Civic engagement refers to the ways in which citizens participate in the life of a community in order to improve conditions for others or to help shape the community’s future.
Historically, too many Christians have been reluctant to engage civically, either at the local or national level, and opting out has brought us a largely secular government that has altered the fabric of our country in ways that are discomfiting to many in the faith community. Many have posited that we are here largely due to Christians disengaging from political discourse, either out of fear, indifference, or a misunderstanding of the role we must and are blessed to play in the political process.
As a Christian, and as a woman who cares deeply about my community and my country, this is of great concern to me. Successfully encouraging Christians to reenter the political arena requires persistence, a willingness to speak out and educate, as well as providing a means of fellowship with peers who are active and engaged. This principled goal was given a great boost by Morning Star’s willingness to boldly step into the fray with a Civic Engagement event held on February 20.
A panel of elected officials joined with Pastor Scott to engage in a lively discussion of the why’s and how’s of political engagement and what it means to our community. Representative Jodi Hack (HD19), Representative Bill Post (HD25), Salem City Councilor Brad Nanke and Mt. Angel City Councilor Don Fleck were joined by Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron in sharing their personal stories of community involvement and political action. Pastor Scott’s teaching on a biblical view of citizenship and a lively question-and-answer session with the panel gave participants an opportunity to learn about the privilege and responsibilities of living in this land, the nuts and bolts of our political process, and what it’s like navigating the culture at the capitol.
Councilor Brad Nanke echoed the sentiments of many participants, stating that “the turnout for the forum was beyond my expectations. As is usually the case when politicians are involved, we ran out of time before we could get through all of the great questions from attendees.” Brad is looking forward to providing written responses to those unanswered questions and would like to see a repeat of this type of event on a periodic basis. He says, “I am hopeful that we can have continuing conversations with those who have chosen, or are considering, to get involved to get feedback and answer any other questions.”
Representative Bill Post said the event exceeded his expectations as well, stating, “I hope they [attendees] register, vote, file as a PCP, generally get more active politically.” Post anticipates that other churches in Salem-Keizer follow Morning Star’s lead and he will participate in upcoming panels should he be asked. Just as a reminder, the deadline to file as a Precinct Committee Person (PCP—the grassroots and backbone of any political party) is March 8.
If you, too, would like to see more people actively involved in shaping our community and country, I encourage you to share the event podcast with your friends, family, and other churches here in Salem-Keizer and throughout the state of Oregon. And if you weren’t able to attend the event, you don’t have to miss out! Click here to listen and for the take-home program/resource guide.
In 2016 we find ourselves at a critical juncture, a pivotal year that has the heart and soul of our nation hanging in the balance. It is imperative that we Christians fully engage in the process to assure our voice and our worldview is robustly represented at all levels of government.
Denise Quinn Nanke co-hosts the popular drive-time radio show Gator’s Radio Experience heard weekdays on 1430 KYKN, and operates the Salem-Keizer Sentinel news website. She and her husband Brad are members of Morning Star and have lived in Salem for 28 years.