In surveys conducted during the months leading up to the 2016 election, large numbers of Americans reported little interest in the political process. They said things like, “nothing will change,” “the elected leaders just do what they want to,” and “my vote doesn’t really count.” And that, my friends, is the beginning of the end of democracy. We believe there is a better way. For five days across North Carolina, we will offer Faith in Democracy workshops and provide an alternative to the fatalism many feel about the political process.
- Sept 18: UU Congregation of Wilmington,4314 Lake Avenue, Wilmington 28403
- Sept 19: Hood Memorial AME Zion, 2801 Rose Hill Road, Fayetteville 28302
- Sept 20: NAACP Office, 4130 Oak Ridge Drive, Winston-Salem 27105
- Sept 21: Union Presbyterian Seminary, 5141 Sharon Road, Charlotte 28210
- Sept 22: Church of the Master UCC, 2230 29th Avenue Drive NE, Hickory 28601
Less exciting than counting votes and watching election returns is the cold, hard truth of gerrymandering — state legislators using their line-drawing power to create districts for their political advantage. Besides being unfair, such “salamander-shaped” districts dilute the voice of the people by “packing” like-minded voters into limited geographical areas or “cracking” a party bloc by dividing it across several districts. Clearly, this has happened in North Carolina, such that our current U.S. congressional districts and our state legislative districts have been deemed unfair by the Federal courts. Indications are that the new maps drawn under court orders by the unfairly elected General Assembly are equally unfair.
Some of the best legal brains in North Carolina have been working to rectify this unfairness since 2011. Thanks be to God for their perseverance because a gerrymandered state has repercussions far beyond who gets “elected.”
- Citizens don’t really know who represents them because districts appear arbitrary and disconnected;
- Voters become apathetic because the winners win by such large margins that even those voting for a winner don’t feel their vote makes any difference; and
- Legislators pick their voters rather than voters picking their legislators.
When this happens, the fabric of our democracy starts to unravel and the basis for our covenant with one another as members of society starts to disintegrate.
Faith communities are uniquely positioned to staunch this wound, precisely because we are nonpartisan. Our allegiance is to the One we worship and to the neighbors this One instructs us to love. Such love mandates that fairness govern our lives and justice apply to all regardless of party affinity.
Scripture is replete with examples of what happens when unfair laws are perpetrated by partisan leaders. Power goes unchecked, vulnerable people are harmed, the nation is at risk. Unchecked power and misplaced loyalty brought about the Assyrian conquest (read Amos) and the Babylonian exile (read Jeremiah); unfair taxation and dishonest lending practices allowed land seizure by the wealthy (read Matthew 25:14-30). All of these malpractices are denounced by the prophets of the Old Testament and the gospel teachings of New Testament.
In North Carolina it remains the right of the legislature to draw district lines, but it is the responsibility of the citizens to expect and demand fairly drawn maps that allow for good and fair elections. Once again faith communities are uniquely positioned to facilitate this kind of local effort because we already know one another at a fundamental level. We show up for one another during times of great gladness and acute sadness, usually bearing food. How much more so can we show up WITH one another to advocate for the greater good of all our neighbors in a specific locale?
Find a “Faith in Democracy” workshop near you and start the process of reclaiming our right to be governed fairly and for all to be treated justly. Micah gives us our marching orders: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly…” (Micah 6:8).