polling station blue sky booth election dayThere’s always some morality zinger that sends good Christian folks into a tizzy. And best believe, where there’s a fury, there’s an outspoken, sometimes charismatic man or woman of the cloth at the helm of the religious zealotry, fanning the flames of outrage. Right on time and right at the heart of this election year’s controversy is a band of black ministers using their platform to encourage their congregants and followers to stay home on November 6

Rather than urging parishioners to cast their ballots, they’re dissatisfied with the options to choose from -- a chief commander who publicly announced his support of gay marriage or the other guy, who is deeply entrenched in the Mormon faith that, at one time, disallowed African-American priests. At first blush, the notion of sitting out the election is just plain silly. At second, it’s irresponsible leadership to incite folks to forfeit their right to vote.

Where’s the empowerment in that form of “protest”? Sitting at home soaking up the Xfinity rather than pulling the trigger on their quadrennial democratic duty is hardly a movement to solve any of our pressing social and economic problems.

I love the good Lord, but I can’t with Christian conservatism. It keeps people in bondage -- emotionally, mentally, psychologically, even politically, culturally, and socially. In previous elections, it was the abortion debate, ripe for what-would-Mary-do? judgment and pitting any presidential hopeful against the finger wagging of the holier than thou. And in this case, it pushes people who are already habitually disenfranchised to sacrifice their voice and make this latest hot-button issue a higher priority than seeing the bigger picture of each candidate’s entire platform.

1. Health care: A sky-high HIV infection rate, diabetes, and high blood pressure running all over our genes, and regular access to quality medical services, including medications, are top concerns and well worth heading to the polls for, despite who’s marrying who and what gender they are.

2. The economy: Black unemployment hovers around 14 percent and is projected by some sources to be as high as 20 percent by election time. Whether Dan and Stan get married bears zero influence on a family’s ability to eat, pay for housing, and buy necessities. So darn sure the economy needs to be the issue to push for the polls.

3. Education: Our problems in this area are too many to list, from safety in our public schools to the overrepresentation of black students in special ed. That being said, just one of them is more than enough reason to go the voting booth. The existing education gap and all of its tributaries mean we should be racing each other there.

4. Gun control: For the sake of the poor people living in war-torn areas right here in the U.S. (and they’re not all major metropolises like Philly and Detroit—the FBI had to impose a curfew on lil’ ol’ Harrisburg, Pennsylvania because of gun violence).

5. Abortion and contraception: Duh. For obvious reasons.

To add insult to injury, all of this brouhaha stems from our inexplicably deep-rooted belief that gay marriage is a sin, that the Bible explicitly prohibits the union of two members of the same sex. Somewhere in there, that used and abused Sodom and Gomorrah will inevitably rear its ugly head as a support reference, even though we’ll fornicate like nobody’s business, gossip like there’s no tomorrow, and break commandments like they’re up for negotiation. All that’s fine so long as homosexuality’s not involved. But there are bigger issues to tackle than the one directly related to less than 1 percent of American households.

Black ministers have a responsibility to their congregants that extends way above and beyond baptizing new babies, praying folks through the hard knocks of life, and inciting break-outs of the Holy Spirit. Because the church has historically been the center of the black community and because 80 percent of African-Americans identify themselves as Christian, ministers -- some, not all -- wield an enormous amount of power and influence. They need to use it wisely.

Is protesting the voting process effective?


Image via dailyfortnight/Flickr