Monday, June 24, 2013
Suffering the suffrage. . .
My problem with voting is that we say we do not vote on matters of doctrine (recall the old joke about the parliamentarian who insisted that according to the rules the Word of God can only be overruled by a two thirds majority vote!). That is what we say... but we vote all the time on God's Word and doctrine. We vote to announce it, to affirm it, and to reaffirm it. Why? Have we voted down things that purported to be God's Word and doctrine? If we say we cannot vote on matters of faith and doctrine, then why do we? No church has ever voted that the Bible was not the Word of God (even though some act like this is their stance) so why do we consistently take up time at conventions voting on things that are true whether we vote on them or not?
My second problem with voting is that if something wins by a narrow margin it loses in my book. In other words, as a Pastor I have often worked to withhold from a vote anything that runs the risk of significant opposition -- at least until we could work for unanimity on how we should proceed. Would we vote to call a Pastor if the guy got 50.5% of the vote? Would we vote to build a building or sell property with 50.5% saying aye? Maybe you would. I wouldn't. The only things that we regularly vote upon here are things that have already garnered deep and broad support in the parish following careful and considered teaching and information.
My third problem with voting is that it seems like great power but the power is in upholding what we have voted for -- it does not take much to get a show of hands for something. It does take something to get the people who vote in favor of something to follow through on it. We vote for budgets that we do not fully support with our dollars. We almost always pass resolutions on stewardship and yet Synod, some Districts, and many parishes are running behind in their budgets. We voted for it and that was easy but the hard part in everything is in upholding what it is we vote to affirm.
My fourth problem with voting is that it seems as if democracy were a God given right when it is no such thing. Now, don't get me wrong. Democracy is about as messy a form of government as you can find but it is also about the best (save a good, pious, and benevolent monarch like, say, Frederick the Wise!). But democracy is not the New Testament replacement for the Old Testament theocratic form of government. The right to vote often ends up as merely the right to expression opposition, to complain, and to throw a monkey wrench in the works every now and then. Synod passed a sweeping structural reform at the same convention we elected as Synod President a guy who was not in favor of them. How about that for consistency!
My fifth problem is that often the people who should be voting are absent and the people who should not be voting are present to cast their vote. What I mean is that the folks who are most supportive of the work of the Kingdom are not necessarily those who are there in the church basements or convention halls to put a mark on paper (or, in this day and age, press a button). Oftentimes there is a big disconnect between the people assembled for the vote and those who are in the pews on Sunday morning, who do the work of the kingdom, who faithfully steward the gifts and resources the Lord has entrusted to them, etc... So how do we live with this conflict? I don't know. I do know I have been to conventions in which the delegates hardly reflected the church as a whole (for good or for ill).
So I will tell you what I think about women's suffrage... or men's for that matter. We should vote less and pray more... cast less votes and pay more attention to the outcomes and consequences... work through catechesis to be more of one mind so that we do not have to pass God and country motions just to make ourselves feel better. So... maybe it is a cop out and some of you will be angry but I say we should study more and vote less. On every level of Church!