Vote Vida

Image credit: bilgrimage.blogspot.com

by Megan Cox

I barely slept on the night of November 2. The election results were startling, appalling.

I knew that people in my church and in churches around the country would be ecstatically celebrating what to them is an unalloyed victory. I knew that people like me would be mourning alone.

I am a consistent-life-ethic Christian. I believe that protection of the unborn, justice for the poor, and pursuit of peace should be matters not only of personal practice but also of public policy. For 20 years I have punched my card for nearly every race, but never for president. It has been a matter of conscience.

This time my conscience told me something different. Four years ago the intentions of many thousands of voters were disregarded because of a poorly designed and deceptively worded ballot. This year thousands of registrations were being discarded for petty reasons. Our president, ostensibly pro-life, was waging a preemptive war, and his administration was justifying torture. Rich people were getting enormous tax breaks while poor people were losing homes and health coverage, and no one on the right seemed to care.

It was time to make a statement in favor of voting rights and the sanctity of life outside the womb. So for the first time in 20 years, I cast a vote for president. I voted for Kerry.

But my conscience was not entirely clear. The war talk of the Democratic convention hardly conveyed a commitment to peace. People with fewer means than the middle class barely warranted a mention in the campaign. And Kerry was absolutely clear that there would be no anti-Roe justices appointed to the Supreme Court.

Still, for months I had ardently hoped for a Democratic victory because this year a Republican victory, to me, was unthinkable.

As state after state changed color, I imagined the red spilling into the entire Midwest in 2008. By then the partial-life theology of the Religious Right would have had four more years to spread into the new territory of the Catholic Church. We would have a one-party state, and any party in control of all three branches of government, especially one that uses the apparatus of election administration to suppress legitimate votes, has nothing to restrain it.

I waited to go to bed until I could come to terms with this terrifying new reality. At about three o'clock in the morning it hit me. This is an opportunity. And it is a mandate. When there is no political home for consistent-life-ethic people and we are left with the terrible calculus of determining whose life is most worth protecting, this is what happens. Something has got to change. And it can.

Over the next few days an idea formed:

First of all, Vida. The Religious Right has co-opted the word life, so every articulation of a consistently pro-life stance must be accompanied by a cumbersome series of clarifications. With a simple word like Vida, the Spanish word for "life," we can do some smart marketing: What if Vida came to mean "consistently pro-life" in the national conversation?

We Vida folks have been politically homeless for so long. Election after election, we can't vote our conscience, and the political situation seems to be pointing away from the possibility that Vida candidates will ever emerge in significant numbers. So that goal will have to be the last of the four that I believe we should pursue:

1) Validate Vida: We Vida folks need to find each other, validate each other, and reaffirm to ourselves and one another that a consistently pro-life ethic is scriptural, sensible, logical, and compassionate.

2) Vocalize Vida: We need to stop being mousy about our Vida Values – among our friends and fellow church members, in our political involvement, and in our response to the media. It's time to call Christian radio on the carpet, and it's time to get the Vida Voice into editorial pages, call-in shows, wherever we can.

3) Value Vida: We need to support existing and new Vida organizations with our finances, skills, and energy, and we need to be ready to support Vida candidates with the same if they emerge.

If we do all of this effectively – noisily but tactfully, and certainly relentlessly – we will have pulled together an existing but presently invisible constituency and made it clear that we are here and are ready to work for life, justice, and peace. And then maybe, just maybe, some Vida candidates will emerge and we will be able to achieve goal four:

4) Vote Vida!

If we can make ourselves visible and vocal, we will become viable as a political voice. More people will be drawn to the consistent message, we will grow as a constituency to be reckoned with, and we will begin to see public policies that advance life and justice and peace.

This Vida Vision isn't just about creating a political home. It's about being at home in our churches, too. It's about reclaiming and proclaiming the full message of Christ. It's about our own spiritual wholeness and the wholeness of our witness.

Let's find each other.

Meg Cox is a freelance editor and indexer living in Chicago.  She would like to help consistent-life-ethic people find each other and has set up an email address for that purpose. You can contact her at CelebrateVida@aol.com.

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