Rabble Rousing in the Voting Booth

Posted by Kelly.Staples on November 1, 2016

Broadway musical, Hamilton, © Joan Marcus/Shane Marshall Brown

Here’s something funny: did you know that the Presbyterians were so instrumental to the American Revolution that across the pond for years afterward the war was called The Presbyterian WarThe Presbyterian Revolt  and The Presbyterian Rebellion ?

Prime Minister Horace Walpole said in British Parliament, of the skirmish that would become the fight for independence, “Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson.” (referring to John Witherspoon, signer of Declaration of Independence)

Historian Paul Carlson writes in his book, Our Presbyterian Heritage, “When Cornwallis was driven back to ultimate retreat and surrender at Yorktown, all of the colonels of the Colonial Army but one were Presbyterian elders. It is estimated that more than one half of all the soldiers and officers of the American Army during the Revolution were Presbyterian.”

One discovered letter from a British Loyalist reads: “I fix all the blame for these extraordinary proceedings upon the Presbyterians. They have been the chief and principal instruments in all these flaming measures.”

Presbyterians have a long history of being involved with politics.  Seven of our U.S. presidents claimed “Presbyterian” as their religious beliefs. (Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan)

So if your religious beliefs call you to count yourself among the lineage of the “rabble rousing” esteemed Presbyterians, I encourage you to go vote.

Seriously, go vote.

I know some of you are DONE with politics right now. You’re ticked about the tone of the presidential election. Maybe you’ve found zero major candidates that you feel ready to support. I say this in the most pastoral way possible:

You still need to vote.

After all, there’s more on your ballot than just a few names for president. Depending on where you live there are potential senators, congressmen and congresswomen, sheriffs, and judges running for office. There could be school taxes, zoning questions, retirement fund propositions, and changes to local laws. Heck, in my neighborhood there are no republican or democrat signs on display, instead folks use their lawns to share their opinions on the possibility of a new baseball stadium.

There’s got to be SOMETHING on that ballot that you care about, SOMETHING that affects you.

Something that after prayer, research, and reasoning, you feel ready to weigh in on. And if not, I challenge you to think about how much you care and contribute to your community. If we are called to make this world a little more like God’s kingdom on Earth, why wouldn’t we start in our own neighborhoods and towns? As frustrating as this world can be, we are not called to shrug our shoulders and say, “well, this place sucks. I sure am looking forward to heaven!”

Go make your voice heard, and tell our country what you need to on November 8th. It’s a well honored Presbyterian tradition… and sometimes it changes the world.

Rev. Kelly Staples is Associate Pastor and Director of Youth Ministries at NorthPark Presbyterian Church.

Citations and suggestions for further reading:

“Those Blasted Presbyterians: Reflections on Independence Day” July 4, 2014 http://donsweeting.com/2014/07/04/those-blasted-presbyterians-reflections-on-independence-day/

Our Presbyterian Heritage, Paul Carlson (Elgin:  David C. Cook, 1973) p. 16

A list of statements made concerning major social issues by The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA https://www.presbyterianmission.org/what-we-believe/social-issues/


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