With news about the election saturating the airwaves, I’ve been thinking about voting as an act of worship. In secular conversation, casting a vote is typically portrayed as fulfilling one’s civic responsibility, of honoring one’s obligation to our democracy by acting as an informed and engaged participant in the electoral process. Undoubtedly this is all true, but I can’t help feeling that this bloodless, rational interpretation misses something critical: Voting, like prayer is aspirational.
The book of Hebrews labels faith “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” It seems those words apply just as well to casting a ballot as they do to saying a prayer. Particularly at the end of such a bitter and divisive electoral cycle, envisioning a political future marked by cooperation, and a non-zero sum attitude in addressing the grave problems we face, requires a good deal of faith.
Though the presidential race has featured little common ground, I think we can all agree that we yearn, desperately, for political proceedings that transcend the mire we’ve been muddling through. And so we go, pull aside the voting curtain, and enter the sanctuary of the voting booth—hopeful that the candidate we select will elevate our discourse, and foster unity in a time of division. We check a box yearning that the coming term will indeed yield the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.
So tomorrow, vote. Vote for unity and peace in spite of a campaign that has yielded precious little of either. And vote secure in the knowledge that, just as God is present in all other acts of worship, God can still be found in the ballot box. All it takes is a little faith.
Ben Perry is an Assistant Editor at Time, Inc., a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in NYC and a member of Bedford Presbyterian Church.