The little town I lived in before I moved west in 2019 was one of New Hampshire's epicenters for political palm pressing and diner photo ops. Their First In the Nation primary made Milford an easy mark for every politician, from Ralph Nader to Mitt Romney. Since Milford had a Labor Day parade it was also a place where politicians could be seen as "regular" folk - just a person willing to walk with the rest of the laborers.
All of this electioneering meant that the lawn sign industry was fully funded, and the free speech laws allowed visual clutter unmatched in most states. Then came the door knockers with all of their lists with bad information on them. And, of course, the radio, TV and internet ads that left a person feeling shoved in a corner unable to escape the constant stream of names and faces.
I have to say that I was glad to leave this hyper-political landscape that seemed to start earlier and last longer every cycle. I'm all for political discourse, but the noise and detritus of our current methodology invites too many people to simply tune out.
And yet, as people of faith, we need to stay engaged despite the noise and detritus that any political season brings. We need to stay engaged because the landscape is filled with highly theological discourse and if we, as progressive Christians who value diversity, inclusion, equity and justice for all, do not enter the arena we allow the voices of a few to speak for us all.
The long history of our own school district having direct and explicit relationships with the conservative faith leaders in this town has created a Defacto belief that these particular faith leaders are theologically synonymous with every faith community in town. This has allowed Young Life and other explicitly Christian evangelical programs to enter the daily activities of our children, influence the atmosphere of our schools and open the door to the current dynamic that is seeking to have books banned, declare support for Trans youth child abuse, and silence any voices that would push back against the Christin Nationalism that is overtaking so much of our common life.
What I find hopeful in this season of lawn signs and political ads is the opportunity to dialogue being presented to us as people of faith. I feel honored to have been invited into some direct dialogue with Sam Skillern and DJ Vincent of the Salem Leadership Foundation (SLF) and Heather Hawkins, Rev. Jerrel Williams and Rabbi Eli Herb of the Salem Keizer Interfaith Network. (SKIN) I believe this dialogue has the possibility of creating greater understanding around the impact of Christian Nationalism in our community and to find ways that we can combat hate and work together toward equity and justice for all.
I will be glad when the ads stop cluttering up my text messages and inbox, but I am grateful for the reminder to be fully engaged as a person of faith and a faith leader when so much seems to be at stake. So, the next time you see a sign, get a call, text or email, think about how your faith informs your choices and where you can invite dialogue across difference.
May the Spirit bring you peace in this season of politicking
Resources of interest:
Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement and an opportunity to be a signer