Monday, January 11, 2021

Accountability, Unity, and Voting

This was posted first on my Facebook stream and has been copied here. 

Can we talk? Of course, I can only speak for myself.

I am thinking about unity and accountability. Actually, I’m thinking at the moment about unity and accountability and voting.

In most of these United States, at some points convicted felons receive again the right to vote. We heard a lot about that this past year in light of changes (before 2020) in Florida. Felons there could regain the right to vote, but only after completion of sentence, completion of any probation, and payment of any outstanding restitution and fees. Now, some think the requirements are too great, and that the system can be set up to make it practically impossible even it it’s theoretically possible. What I think we can agree on, though, is that this is unity that is possible, but only after accountability.

Unity after accountability is really pervasive in our culture. Kid misbehaves? Send said kid to bedroom or sit said kid in the corner, and only after that accountability can that child return to the community, to friends, to chosen activities. I was (rarely but occasionally) spanked as a child; and once I had endured that I was returned to my own (hopefully) better choices and behavior.

It makes sense, too, in so much that has shaped our culture. Since I’m a preacher, I can think particularly of our religious texts. All those sacrificial laws in the Hebrew Scriptures were about unity after accountability. I’m among those who has preached about atonement as “at-one-ment,” to emphasize that it was through accountability, and not without it, that one could return to right status in the community. Jesus in Matthew 18 gives a format for reconciliation when one member of the congregation sins against another. In that format, reconciliation requires accountability, even if there’s no punishment per se. The sinner has to own the sin - to be accountable - to be reconciled.

So, I think many of us would agree that there can be unity, but there has to be accountability first. Felons in Florida, and in most other states, can regain the right to vote after sentence is completed - accountability and then unity.

Which brings us to last Wednesday. After last Wednesday’s assault on elected leaders and a completed election, there are some who want to talk about unity. Well and good; and in our tradition, that should also require accountability. And if unity after accountability should apply to the drug user and also to the drug dealer, it should apply to the ones who stormed the Capital and also to any person whose rhetoric helped them think that was an acceptable thing to do. 

Of course, I can only speak for myself.

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