taking the words of Jesus seriously

Many of us have heard about the recent movement in the Democratic presidential primary to encourage voters across the country to vote uncommitted. There are several news articles discussing what this movement represents, how it originated, and its potential trajectory as the primaries mature into their next phase. This movement birthed in Michigan through the collective action of Palestinian and Arab-American community members alongside a coalition of grassroots organizers, that is multi-faith, multi-racial and multi-generational, all mobilizing strategically to ensure their voices are heard and petitions are met.

For months, community members and grassroots organizers had been protesting the genocide occurring in Gaza and the complicit role played by the U.S government in it. They employed various tactics, ranging from galvanizing elected officials and staging street protests to attending presidential events to maintain pressure on President Biden to listen to the demands of the people. 

However, it seemed that their voices were being disregarded by the President and large swaths of congress. It was then that the strategy of mobilizing community members to vote ‘Uncommitted’ was initiated. 

History teaches us that the strategic tactic of voting ‘Uncommitted’ was utilized previously in 2008 when former President Barack Obama was initially excluded from the ballot in Michigan during the democratic presidential primary. His supporters voted Uncommitted as a form of protest, with 40% of voters in Michigan casting their ballots in this manner, many of whom were Black and young voters. Numerous African American leaders, many who were also leaders of faith communities, encouraged community members to vote Uncommitted as a protest gesture. 

The cries of the people would not be stifled, and Obama would go on to win Michigan in November by a margin unheard of since Lyndon B Johnson ran for office. History teaches us that when we fight, we win; it might take time, energy, sacrifices and consistency but when we fight, we, the collective people, win. 

Throughout history, Christian protest and voting have served as disciplined avenues for expressing both lament and prophetic imagination. Grieving over the current reality while actively praying with our feet for a resurrected one. Echoing the call from God in Micah 6:8 to embrace faithful love, do justice, and walk humbly. This passage compels us to ask, What does faithful love look like in the face of militarism? When more than 30,000 people have died and U.S tax dollars are sacrificing the innocent on the altar of militarism and settler-colonialism.

Christian protest and collective voting power emerge as potent manifestations of faith, love, and hope, reminding us that our neighbor is us. Compelling us to remember that what happens to one person in the world, happens to all of us. Many of us are engulfed in grief due to our government’s emphasis on funding militarism and violence in Gaza. While at the same time many of us are advocating for a ceasefire, the release of all hostages, and an end to settler-colonialism in Gaza. It is in this liminal space that Christian protest embodies the proclamation that the principalities of militarism will not have the final word, that we believe that love can and will win.

Once again, we are confronted by the evils of militarism, settler-colonialism, and capitalism intertwined like a nightmarish orchestra playing a piece all too familiar in our bones and country’s history. These systems thrive on fear and silence, nourished by complicity and a commitment to the status quo, persisting as the current reality unfortunately under the guise of it being ” too complicated”.

Throughout history, moments of crisis have often catalyzed the prophetic Christian imagination in protest and solidarity. In the 60’s when many faith leaders and civil rights activists fought for civil rights and expanded voting rights, we saw the mobilization of the faith community in action, the voices of those most impacted by the evils of the time leading followers of Jesus and the wider country into contending for their beloved neighbor. Again, in the 70’s when many faith leaders—famously including Dr. King—were opposed to the ongoing investments in militarism and the ongoing war in Vietnam.

Protest beckons us, intimately connected to one another, to unite in personal and collective grief, remembering one another in everyday political acts of solidarity.

It is a communal prayer through action, propelling us to advance collectively while providing mutual support in shared sorrow. This movement guides us away from a scarcity mindset, leading us towards the abundance found in collective solidarity and mutuality.

The Uncommitted movement at the ballot box is a forceful and intentional rejection of the trinity of evils: militarism, racism, and poverty. It is an act of prophetic imagination that shifts us from scarcity to solidarity, from fear to embrace, and from complicity to action. It invites us as followers of Jesus to respond to Jesus’ call in Luke 4, to participate in our collective liberation and the freeing of those held captive by militarism’s chains.

This movement is an invitation for the American church to embrace solidarity with our Palestinian siblings, as well as with those impacted by war around the world. It is an opportunity for the American church to reject militarism and the ways that it manifests in our common collective body both domestically and internationally.

We are being invited to turn our swords into plowshares and begin co-creating a new world, a world where militarism breathes its last breath, and our infants safely can breathe their first. 

Co-creating a world where the sacred ordinary of life and love, safety and security can be experienced by all rather than a privileged few. We are the leaders of faith that we have been waiting for, the people of faith who will pray with their feet in a prophetic response to the principalities of militarism, capitalism and settler-colonialism actively harming our fellow beloveds. 

The world is watching, and the question remains: How will we, as the American church, respond in this moment?

About The Author


Phil Lewis is the Pastor of Youth and Community at Union Presbyterian Church in Seattle. He is committed and passionate about seeing youth and the wider community in the Seattle area experience shalom in a communal and transformative way through the art of teaching, ​​storytelling, mutual living and solidarity.

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