Friday, October 31, 2008

    THE YOUTH VOTE II: Faith & Politics

    A seminary friend and fellow youth minister, Lori Tisher, shared with us a Bible study/discussion guide she developed to help youth consider the interaction of faith and politics. You'll find an adapted version of that guide below. If it's too late to use it for this election season, perhaps save it for the next time you are getting ready to vote.


    Draw an imaginary line down the middle of the room. One end represents agree, the other disagree and every gradation of opinion in between. Make a statement and tell the youth to go to the place on the imaginary line that would match their response. To help the youth think even deeper, for some questions, ask a person or two to explain why they placed themselves where they did on the line.

    Sample statements:

    I am more interested in voting on issues rather than specific candidates.
    If I could vote in the upcoming election, I would vote for the same people or issues as my parents.
  • The media and poll results highly influence my political opinions.
    My life experiences (where I’ve lived, people I have interacted with, etc.) shape how I vote.
  • I would vote for a candidate based on their appearance – what they look like, etc.
  • A candidate’s technological knowledge (internet use, etc) is very important.
  • A candidate’s sexual orientation (if they are gay or straight) would influence my vote for them.
  • I think the only way to honor the separation of church and state is to not talk about politics at all at church.
  • I think the faith of a candidate is important when deciding who to vote for.
  • My faith influences who I would vote for.


    Invite youth to read the following scripture passages aloud and then share with them the corresponding comments and questions:

    Genesis 17: 1-7
    When Abram was 99 years old, God appeared to him … and said, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall now be Abraham … I will make you exceedingly fruitful and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between you and me and your offspring after you … to be an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

    Notice: Faith and politics were connected in ancient Israel. The ancient people believed that God’s promise to be in relationship with them was intertwined with their political system (anointing kings). The theological claim they are making throughout scripture is that God cares about what they do and how they act, including who they give power to and how they rule.
    Question: Is this true for people of faith today? For you? How?

    Psalm 9:7-8 and Psalm 10:16a
    The Lord sits enthroned forever. God has established God’s throne for judgment. God judges the world with righteousness; God judges the peoples with equity. . . .The Lord is king forever and ever.
    Notice: The ancient people tried to understand who God was by comparing God to a king or political figure (an image they were very familiar with). What is important to God, according to this passage?

    Question: Is this still a good comparison (God – king) to help us understand who God is today? What is important to God in our world today (this question will be answered more fully in later exercises)?

    Matthew 22:21
    Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
    Notice: Even in Jesus’ time, the question of separation of religion and state was a sticky topic.

    Question: Do you know people of faith who refuse to pay taxes today, as an act of civil disobedience? (because the taxes support war efforts, etc.)?

    Luke 17: 20-21
    The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, The kingdom of God is not coming with these things that can be observed; nor can we say “Look, here it is!” or There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.

    Notice: Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of God. He used language and concepts with which the people were familiar (kingdoms). The kingdom of God was completely different from any kingdom the people had known, though. The kingdom of God was a “place” in which God’s values – of righteousness and equity – dominated; completely opposite from any kingdom that the people were familiar with (in which the rich and powerful oppressors ruled). The people had a very hard time understanding the concept of this new kingdom of God.
    Question: Does the kingdom of God exist today? What does it look like? How do we strive towards it or help bring it about?

    Romans 14:17
    The kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
    Notice: Paul was explaining to the people of Rome that in order to create and live in a world that would be in line with God’s values (the kingdom of God), they shouldn’t be so worried about following all of the old laws – about what to eat, etc. – but instead they should care about being compassionate and respectful to their neighbors.

    Question: How can we create the kingdom of God and live in a world that would be in line with God’s values today?

    Consider passing out copies of your local ballot (likely available on the internet from your local board of elections.) Review with youth the ballot issues and candidates,, making special note of interesting facts (i.e. there are actually several people running for president!).

    The youth may want to spend more time discussing the specifics of the hot topic current issues in your community. If time permits, ask if any of the youth have any strong feelings – as people of faith - about any of these ballot issues or candidates. This is a question which has the potential for leading into a heated debate. You will need to be careful to allow youth to express themselves respectfully, without allowing the discussion to get out of hand and lose control of the session.

    Option One: Many organizations develop “voter guides” which include suggestions to help voters decided who or what to vote for. Invite youth to work in small groups to develop their own “voter guide” that would reflect the things they believe God cares about and the issues that they believe are closest to God’s heart (whether they are on the ballot this election or not). Based on their understanding of who God is and what God’s dreams are for the world (what does scripture say, what do we learn about God in church, what do you know about God from personal experience), how would God influence us to vote? Some suggestions to include in the “voter guide”: healthcare, war, environment, human rights.

    Option Two: Invite youth to pick one of their faith priorities and find two other youth who also share that faith priority. As a team, challenge them to brainstorm how they might get involved with this issue. What sorts of things can they do – as teens today – to affect the political process concerning this issue? Have the teams then create a poster that promotes their ideas and then show the posters to the whole group at the end of the discussion.


    Eric said...

    This is wonderful...and exactly what I was looking for for tomorrow night's youth group. Thanks!

    Brian said...

    Glad this was helpful. It came at just the right time for me to use it with my youth, too!

    ian said...

    I'd like to share my song and video as a resource for conversation around faith and politics. The song is called "Say Goodbye" and is the first release from my forthcoming record, "Take That Step" due in Spring '13. The song poses the question - what's it going to be, with the clear implication that it's up to each of us to be engaged in order to get something done. My music videos have been used by teachers across a variety of disciplines and education levels - from High School to University age. Contact me at my website and I"ll send you the Mp3 and the Quicktime movie of the song that you can use.