Spirituality and Democracy: Staying Engaged Amid Vulnerability


This is a follow-up reflection to my post: What Are Our Choices? Conventions, Elections, and Spiritual Practices.

There’s an additional element that I discovered inside of me since I began writing about spiritual practices for this election season. Democracy is an extraordinarily challenging political system. There are many elements​ that make it unlikely to be established in the first place, and it’s even more complex to maintain among a collection of people with great diversity. Daily, we see those challenges triumphing around the world and often devolving into violence.

​A current challenge to maintaining Democracy that seems to be facing​ the United States​ is how to stay engaged. When language that does not include respect for ​every citizen is so widely used, self-protection from judgment and shame becomes an inner stance. Maybe we first encountered that kind of critical language in our families, on playgrounds, or in our houses of worship. Regardless, by adolescence we’re well versed in self-protective measures to create distance from that provocation and to hide our vulnerability. Self-protection can take the form of disengagement and/or joining the aggressive rhetoric. In addition to wreaking havoc internally, both of those infringe upon a healthy Democracy. We need all the voices to be heard and all the complexities considered in order for a Democracy to thrive–‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ When fewer and fewer participate, disenfranchisement increases, and Democracy crumbles.

Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us that we can legislate desegregation. But integration, he said, is a work of the heart. So too, we can legislate voting rights. But, apparently in 2016, remaining engaged as an active citizen, who will participate in the election process, has become a work of the heart.

So, here are a few more invitations:

    • Find someone you trust to listen to you when you experience election vulnerability, someone who will neither try to fix you nor add gasoline to your fire.  Share what it feels like and what you are scared/anxious/angry about.  Talk about what you cherish in life that the convention, campaign ad, or election is thwarting.  Mourn together. (Check out this piece: “Mourning Our Way to Acceptance.”)
    • Use what I describe as a body prayer, EFT Tapping, to calm down your nervous system, to get out of fight, flight, or freeze mode and back into a place of engagement, where your passion for our country and our globe can be nurtured and acted upon. Check out the process here: http://www.thetappingsolution.com/what-is-eft-tapping/
    • Before you cast your ballot by mail or in person, in whatever way feels natural to you, dedicate your vote to God, to furthering Love’s greatest hope for our leaders, our country, and our globe. Perhaps the words, “thy greatest hopes be done,” and “lead us not into the temptation of fear,” will offer support.

Together, let’s build and practice the courage to stay engaged in Democracy by doing the vulnerable work of the heart.

May Love be our one​​​,​ tru​stworthy​ guide​ in all our choices​.

Image: Shutterstock

nancyWiens2 (1)

Nancy Wiens is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and has an interdisciplinary  Ph.D. in Christian spirituality, ritual studies, and the dialogue between theology and science. She practices coaching and ​Spiritual Direction with people who long to deepen their relationship with God and respond to God’s calling more fully in their lives. Nancy also guides wilderness rites of passage, helping people mark transitions in their lives by discerning God’s calling through nature.

Nancy is also the Director of Emergence: A Center for Initiating Contemplatives in Action. She co-founded Emergence because her​ passion lies in helping others discover what it means to come alive. She is inspired by working with those committed to the growth of themselves, their families, their organizations, and the planet’s regenerativity. She thrives on supporting others’ sense of belonging and empowerment: to know themselves as Beloved, as interconnected with nature, and as uniquely able to contribute to the well-being of the world.

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