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November 5, 2016

Bishop Dietsche Speaks of the Principles That Christians Must Bring into The Voting Booth

cropforweb_aimg_2100Toward the end of his address to the Diocesan Convention yesterday in Tarrytown, NY, Bishop Dietsche turned to the coming election, and reminded those in the room of the “basic, unambiguous principles of ordinary godly love which all Christians must bring with them into the public square, and into the voting booth.” The text of the relevant section of his address is shown in full below.

Day before yesterday Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, whom you may remember as a speaker at this convention in 2010, led an interfaith delegation of Egyptian Muslims and Christians on a visit to our diocese, as the guests of the Episcopal-Muslim Relations Committee, chaired by Father Masud Syedullah, and the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission, chaired by Father Joe Campo.  It was a happy group, and a delightful meeting at Diocesan House.  But we found that it was necessary to address some of the hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric that Muslims around the world are hearing from America.  We found it necessary to explain that that rhetoric does not reflect the thoughts of all Americans, and that exploring good, fruitful interfaith relationships is an integral part of our lives in and love of Jesus.  We embrace people of other faiths not despite our being Christians, but because of it.  And we warmly welcomed our guests.  And I think we were reassuring.  But it was humbling to stand before these representatives of the wider world and acknowledge that this election season has been marked by some of the most extraordinary language we have seen.  
 
In three days this country will elect its next president.  The candidates hold very different positions on many issues of public policy, and on these matters Christians may honestly disagree.  Our faith does not point us toward any one particular candidate in this or any election.  This is why, even as we speak directly to issues in the body politic or questions of social justice from the pulpit, and must do so, our preachers do not publicly endorse particular candidates.  Because we do not confuse the message of any political party platform with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I will vote on Tuesday.  And you too should fulfill your responsibility on Tuesday, and vote for the candidate you believe will best lead our country over the next four years.
 
But the act of voting inherently raises an existential question for people of faith.  Are we first citizens of the body politic, whose religious convictions are quite separate from and unconcerned with the public life, are simply personal and which have regard only to our own salvation?  Or, are we first citizens of the Kingdom, and proclaimers by the things we say and the things we do of the the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through whose teachings and by whose inspiration we view and understand the political world in which we live and act?  I know the answer to those questions.  
 
The former is the lie told by the Prince of this World, who would have us put our full trust and hope in anything other than the God we know in Christ Jesus, while the latter is the holy and sacred call to an ever more deeply rich experience of and participation in life.  Pope Francis referenced this passage from Mark’s Gospel:  “[Love compels us] to go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation,” and then said “Here, ‘the creation’ refers to every aspect of human life;  consequently, the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ has a universal destination.  Its mandate of charity encompasses all dimensions of existence, all individuals, all areas of community life, and all peoples.  Nothing human can be alien to it.”  (Evangelii Gaudium, no.181)
 
For those who have answered the call to discipleship, there are some basic, unambiguous principles of ordinary godly love which all Christians must bring with them into the public square, and into the voting booth.  They are not debatable for Christians, for they are revealed truths, deriving from the commandment to love God and love neighbor, and may be superceded by no political rhetoric or claim.  
 
The equality and dignity of all persons of every race and gender and sexual orientation, for we are every one of us made in the image of God and redeemed by the One who took our flesh upon himself and dwelt among us.  Who said, “I came that all may be one, as the Father and I are one.”
 
The welcome of the stranger at the gate, remembering that once you were strangers in Egypt.  And more recently, immigrants on the American shore.  So Christians claim solidarity with, the oppressed, the vulnerable, the refugee and the outcast who stand at the gate and knock.  
 
Compassion and relief for the poor, and economic justice for those who are shut out of the human possibility of the abundant life, all in the name of the One who said, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Because they cannot repay you.”  
 
A commitment to non-violence, and to peace, and to the sacrifice of self-interest for the sake of that peace.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
 
And the gracious stewardship of creation and all that God has given into our hands.  Before it slips away.
 
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent and worthy of praise.  Train your mind to these things only.
 
Paul said, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us:  we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”  If you are to be a Christian, you must be a Christian all the time, and in the public square, be that reconciliation in the world.
 
In the last year it has seemed that too many voices have appealed to our worst selves.  You are my beloveds, my brothers and sisters, my Christians;  and I pray that in all that we have said or done at this convention, or might have done, in the work we have been given to do in our lives in our church, our communities, our nation and in the world, in this life we have been given to share, we may be of one purpose, and that is that we will always always always, in the name of Jesus Christ, be only and all the time our very best selves.  

The full text of Bishop Dietsche’s address will be posted shortly.