Encourage Elders to Be Politically Active

Encourage Elders to Be Politically Active

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


Some years ago, I was privileged to be present when a resident at United Methodist Homes in Shelton, Conn., received a call from the White House to wish her well on her 100th birthday.

She received the call graciously and thanked the president and then spoke with the first lady. They chatted for a few moments when the resident said, “I always admired you, but I need to tell you, I don’t agree with a lot of what your husband says and does.”

Since the phone was on the speaker, we heard the first lady respond, “Neither do I, and I will be sure to tell him what you said.” A good chuckle followed and a lesson was reinforced. It’s never too late to have a say in how the world and nation is going.

Blessings on the elderly gentleman who, in a casual conversation about the state of the world and our nation’s role in it, asked, “When is the last time anyone here wrote or phoned an elected representative locally or nationally saying, ‘Your views do not speak for me.’ ” Again a lesson was reinforced. It is never too late to have a say in our collective affairs.

The church and our congregations would do well to heed that message. Large portions of our congregations are elderly. What a waste of our power and influence if we neglect engaging them in our common concern for peace with justice. Elected officials are vulnerable and are often moved by phone calls and letters from the people in their districts. Why not provide every member, (especially older adults who often feel like they are not needed and devalued) with names, addresses, and phone numbers of their elected officials? They can share their concerns and how they would want the elected officials to act and vote.

Such an effort can be a powerful statement on different levels. It can have a leavening effect on all members. It can be a way to teach that civic responsibility doesn’t come with an expiration date. And it is a means of teaching a Christ-like way of speaking truth to power. Supplying such information does not have to convey a specific stance of the congregation. It simply encourages people to speak out of their faith. Surely in and of itself that is a vital part of the church’s ongoing role in Christian formation.