Elections, like the ones coming up in Germany this week, invite us to feel in a very special way what it means to live in a democracy, where elections take place regularly and where politicians are reminded that they come to power only by popular mandate.
It's important to vote to show that we understand the value of being a citizen, the value of being part of a democracy. And in order to vote rightly, it is as indispensable to be informed as it is to listen to listen to the cooling, quiet voice of God speaking to us as the voice of conscience.
Conscience is the capacity to judge properly one's own moral thoughts and actions. The term goes back to the Latin word conscientia meaning a consciousness for moral actions. But even deeper, it means con-scientia, a knowledge parallel to another.
The concept of conscience has its roots in antiquity and means that for all actions concerning the gods and men, there is an inner accessory a knowledge parallel to another and it is this basic concept that leads to its central position within early Christianity. For the early Christians, as for us today, conscience is connected to the special relationship we have with our creator, infinitely intelligent, divine Love.
What role does conscience play when it comes to voting for a candidate or a party? I remember a difficult moment in the history of a society that I was a member of for many years.
We had to elect a chair of the board, and the membership was divided. We had 20 ballots, each time reaching a stalemate. Tears flowed, and fears and anger ran deep. I cannot recall my emotions, but I remember some thoughts I had thoughts that led to the conviction that if the other candidate won, our organization would go down the drain. Voting for this candidate went against my conscience, I thought. I assume that others felt the same way. After many hours, the president dismissed the meeting and we all went home.
I knew I had to face a foe, and it was not the candidate I so utterly disliked. It was my conviction that this candidate couldn't possibly fulfill his duties well. Best intentions, pure motives were they only to be found on my side? Or on any side? And were my personal convictions also my conscience?
"Even your sincere and courageous convictions regarding what is best for others may be mistaken;" I read in "Miscellaneous Writings 18831896," by Mary Baker Eddy. She continues, "you must be demonstratively right yourself, and work out the greatest good to the greatest number, before you are sure of being a fit counsellor. Positive and imperative thoughts should be dropped into the balances of God and weighed by spiritual Love, and not be found wanting, before being put into action" (pg. 288).
This counsel was a help then and can be a guideline now. I dropped my thoughts into the balance of God and realized that my personal convictions and human will had to go. I had to see everyone taking their seat in the kingdom of God. No one is ever excluded, no one ever shut out.
My longing to see good expressed was earnest and the willingness to see things from a different point of view, sincere. And I now knew that the voice of conscience was speaking, loud and clear.
Evidently, others had fought similar fights with their own opinions, because at the next meeting the next day we again had a stalemate. Many from each side had changed their votes. We had a wonderful, freeing laugh together; the fierce looks were gone, and a certain ease was floating through the air.
Suddenly, we could speak to one another, and neither candidate seemed so bad after all. And at the end of this meeting, we had a surprising solution that pleased everyone. I honestly don't remember whether it was the candidate I'd initially wanted or the other one, but I do remember that our society moved forward and prospered.
Now I never enter a meeting without remembering that Love and wisdom fill all space and govern conscience. And goodness ultimately wins. Choices are not so hard if we love to side with God and to change our minds at times, if needed. From this perspective it is finally not as important to know who will win an election, but to know that God reigns and is the supreme force for good today and tomorrow.