Recently the POWER Interfaith Freedom Express riders hosted a “Party at the Ballot Box” to celebrate the power of our votes and our voices with the Allentown community. With so much contention in the political atmosphere, coming together in celebration of our rights, with people of different faiths, races and ages is a balm to the heart. In times of division, coming together to share our joy is a path toward wholeness, and we need to recognize and lift up the incredible potency of our voices and our votes.
In this hotly contested election cycle, where we are already seeing efforts to suppress voter turnout, the importance of each vote cannot be overstated. We know that voter suppression can look like outright intimidation, the threat of violence at polling places, but it can also come in the form of creating barriers to access. These attacks on voting rights are not incidental, they are deliberate attempts to sway the outcomes of these crucial elections. The myriad tactics employed to keep people from voting are targeted at those whose voices the extreme right wing would most like to silence, Black and brown voters, voters who look like me and my congregants. Making sure that people have the information and resources they need to exercise their rights is central to our work.
Rev. Dr. Gregory J. Edwards is the senior pastor at the Resurrected Life Community Church, UCC in Allentown and president and CEO of the Resurrected Community Development Corporation. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)
Rather than be discouraged by the desire of some to create roadblocks to exercising our rights, we recognize that it is the power of our votes that scares those who would try to obstruct us. That’s why we choose instead to come together, get fired up with a live DJ, share some food and ensure the community has access to the information they need to exercise their rights. That’s why we’ve revved up the Freedom Express, a bus tour and action campaign that we are taking across Pennsylvania. We are making stops in 16 cities to promote a vision for building a beloved community in Pennsylvania. The extreme right wing has toxified the narrative of what it means to be a voter of faith, but we know that having faith, any faith, is about inclusion and love, not division and hatred. That’s why we’re working to restore faith in democracy, rally people of conviction and build a vision of hope for Pennsylvania that is rooted in inclusivity, diversity and justice.
Genuine hope comes from facing challenges head on. Real, multiracial, multifaith democracy has a future in the U.S., but only if we admit its uncertain future and fight for it. We believe every vote is sacred and we carry that message into every action of this campaign. In our democracy, the only equalizing measure across society is the vote. People who might not be heard in voice can be heard through their vote. Protecting the right to vote, and exercising the right to vote become acts of justice, the sacred work of ensuring the dignity of all.
Across Pennsylvania, some of our most fundamental rights are on the ballot this fall and it is beholden on all of us to recognize the enormous impact we can have if we meet the moment. Too much has been sacrificed to take this right for granted. Yet if we focus only on the moral imperative, exercising our franchise can feel like a dry obligation, or worse, a burden. That’s why we also need to party at the ballot box, to bring the lighthearted spirit of togetherness, and genuine fun, to the forefront of our efforts.
The best of all of our faiths call us into the work of justice. We lift each other up in our glorious diversity and gain strength through celebrating each other in our difference and wholeness. That’s why we’re urging all those we’re in community with to vote their conscience this November so that we can build a Pennsylvania that everyone can celebrate.
The Rev. Gregory Edwards is the founder and senior pastor of the Resurrected Life Community Church and chief of staff at POWER Interfaith, a nonpartisan faith-based community organizing network representing more than 150 congregations across Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania.