Why do we align ourselves with political parties? Why, as Friends, do we decide to join a particular side in the ongoing battle of national and local politics? We may take one side over the other as a way to bear witness to our values. For instance, we might decide that one political party represents our feelings towards war and peace more than the other. There are dozens of issues that the two major parties have taken decidedly different stances on over the years; abortion rights, marriage equality, minimum wage, and the keystone pipeline are just a few examples of what are known as “wedge issues.” These issues often force us into one camp or the other. However, I believe there is another path. I have felt The Spirit calling to me over the past year, calling me to stand apart from the political fight that wages on and on.
I have identified myself with the Democratic Party since I was a teenager. I am an elected member of my town’s Democratic Committee. I have always counted myself amongst Friends who believe in equality, peace, stewardship, and community, and as such, I have aligned myself with the Democratic Party as a way of standing up for what I believe in. However, there has been a change in me. I have felt God speaking to me through The Spirit. I am declaring here that I no longer align myself with the Democratic Party, I no longer align myself with ANY political party, and as a result I am resolved to resign my seat on my town’s committee and to disaffiliate from the party altogether.
Why you might ask?
Taking sides in a political war is, in and of itself, an endorsement of war. My peace testimony speaks to me loud and clear: if I am to be a peacemaker, I must remove myself from any pledges of allegiance, I must stand in between these warring factions, and I must look upon both sides with compassion, love, and understanding. Also, when I step back from the political alignments of my past, I find that I can see them more clearly. I don’t feel that either party, in my heart of hearts, is a party of peace. I therefore choose to align myself with God, The Light, and the message of Jesus; “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
I don’t need to take sides in order to bear witness to my testimony. I can witness as to the virtues of environmental stewardship, charity, peace, simplicity, community, equality, love, and many others without drawing a line in the sand. One virtue in particular, community, stands out as particularly vital in following this new Spiritual Calling. How can I adequately work towards fostering and strengthening community by taking sides? The political parties in America have done more to drive us apart than they have to bring us together. We are all children of God. The more we separate ourselves based on politics, race, gender, religion, orientation, and economics, the weaker our ability to forge loving communities.
I am drawn to a passage from scripture when I meditate on my past involvement in political parties. When I think about the political climate in America, the division, the partisanship, the lack of mutual trust, and the overall sense of disgust each side holds for the other, I find both peace and comfort in the following verses,
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2 (15-17)
Our political system is nothing more than an extension of the “pride of life.” As long as we have division between us, pride will rule the day; pride in ourselves, pride in our side, and the pride that comes along with self-righteousness. A definition of self-righteousness taken from Wikipedia states, “A feeling or display of (usually smug) moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person. Self-righteous individuals are often intolerant of the opinions and behaviors of others.”
I feel a certain sense of shame along with the realization that I, myself, have been a self-righteous individual in regard to politics. The above definition, I feel, could be attributed to any political party in America. I refuse to continue in defining myself this way. I am called to love above all else. I have often wondered over the past year why love isn’t listed along with the other quaker testimonies of the “SPICES” acronym. I now feel strongly that each of those testimonies, simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship, finds their roots in love.
When we live simply, we love. When we make peace, we love. We love ourselves and God when we embrace the truth and live with integrity. We love our neighbors when we build and maintain healthy communities. When we look upon all those around us as brothers and sisters in the family of God, as equals in heart and soul, we love. When we take care and look after ALL of God’s creations, the trees, the rivers, the oceans, the wildlife, and the air we breathe, we are full of God’s love.
So I say to you, look deep into your own heart as to your political alignments. Search your feelings as to your allegiances. Do they supplement your ability to live your Faith? Only you can answer that question, and likewise, I can only bear witness to my own experiences. I don’t pretend to know the answers. I don’t pretend to know anything at all. In fact, I can say with complete sincerity that I know nothing. There is only One that is all-knowing, One who has the answers we seek, One who can shine Light upon the darkened corners of this wretched world. And, when we feel that Light shining from within, we are called to reflect it outwardly in the hope that, in some small way, we might help illuminate the world.