Elect leaders with ‘a heart for justice and the common good’

Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: This is the last blog post exploring faith and elections through the lens of different faith perspectives. The blog posts have been written by members of Bread’s church relations staff and friends of Bread for the World.

By Bishop Jose García

Throughout this year’s Faith & Elections blog series, we received contributions from Bread staff and interns, a newly sworn U.S. Citizen, clergy from different Christian traditions, leaders from national religious organizations, men and women, young, and not so young.

As we prepare to go to the voting booth on Tuesday, Nov. 8 and reflect on the choices we will make, I compiled some thoughts shared by this diverse pool of contributors.

In our democratic country, as we seek to care for our neighbors and God’s creation, we have the privilege of being involved in the election of the men and women that should exercise good stewardship of the “earth, all that is in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalms 24:1).  This country was founded on the idea that “we the people” are responsible for selecting our own leaders. It is from the people that authority is delegated to those who govern. Our faith compels us to participate in the process of putting in place leaders who have a heart for justice and the common good. Therefore, evaluating candidates and then voting is essential to our democracy and faith.

This election season has been increasingly locked in partisan debates. While disagreements on the issues are expected, and indeed helpful in stimulating debate, policy differences have not been the center of attention in this year’s presidential campaign. Rather, both campaigns have highlighted the character flaws of the opposing candidate. Lost in the debate is the real issue of justice for those who are struggling with hunger and poverty. How should faithful Christian citizens respond?  

From our African-American brothers and sisters we learn that voting and other methods of engaging their public voices have been important in their quest in obtaining freedom from social and legal racism in the U.S. while relying on the biblical promise of a transcendent freedom in the afterlife. Social marginalization and oppression of people of African descent, and the acceptance of the biblical narrative of struggle, deliverance, hope, and faith have provoked and encouraged the faith of people of African descent. Such faith has informed their vision and mission to fight for a dignified and equitable quality of life as evidence of earthly freedom.

Christian witness gives the opportunity to influence politics through our faith, which teaches us about the common good, human rights, and human dignity. There are three principles that can help all Christians to evaluate policy positions, party platforms, and candidates’ promises and actions in light of the biblical framework.

  • The principle of subsidiarity tells us that public institutions should adequately protect human dignity, meet human needs, and advance the common good.
  • As a one human family, independently from our nationality, racial and ethnic background, or economic differences, the principle of solidarity calls us to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they live next door or on another continent. Loving our neighbor requires to eradicate racism and poverty in our world.
  • The preferential option for the poor and the most vulnerable among us asks us to critically analyze the implications of the candidates’ proposals for people suffering from discrimination, oppression and injustices in our nation and beyond.

As we trust in God, we are challenged to keep God’s concerns before us in all that we say and do. The manner in which we exercise our rights and responsibilities as citizens, including how we vote, is as an act of faithful Christian stewardship. Be informed, visit our website for elections resources, pray, and vote.

In closing, I would like to share this prayer by Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop of Detroit.

Prayer After An Election

God of all nations, 
Father of the human family, 
we give you thanks for the freedom we exercise 
and the many blessings of democracy we enjoy
in these United States of America. 
We ask for your protection and guidance
for all who devote themselves to the common good,
working for justice and peace at home and around the world.

We lift up all our duly elected leaders and public servants, 
those who will serve us as president, as legislators and judges,
those in the military and law enforcement.
Heal us from our differences and unite us, O Lord,
with a common purpose, dedication, and commitment to achieve liberty and justice
in the years ahead for all people,
and especially those who are most vulnerable in our midst.
Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, revised edition (Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2007).

Bishop Jose García is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.

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