Public Witness

Engaging Democracy

Allison Tanner

October 23, 2020

“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we call the Beloved Community…. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”

– Congressman John Lewis

Jesus Portillo and his wife Kasa writing letters to encourage people to vote

We are 11 days away from the 2020 election. Many reading this have already voted and many more will do so in the coming days. I am grateful for everyone who has or is planning to vote in this critical, and historic, election. In addition to voting, I am grateful for everyone who has participated in the democratic process: educating yourself on the issues of the ballot from top to bottom, engaging in discussions about the impact of propositions and initiatives, writing letters to encourage people to vote, talking to others about the importance of voting, saying prayers for a safe and fair election process, and volunteering to assist others in getting their vote to the ballot box. Each of these acts is important in shaping an environment of civic, moral and spiritual responsibility to engage in democracy.

Last Friday, while Oscar was washing cars, several people used their “waiting room” time to write letters to encourage people who historically don’t vote or are underrepresented in elections to vote in this election. Together, we mailed 60 letters. My letters encouraged people to vote because “this election will shape the future of our country.” What I love about these photos of our letter writers is that Oscar wanted to be a part of the process. Although he cannot vote, his presence reminds us that this election will have significant impact on his freedom and safety, as well as the freedom and safety of so many who live in the United States, and around the world.

If you have yet to vote, and are looking for resources to help inform you on what is at stake in this election, here are are a few voter guides from partner organizations: Faith in Action, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, California Council of Churches and League of Women Voters.

In addition to casting your vote, our commitment to democracy continues long past November 3. Should it take some time for the process of our democracy to determine a clear winner of this election, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America invites us to consider the following pledge to defend democracy from Choose Democracy:


  1. We will vote.
  2. We will refuse to accept election results until all the votes are counted.
  3. We will nonviolently take to the streets if a coup is attempted.
  4. If we need to, we will shut down this country to protect the integrity of the democratic process.

Whether or not you fully agree with this pledge, it raises important questions about what it means to defend democracy and what we would be willing to do should an undemocratic power grab be attempted. In the midst of a pandemic, for example, what safe, non-violent forms of protest might you engage in? What everyday aspects of life might need “shut down” to protect the democratic process?

I share this pledge with you not to raise alarm or stir up anxiety, but to let you know that people across this country are at work preparing to defend democracy, should it need defended. I have been asked by Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity to serve as a faith liaison coordinating the faith community in these efforts, as necessary, and commit to provide Lakeshore with opportunities to defend democracy (from your homes or in the streets), should the need arise.

Lakeshore’s prayer is for clear election results, along with a smooth transition of power, if that is the outcome of the election. Yet as with so much of 2020, we are living in unprecedented times of great uncertainty. What we know for sure is that we will continue to embody faith not fear, we will continue to work for justice, and we will continue to follow the ways of Jesus – together!

Thanks Carol Norris Travis for the mask!

Praying for peace in our land, working for justice in our communities, and voting for practices and policies that promote the Kin-dom of God,

Pastor Allison