For people of faith, voting is a theological duty

Candles were lit during a Lexington vigil to honor the victims who were killed in an attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Candles were lit during a Lexington vigil to honor the victims who were killed in an attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. aslitz@herald-leader.com

In the space of one week, I have seen an unprecedented rise of evil in this country. And in that same week, I have seen an unprecedented rise of goodness here in my corner of the nation.

If the radicalized right-wing pipe bomber had had his way, we would be burying the remains of a media newsroom and 13 prominent Democrats, including two former presidents.

A radicalized anti-Semitic gunman did have his way, and 11 souls at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh have been buried last week. Another radicalized gunman attempted a similar massacre at a black church near Louisville, but when he found the doors locked, he murdered two African-American elders at a Kroger. And in Florida, a gunman killed two and injured five at a yoga studio.

Many of those killed were doing some of the most peaceful things — engaging in prayer, worship and mind-body meditation. Yet the hateful and inflammatory rhetoric from the occupant of the highest office in this country has created conditions in which no one — not even a 97-year-old great-grandmother attending synagogue — is safe.

At the same time, a new force for goodness is organizing across this country, and I witnessed three gatherings that give me hope and courage.

The Kentucky Council of Churches gathered for its annual assembly just down the street from that Jeffersontown Kroger where grocery shopping meant death to two individuals because of their skin color. The religious leaders committed themselves to working to counter the narrative perpetuated by radical right-wing Christianity that undergirds political violence.

A few days later in Lexington, hundreds gathered for a service of solidarity with our Jewish neighbors. The energy of love and resolve among this multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-gender, multi-racial gathering was a potent antidote to the terror and despair hanging like a shroud around our nation.

Then on Fri., Nov. 2, a sound of holy thunder rose up from Total Grace Baptist Church in Lexington when The Rev. Dr. William Barber gathered with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Speaking to a packed house of citizens, clergy and government officials, Barber shared with us what Jewish leaders told him to convey after the gun massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue. They told him about one little Hebrew word: kol. which means both “voice” and “vote.”

He explained that because human beings are created in the image of God, any kind of voter suppression is “theological malpractice.”

That malpractice happens when felons who have served their time are denied the right to vote. It happens when gerrymandering manipulates district lines to effectively de-voice a population. But it also happens when people of faith, of their own accord, do not vote.

No matter the outcome of the midterms, the real work begins Nov.7. Forty-six When percent of people in Kentucky are poor; that means 2 million residents — 56 percent of them children. Black residents are incarcerated at over three times the rate of whites and 271,400 people are uninsured.

It’s time to overwhelm the ballot box with goodness, solidarity and love. Then, it’s time to get to work putting our minds, hands and legs on that love.

Leah D. Schade is an ordained minister and professor in Lexington. She can be reached at leahschade@gmail.com.