This entry is part of a series of blogs that connect political volunteering with spiritual themes. These observations come from my current volunteering for a congressional candidate. Today: Speaking from faith.
Earlier in my career, I set aside professional church work in order to learn what laypersons experienced as faithful Christians in the world. One of the more important lessons I hoped to learn was something about “witnessing at work”—a skill that I had often promoted but was not entirely sure how to accomplish. During those years I worked in a Federal job-training program and meat provisioning business. I learned how to speak of my faith. Not polished, but heart-felt and believable.
The memories of those days—especially as a meat worker—have come to mind as we’ve been part of a congressional campaign. The basic question about witnessing has come front-and-center again: What exactly IS witnessing? I’m not thinking here about the theological definition, but a functional way to describe what happens when faith gets put into words that others understand and find helpful.
In my experience, the matter of faith-conversations can get distilled down to a few simple propositions. As Christians, we know things—about how people live and think—that might be helpful in political campaigning. We’re trying to add value to the campaign’s outcomes—something we have in common with other volunteers and campaign staff. We’re not as much proclaiming Gospel—God’s love in Jesus Christ—as we are expressing gospel—good news about godly attitudes and behaviors.
The field office where we volunteer is filled with like-minded people working toward a common goal. So our witnessing takes place within mutually respectful conversation. We offer viewpoints and tell stories that might help our colleagues—and the people we canvass—see a little bit more of what might be worthy of their consideration.
In many ways, this is not a big deal. But perhaps our witnessing—more like quiet example than wordy explanations—does bring something good to this campaign. Making decisions about a candidate comes down to emotion/spirit, and in our brief interchanges with others perhaps we can help them reach deeper into their inner selves.
In a political campaign, how can any of us witness to our faith? We stick to what we know to be true from a faith perspective. We avoid being caught up in thought patterns or actions that don’t mirror Jesus. We show how hope, courage, love of others, forgiveness, generosity, empathy, grace or respect can work as basic values that anchor the campaign. We put aside any hints of arrogance or self-righteousness. We work hard. We stay joyful. When asked, we speak honestly about our motivations and hopes for this work.
The best metaphor for our witnessing behaviors in this campaign may actually NOT be witness as much as yeast or lever—both suggesting practical results that help accomplish the good we seek to do in this campaign. (A little yeast can leaven an entire lump of bread dough, and a lever helps move heavy objects!)
With a few weeks to go before the election, we can continue to witness, and gladly so. What lives inside our souls can be good to share, to show, to put to use.