Politics – A Christian Enters the Fray
Presently we are a divided nation. We’ve fallen a long way from “One nation, under God, indivisible …” It seems that citizens either fear other citizens, or they’re angry at them. Yet being angry or afraid of people with whom we disagree is not only divisive, it’s unproductive. We need brave leadership to lift us above the anger and fear. We need our leaders to be our GPS – to work together and discover a route leading America out of this rut and back on a path to unity.
God has given us the Bible as an atlas to guide us forward. It provides us with God-given principles by which to live. Whenever we can find a potential leader who already endeavors to live their lives by these principles, we should take note. We have such a person in Loretta Rigney.
Loretta is currently running for Schenectady County Legislator. Recently I posed a few questions for her to answer. With her answers we can get a sense of what kind of leadership she would provide. Here is a record of these questions and her answers.
What steps brought you here?
Over the years, God has put wonderful people in my life who have helped me develop good relationship and community building skills. After watching the division that the Presidential election caused in our country, I began to think that perhaps those skills would be useful in local government so I wrote down a simple goal: “To run for public office”. In my mind, it was a five year goal, but God opened doors so quickly that within a few months I had an interview for an open Town of Glenville Board seat. I wasn’t selected for that position, but I made a good impression on the interview team which included members of the Schenectady County Republican Committee. They asked me to interview for the County Legislator race and a week later they called me and asked me to run. It’s definitely been an exciting whirlwind.
Is your family on board?
I discussed running for office with my husband, Tom before I interviewed for the Town Board position and he was in agreement with me. We discussed it again when I was asked to interview for the County race and again we were in agreement. We prayed together before each interview. When I got the call to run, I called him first and together we made the decision that I would accept the offer. Campaigning is extremely time and energy intensive. I’m out of the house a lot and the time away will continue to increase as we approach the election in November. To have a supportive spouse is absolutely essential if I’m going to come home to a happy and peaceful house at night.
What has been the biggest surprise so far?
The biggest surprise was the impact that the minor parties have in the election of the major party candidates. In NYS, in addition to the Democratic and Republican parties, there are also the Conservative, Green, Working Families, Independence, Women’s Equality, and Reform parties. If these minor parties do not have their own candidates to run, they can endorse the major party candidates and their names will appear on that line of the ballot. It’s agreed that the more times your name appears on the ballot, the better chance you have of winning, so getting those endorsements is highly sought after. Candidates who were not endorsed can choose to get enough signatures from registered members of those minor parties to hold a primary in order to get their name on the ballot instead, but that can cause friction between the parties. Candidates have to decide between potentially “burning a bridge” with the influential leaders of the minor parties or fighting for that space on the ballot. In this race, my running mates and I were endorsed by the Republican and Reform Party. We decided not primary for the Conservative and Independence Parties and we have collected enough signatures to hold a primary for the Green Party. We decided not to go after the Working Families and Women’s Equality endorsements due to conflicts with some of their positions.
What do you say to Christians who think we should stay out of politics?
God can use government to influence society. Since He works predominately through His people, if we’re not involved His opportunities to influence America are diminished. Not all of us are called to run for office, but there are lots of ways to be active. Good government is kingdom business.
Is there room for disagreement on political issues?
WWII General George Patton said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” When disagreements become personal attacks or lead to deadlock, nothing is accomplished and people are hurt and frustrated. When differences in opinion lead to new ways of thinking and creative problem solving with everyone having a respected voice then amazing things can happen. We need people in office who can facilitate healthy discussions that result in high levels of efficiency, impact, and outcome.
How much influence can Christians have in the political arena?
Every American citizen qualified to vote can influence the political arena by casting a ballot in every election, especially local elections where the races could be very close. Parents should take their children to the polls with them to firmly instill this value.
As Christians we must be praying for our elected local, state, and federal officials.
At election time we must actively seek out accurate information on each candidate to make an informed decision on how to vote. If possible, find an opportunity to speak personally with a candidate such as at a community event, a “Meet the Candidates” night, or if they come to your door. Reach out through social media or email and ask them about the issues that are important to you.
If a Christian wants a deeper level of involvement or strongly supports a particular candidate, there are opportunities to volunteer for the campaign. Things that can be done include donating money, putting a yard sign in front of your house, passing out literature, and making phone calls
What are the most important issues here locally?
I’m running in District 3, which includes Glenville, Scotia, and Niskayuna. We are very concerned about the unfair distribution of sales tax revenue from Schenectady County to our towns. Buying locally might keep sales tax within the county, but it’s not trickling down to our towns because our share of the revenue hasn’t increased since 2004. If you include inflation, that’s actually a decrease of 34%. The towns have been working hard on economic development including a new Target, Panera, Shop Rite, etc., but we get less than 1% of that new sales tax revenue back. Beyond, the sales tax issue, if you look at the Schenectady County budget and compare it to other NYS counties of similar size, our spending is extreme! We can definitely do better and still take care of our residents.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
I’ll always be seeking out opportunities to use my skills and talents to serve our community. Every morning, my prayer is that God will use me to execute some of the plans that He has for His world today. Right now, He has me running for office and after Election Day on November 7th, He will have new plans for me. I just don’t know what they are yet.
How can your brothers and sisters best support you?
The support and encouragement that I’ve already gotten from those closest to me has been humbling. Going forward my brothers and sisters can help by praying for me regularly, especially for wisdom in every situation. They can also give financially into the campaign, put out a yard sign, introduce me to their friends and family within the District, like and share our Facebook page, walk door to door with me in their neighborhoods, and make phone calls right before Election Day to encourage people they know to get out and vote. My goal is to really engage with the voters in the district so that they feel good about casting their ballot for me. An introduction to a candidate or a phone call from someone you know has much greater impact than a mailing, a billboard, or a television ad. I’m committed to building relationships, both with the voters and other leaders in the county, regardless of party affiliation. It’s similar to building unity within the Body of Christ. We may come from different denominations, but we can find common ground and work together to achieve a common goal for the good of those we serve.
So, now you’re a little better acquainted with Loretta. Let’s take her final advice and be less fearful and angry. Find leaders like Loretta that you can wholeheartedly support and enter the fray.