Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,
I will be glad when this election season is over. There has been so much ugliness on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s sad and discouraging. In all of this it is often difficult to see the high values of American democracy. What high values? How about those articulated in the Preamble of The United States Constitution?
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Yes, these are words about high values. They are about people living in harmony. They are about noble values. They are, above all, about community, citizenship, and the common good.
Why can’t our politicians frame their ads with values like these? Instead, attack ads are standard fare. Demonizing opponents is normalized. Fueling animosity is acceptable behavior. By the time it’s all done, we all have little respect for any of those running and we become jaded about the whole system. We choose our sides and isolate ourselves in our political corners, even within families. This is hardly constructive. It doesn’t lead to harmony. It isn’t noble. It doesn’t contribute to the common good. It certainly isn’t patriotic, a word so cheapened and distorted today that it is in desperate need of redemption.
Sojourner Magazine President Adam Russell Taylor recently made this point in an article titled “Being Apolitical Won’t Heal Polarized Churches” when he observed:
“Redeeming patriotism requires reframing our love for the best of America’s ideals and aspirations. It requires understanding that the right to critique America is part of the brilliance of America. … Redeeming patriotism requires greater willingness to have courageous and civil conversations about the very ideals that make us love America.”
There are those who suggest that politics should be left out of faith. This is neither possible nor desirable. Politics is always about how people organize themselves in community—the word politics literally derived from “polis”—or city. This organizing has inherent ethical and moral dimension.
We who are baptized members of the Church and followers of Jesus Christ are committed to a particular set of beliefs and way of living that also have inherent ethical and moral implications. Jesus’ “Summary of the Law” provides the essential principles—You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,’ and You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This is given more specific expression in our Baptismal Promises. These promises demand that we place our ultimate belief, trust and allegiance in God over any other claim, including those of the nation, especially when those claims become gross and distorted as they have, for example, in the increasingly prevalent expressions of so-called Christian Nationalism.
Our baptismal promises also provide us with an ethical and moral framework for daily living:
to continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers
to persevere in resisting evil and whenever we fall into sin to repent and return to the Lord
to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ
to seek and serve Christ in all persons loving our neighbor as our self
to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being
We are not supposed to abandon these promises and the values they articulate when we enter the voting booth or fill out our ballot at home. These promises, these values, should be determinative in how we vote.
Before we vote, we should always ask ourselves: Does my vote forward Gospel justice as expressed by Jesus in Luke 4:16–21 or Matthew 25:31–46, for example? To ask this question is to ask if this country is living up to the demands of Jesus and the ideals of our faith. To the degree that it does, the more authentically it lives into the high values expressed in the Preamble to the Constitution and their emphasis on harmony and living that is noble in the sight of all.
On Tuesday, Nov. 8, which is Election Day across the country, our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and newly elected President of the House of Deputies Julia Ayala Harris will be among the featured guests for a prayer event livestreamed from 8 p.m. to midnight Eastern on the church’s Facebook page. The event is hosted by the church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations.
In a press release about the event, Rebecca Linder Blachly, Director of the Office of Government Relations said “We welcome everyone as we reflect on this key process of our common life and on the importance of fair elections for our democracy…We hope many voters will join us that day to pray for our leaders, neighbors, and country.”
I invite and urge you to join this prayer event and to pray for our nation at a critical time in our history.
God bless us all.
The Right Rev. William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey
 See Preamble to the United States Constitution found at The Constitution of the United States | National Archives
 Tayor, Adam Russell “BEING APOLITICAL WON’T HEAL POLARIZED CHURCHES”—Sojourners—October 27, 2022 found at Being Apolitical Won’t Heal Polarized Churches | Sojourners
 See Mark 12:28-31
 For troubling studies of the rise of this frightening phenomenon, see Stewart, Katherine The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism (New York, London, etc.: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019) and Whitehead, Andrew L. and Perry, Samuel L. Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020)
 See Book of Common Prayer -1979 p. 304-305