The subversive potential of Election Day Communion

By Simon Barrow
November 7, 2012

I'm somewhat taken with the idea of Election Day Communion, being practiced by a diverse range of church groups and Christians across the United States on election day, Tuesday 6 November 2012.

The aim is not just to show that through food and friendship, people can find their humanity in spite of theological and political differences (a profoundly gospel insight), but that we seek with the whole way we dispose our lives a deeper communion between people and planet, time and eternity, founded in the commonwealth of God and fleshed out in Christ. That's how I'd put it, anyway.

Equally, it is this commitment to a new kind of community, to radical hospitality and to being baptised into "a new creation", that claims - or ought to - the primary loyalty of Christians. Not parties, money, tribes, nations, armies, rulers, or self-interest.

That's a difficult message in America today, where faith and nation are so easily conflated. Sadly, the Election Day Communion promotion button still uses the colours of the flag. Unsurprising, as this is a middle-ground initiative, and no doubt wants to sound 'patriotic'. But that illustrates the core problem.

In reality, of course, communion is subversive of all partial solidarities - especially when they claim exclusive types of allegiance. Not only does communion cut across our enmities, it is based on the idea that what we share, and what we are changed by, is the common bread of life in which we find each other and God through an ekklesia of equals, and which we receive as gift not commodity. This is, in reality, the purest form of communism, as radical Anglican-Catholic priests recognised earlier in the C20th.

But I digress. If an election is about dividing, communion is about uniting. That's the basic message. We're all in this together. To be meaningful in these troubled times, this Eucharistic vision and calling needs to be an economic and planetary reality, as well as one rooted in hospitality and sacramentality (in whatever form, quaker or catholic, you understand that).

Christopher Smith has given voice to at least some of this in a warmly mainstream Christian way in his article 'The Hope-full Politics of the Table', reproduced on Patheos. He writes, in a message to his church:

Tonight, we celebrate a politics of hope, a hope confirmed in the resurrection of Christ, who is remembered in our very midst, as we share our lives together around the table, eating and talking. We celebrate a politics of not of greed and self-interest, but of the self-emptying generosity of Christ, who preferred others to himself and gave everything, even his life, that we might know life in abundance. The life and hope of Christ flows outward from our common table, forming us as we engage our neighbours and those from other places. The world is being transformed and will continue to be so, but not by the political parties, corporate lobbying interests or other powers of this age; the transformation will be slow and attentive and will be grounded in the grassroots movement of local communities of Christ’s followers who share their food and their lives together from day to day. This transformation is the hope that we are celebrating tonight; it is the hope that energises us and the hope that will be the salvation not just of us as individuals, but of the creation as a whole.

* Read the full article here:


(c) Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He is covering the US election here:

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