view, no matter the rest of his or her platform. I have listened, researched, questioned, and decided. By engaging the process, I have become informed and am confident in where I stand.
I am a proud Bernie Sanders supporter. The time has come for radical change. By not allowing big money to influence his campaign, Sanders has set himself apart from the other candidates. His willingness to stand up against the known corruption within our political system is brave. His career in the Senate is admirable. His big ideas and creative solutions are constructive and innovative. We are passed the time of Band-Aid solutions and Duct tape fixes - our government is broken. Sanders has outlined his plans for change. One may disagree with these plans, some may believe that his plans are not feasible, but until we move in the direction of change how will we know. Sure, a plan might fail, a strategy might fall short, but from failure, we can learn, adapt, and continue to work until we are successful. Bernie Sanders is offering this country something truly different.
How is Hillary Clinton different than any other politician we have seen? She is bought, just like the other candidates, having accepted money from the very institutions she claims are the problem. She flips back and forth on her views, gets caught in lies, and says whatever needs to be said to appease the crowds. Some have accused Sander’s supporters of being harder on Clinton, “raining fire” on her for doing exactly what “other male politicians have done.” Yet, it is because she does exactly what other politicians do that I cannot support her. If we keep voting into office the same type of politician, we are going to get the same results.
Now for many people the same results are OK; the status quo is fine. Even though they take every opportunity to complain about the government, and their Facebook status updates call for change, when all’s said and done, they don’t want change at the cost of their comfort. They find peace in their privilege, therefore apathy wins the day. Then we get Donald Trump, and suddenly everyone “cares.” Cries of stopping Trump at all cost flood social media. The complacent are riled up because their peace seems to be under attack. Trump is winning the Republican primaries, and this causes great distress among the apathetic...now they have to care, because if they don’t, the status quo is going to change, and this change will not be in their favor. If Trump gets elected, they will suffer.
Coming across my Facebook timeline, over the past few weeks, have been a number of articles attacking progressive liberals who stand behind Sanders and have stated that they refuse to vote for Clinton if she wins the Democratic nomination. We are called selfish, ignorant, and most recently in an article by Melissa Hillman from Quartz, we are called “privileged.” Demeaning posts and condescending articles make it seem like progressive liberals don’t know what’s at stake, or worse, don’t care. I say that we know exactly what is at stake and passionately care. In her article, Hillman writes, “How privileged do you need to be to imagine that it’s a good idea to risk the actual lives of vulnerable Americans because you “hate” Clinton?” I turn to the accusers and question them, “How privileged do you have to be to not realize that the vulnerable among us are already suffering?” This privileged moderate middle seems oblivious to the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans are already at rock bottom, held down by the oppressive status quo.
There are lives being lost every day. Voting for things to stay the same means willingly voting for the oppression of others. As a Christian, a follower of Christ, I cannot willing vote for my own comfort, at the expense of others. Many in the comfortable middle are OK with this vote, because they are not the ones currently suffering. What Hillman means when she claims that we are risking “the actual lives of vulnerable Americans” is that she and those like her might suffer, and that is a reality her selfish privilege will fight against.
Please understand, I have been and am currently, a comfortable, middle-class, Christian man. I want readers to know that by disrupting the status quo, I am willingly disrupting my own life. However, I am willing to do this for the greater good of our country. I want my vote to move us towards justice, equality, and peace for all people, not simply to myself and those like me. In my opinion, Sanders is the strongest electable candidate between the Democratic and Republican parties. I am not voting for Trump, but I refuse to vote for the oppressive status quo that Clinton seeks to maintain. In the primaries, I will vote for Sanders, and I believe he can win the nomination, and then the general election for president. If he doesn’t, I still have a duty to participate in the election process. However, I am also called, as a Christian, to stand up for those in need, to help the oppressed voices be heard, to act in accordance with my faith. I refuse to vote for the “lesser of two evils!” If our broken political system denies this country a reasonably moral choice I can stand behind, I will vote for the greater good found in a third party candidate like Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party or Jill Stein of the Green Party. These candidates allow me to cast a vote for constructive change. If we cannot get a leader like Sanders through to the general election, perhaps the path to change lies in supporting a strong third party candidate that can challenge the corrupt two party system.
Jesus’ message of inclusion and community was radical. His love of all people was revolutionary. As Rev. Julian DeShazier says, “Jesus disrupted the peace of power and privilege with the sword of the Spirit.” Our system is broken, change is needed, the oppressive status quo needs to be disrupted. I believe that that Sanders is the disruption our country needs. I believe that he brings with him the mighty sword of justice that will cut the chains of the oppressed and bring the corrupt to their knees.
I will not vote for Clinton, I will not vote out of fear of Trump, I will not silence the cries of those in need with my vote, or use my vote to support their oppression. If Clinton wins, I will continue to work to change the status quo and fight for those struggling beneath the weight of inequality. If Trump wins, may God be with us all. I believe that he will truly break the system beyond all repair, and we, as a people, will have no other option but to unite to rebuild after the devastation. Perhaps that is what is needed to force people to move beyond our differences and see our common humanity - a true threat to the humanity of the majority, rather than just those at the bottom. I pray it doesn’t come to that reality in order to bring about the change so desperately needed.
The presidential candidates have shown us their way of leadership. One way feeds on fear, encourages hate, unleashes the violence, and ultimately will lead to destruction. One way maintains the fear, hate, and violence that already exists in our country, maintaining a peace of privilege and power. The final way seeks to educate and raise awareness, promotes community, desires restoration, and ultimately provides hope for all who struggle. I cannot force anyone to agree with me. I cannot make people vote the way I think is right. Yet, as I reflect on my Christian values, there is only one way I can vote. “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”