I met Charlotte Vaughan Coyle at the Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas earlier this summer. I was in the hotel’s Starbuck’s coffee shop. Charlotte was sitting in the chair next to me. We started some small talk that evolved into the politics of the day.
I abruptly stopped the conversation because I wanted to get her perspective on video. You see, in today’s America, I have found that many Christians have become some of the least compassionate and the most insensitive human beings. Charlotte Vaughan Coyle is not only a Christian, she is an ordained minister. This is what she had to say then.
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle is also a writer with great perspective. I had mentioned to her that if she had any essays she wanted to get out, I would be more than happy to post it at my site. After-all, her voice needed to be heard. I received an email from Charlotte today with one that needs to be read. Please read it and share it throughout your Facebook, Twitter, and whatever other social media you use as her perspective is one that’s surely needed.
A Reflection from Charlotte Vaughan Coyle
I’ll Vote for Jesus
I’ve been doing voter registration in my small East Texas County and it has been fascinating to meet so many different people and to hear just a snatch of their stories. A few people would vote for Texas to secede from the United States; several wouldn’t dare vote for any of the “puppets” running for any kind of office; quite a few women lean forward to listen more closely when I tell them that some strong smart women are running for Texas’ top positions. My favorites are the people who look down at their feet and tell me they can’t vote because they have a felony conviction in their past. I get to ask them: “Are you off paper? Have you finished your parole and probation? Then you ARE eligible to vote!” You should see the expressions on their faces. Sometimes it’s the people who have lost their right to vote who most appreciate its privilege and are willing to once again step up to its responsibility.
But I have to admit I was taken back a bit when one woman looked me in the eye and said: “I’ll vote for Jesus.” I am a Christian minister and I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at her response. I’m a big fan of Jesus too and I think the world would be a much better place if more of us actually lived his values. But that doesn’t seem to be happening. Even when people who wear the name of Christ wield some control in houses of legislature and governor’s mansions, I don’t see too many ways that Jesus’ values get folded into our laws and policies. Certain types of “Christian” values get a lot of public play these days, but it’s rare that Jesus’ deepest values actually influence the values of our society.
Feed the hungry. Welcome the stranger. Care for the orphans and widows. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Private charity is a good and necessary thing in every society, but in America many of our current laws that reflect these values have been hard fought and often accomplished over the protests of some of the very people who wear the name of the Christ; the Christ who taught and lived these most basic values of “loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.” The way I read my Bible, Jesus saved his harshest critique not for the government, but rather for the people who perverted religion into a self-centered, self-serving enterprise. If a person’s religion doesn’t feed the hungry and welcome the stranger, then it’s not the same faith Jesus practiced. If a person’s religion doesn’t move them to seek systemic solutions to hunger, illness and exclusion then it’s not the kind of faith I care to practice.
I am a Christian minister and I am also a Democrat because, for me, Democrats best express the values I understand to be Christian. Some of my Republican friends don’t get this. Some of my Democratic friends won’t see it this way. Some of my Christian friends disagree, but this is what works for me. Advocating for public policies that truly serve the common good and embody the values of “liberty and justice for all” is one way I can live out my faith in appropriate ways within my society. A recent encouragement came across my Facebook news feed from the Red Letter Christians: “Heal the Sick. Feed the Hungry. And when you learn what is making them sick and hungry, interrupt it in Jesus’ name.” Good plan.
Jesus is not running for office so there is no way my new friend can “vote for Jesus.” But the rest of us can vote for people who are committed to the same values Jesus taught and lived. We can vote for movements that invite us to join in and help improve the lives of all our neighbors. We can vote our values. We can vote. And we must. Each of us individually, all of us together do something important and vital when we vote our values of equity, honesty and compassion.
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle is a minister ordained by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination. She has created Living in The Story as a way to model a progressive Christian approach to the Bible. Charlotte lives and writes from Paris TX.
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