We asked members of our staff to share what moves them to do justice work. This month Rev. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, reflects on why she values her vote as a person of faith and a member of her community.
Why I Vote
As far back as I can remember my Mom and Dad were engaged in public life, taking their civic responsibilities seriously at the local, state, and national level. It may come as a surprise to learn that for years my parents did not belong to the same political party – one was Democrat and the other Republican. However, it did not get in the way of their learning all they could about candidates and issues. These discussions and debates were common in household conversations especially during the election season. I can still hear my mother, who came from a community cloaked with injustice, calling on people to step up and step out. So, first, I give credit to my parents for the significant role they played as involved community members.
At the same time, our family was active in the Roman Catholic Church. We went to Mass every Sunday and attended the required Catechism educational programs regularly. As a child I did not connect the two, but I suspect that my parents surely did. While their civic work was focused on the common good, they could not uncouple themselves from a church that was a significant part of community life. Time passed and generations evolved; however, those teachings remain imbedded in the values that drive my belief that people of faith must be part of social engagement because the business of justice and peace is central to our core Christian teachings.
Curiously, the question regularly comes up about why political involvement is the church’s business. Social activism is part of the joy and cost of discipleship. It has been from my place in the pews of the local church–in this beloved United Church of Christ-that I discovered that the church has some business in all of this. It is in the pews that I heard the scriptures read proclaiming that God is a God of justice. It is in the pews that it became vividly clear to me that we are responsible to one another. It is in the pews that I learned to shout out with courage. What is the church’s business in all of this – it may sound like a rhetorical question – but it is one we need to answer.
My faith has moved me to work toward the common good, which drove me to seek public office as a member of the school district board of education. The two compelling issues we faced were equal access for all children and adequate funding for schools, both of which have steadily deteriorated for decades. When I was serving as the chair of the board, we were forced to close school three weeks early because of the funding crisis. It became clear to me at that time that our society was headed down a slippery slope, paying 10 times the amount of annual funding per child for juvenile detention centers than we did for public education. Tragically, this pattern has worsened over time.
As a person of faith, I vote because I am convinced that Jesus walked among us to demonstrate what it means to love and care for one another. As a member of the community, I vote because I believe in the common good that is only achieved through an effective democratic process–one for which we yearn. My faith and community life are as interconnected for me as they were for my Mom and Dad. I miss them every day and promise to do my best to model their values that weave my Christian teachings with civic responsibility.
This essay was orginally published as a part of the Witness for Justice series.