By Jennifer B.
CHALLENGE. Until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the majority of Southern African Americans were prevented from voting by strategies like poll taxes and literacy tests. A key provision of that law required certain states with a history of discrimination to seek federal approval before making changes to their voting procedures. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down that provision. Since that time, there has been a surge in voter roll purges, strict new voter ID laws, precinct closures in minority communities across the country, and efforts to criminalize voter registration drives (Jackson & Daley, 2020). The Supreme Court recently refused to reinstate a North Carolina voter ID law drafted after North Carolina legislators had requested data on voting patterns by race and which the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” (Domonoske, 2017). The civil rights gains won by the prayers, protests, and blood of generations of our brothers and sisters are being swiftly eroded.
Isaiah 10: 1-2
10 Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
2 to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
In this highly partisan political climate, it can become easy to view those with whom we disagree as opponents to be vanquished or even as impediments standing in the way of our goals. However, every potential voter is first a human being with dignity and rights endowed by their creator. Jim Wallis and Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner write that any attempt to suppress a person’s vote based on skin color is “a denial of their imago dei [the image and likeness of God], a theological, biblical, and spiritual offense to God” (2020). As a Christian, I must be committed to protecting the rights of voters, whether they support my party of choice or not. That commitment comes from my understanding of God’s just character and affirmation of his image in each citizen.
ACTION. On a practical level, I can watch Suppressed 2020: The Fight to Vote and Whose Vote Counts: Explained to learn more about voter suppression and to hear the stories of those affected by it. I can participate in voter registration drives, phone banks, and help educate community members about voting rights. I might write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper asking local and state officials to support voting rights. From a spiritual perspective, I must ask God to help me not to become bitter toward those who attempt to undermine or deny the voting rights of people of color.
O bountiful and merciful God: you have blessed your people with great prophets and leaders to advance the cause of equality under law in this nation and in the world. By their teaching and preaching; by their action and example; by their marching, demonstrating, and sitting in; by their organizing, praying and singing, they have made themselves and the dream of non-discrimination impossible for opponents to ignore and possible for those marginalized to dream. Give us such leaders always, Lord. Let the cry for justice always be heard in our land until, by your gracious will, your children live together in freedom, justice, and equality.
–Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia (Social Justice Resource Center)
SCRIPTURE for the road We are all anxious to see candidates who we feel support our values win office. Some of us are willing to achieve that end by suppressing the votes of those who support an opposing political party. We as believers must actively resist such measures as a denial of the imago dei of our brothers and sisters and an affront to our creator God.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:3-4
Domonoske, Camila. “Supreme Court Declines Republican Bid to Revive North Carolina Voter ID Law.” NPR.org, May 15, 2017. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/15/528457693/supreme-court-declines-republican-bid-to-revive-north-carolina-voter-id-law.
Jackson, Rev. Jesse L., and David Daley. “Voter Suppression Is Still One of the Greatest Obstacles to a More Just America.” Time, June 12, 2020. https://time.com/5852837/voter-suppression-obstacles-just-america/.
Social Justice Resource Center. “Voting Rights Prayers.” Accessed October 1, 2020. https://socialjusticeresourcecenter.org/prayers/voting-rights-prayers/.
Wallis, Jim, and Barbara Williams-Skinner. “Voter Suppression Is a Theological Issue.” Sojourners, May 14, 2020. https://sojo.net/articles/voter-suppression-theological-issue.