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Glimpsing the Kingdom

“I can officially vote!” This is what I wrote on my Facebook wall the day I turned 18. Out of all the things I could have chosen to be excited about in becoming a legal adult, I chose voting. Besides being kind of a silly story, I share this because I’m discovering that that kind of thinking appears to be more unique than I had realized. Whereas I was almost in tears once because I thought I had missed the deadline to mail in my absentee ballot, it turns out most of my friends, especially in Christian circles, have not voted, or even registered to vote, in recent elections. Growing up, I’ve heard politics and politicians referred to as “dirty.” I’ve met people who, though registered, did not end up voting in an election because they thought their vote would be ineffectual. While I recognize that politicians can be corrupt, and that the U.S. system of democracy is far from perfect, I still consider voting, and political engagement in general, to be sacred.

To live out my faith... means engaging in politics.

In Isaiah 1, God tells the Israelites to “stop bringing meaningless offerings!” God instructs them to “stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” When the Israelites do these things, then “they shall be like wool” (their sins will be forgiven). Worship requires doing justice. To live out my faith day by day means not just attending church, being kind to my neighbor, and verbally sharing my faith with those around me, but it also means engaging in politics to address the systems and structures in place that oppress the vulnerable - the fatherless and the widow, but also the single parents, those on welfare, those addicted to painkillers, those incarcerated, immigrants, and so many more. Pursuing justice through political engagement is an act of kingdom building; it’s seeking shalom - bringing all people into right relationship with each other, God, and the land.

And at the end of the day, I’m exhausted.

Political engagement involves more than just voting. Since joining the Office of Social Justice I have learned that there is a whole realm of advocacy that exists outside of election years. I’ve coordinated with a host of other organizations to do research and plan events. I’ve attended legislative meetings and helped support congregants in organizing their own meetings. I’ve joined advocacy groups that focus on local and state issues. And at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. More often than not, this work feels hopeless. Despite my best efforts, and the efforts of those around me, the earth is still warming and the administration announces (or doesn’t announce) new rules every week that sow confusion and fear for immigrants and those who consider it their sacred duty to support immigrants. But “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)

Why do I hope?

While my actions may only be a drop in the bucket, I know it is the LORD who builds the house (Psalm 127:1), and every now and then, I’m allowed a glimpse of that great and glorious kingdom. I saw a glimpse when over 250 people came out on a Saturday morning to support refugees. I saw a glimpse when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on September 19 that it will resume medical deferred action for immigrants needing life-saving medical treatment after it received intense criticism from the public, including from a faith organization sign-on letter.

Every now and then, I’m allowed a glimpse of that great and glorious kingdom.

I saw a glimpse when two of our congregants met not just with legislative staffers, but with the Representatives themselves to talk and pray about immigration issues. (You can read about Isaiah Cruz’ legislative meeting here.) And finally, I saw a glimpse when a local official personally responded to an email I had sent using one of our action alerts

Yes, doing justice is tiring and time consuming, and not everyone will be able to be engaged in the way that I have been through my job. However, it is still important. As I wait in fear and trembling for the president to announce how many refugees will be admitted to the U.S. for Fiscal Year 2020, I pray that the Lord may allow me another glimpse of his kingdom. And in the meantime, I ask all of you to join me in worship by taking action here.

This post was largely written on September 25. On September 26, the Trump administration announced that it plans on admitting only 18,000 refugees for Fiscal Year 2020. However, the official determination will not be made until after the President consults with Congress, which may not take place until mid-to late-October. Since the current fiscal year ends on September 30, this means that the refugee resettlement program will be shut down in the meantime. Now is the time to do justice! Call the congressional leaders whom Trump will be meeting with to urge them to protect the refugee resettlement program and welcome 95,000 refugees (the historic annual average) for Fiscal Year 2020!


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