Malcolm X charged the Black church with being a sleeping giant. Others have criticized the so-called “megachurch” for being impersonal, navel-gazing, and prideful in its largeness. Even a broken ankle can swell, but healthy bones grow in order to provide support for other parts of the body. I continually challenge the Enon Church to examine whether we are just swelling or whether we are providing meaningful support for the community.
Most recently, Enon joined the NAACP and churches all over the country in a commitment to register, educate and mobilize voters. But we knew we had to first get our own house in order. So we agreed to look at ourselves to determine how many Enon members were actually registered to vote. We were able to check records for the vast majority of the adult membership. Of approximately 11,000 members, 10,571, or 96 percent, are registered to vote. Along with a number of Philadelphia churches, we are now committed to helping others register and obtain a valid photo ID that they need to protect their right to vote.
Every individual and organization can do the same. Are you registered to vote? Are 96 percent of those in your family, neighborhood, sorority, fraternity, book club or circle of influence registered and in possession of a valid ID? Ask and then offer to help. Anyone needing forms or assistance can call Enon at (215) 276-7200 or visit the NAACP’s website (www.thisismyvote.org).
Education is the second part of the fight. Know what your community needs and how to vote to get those needs met. Everything from the level of funding for public education to sentencing laws is determined by who is in office. Don’t just talk about the last playoff game, but talk about what’s happening in the Senate as well.
Finally, mobilize. Being 96 percent or even 100 percent registered doesn’t matter if you don’t show up at the polls. Politicians know that you determine if they will hold office, but some count on the fact that you simply won’t wield your power.
The Bible is clear in terms of our purpose: First, love God and then love others. Loving others means working to ensure that our communities are strong, our children have safe and high-quality schools and our elders and poor are protected. While our purpose is the same, we’ve each been given different talents and abilities to contribute to our collective well-being. Some coach a youth sports team or conduct research that influences public policy. Others use art and music to spread a message of love and social justice. Still others use their voices to speak truth to power and communicate hope. But all of us have the ability to use the ballot to effect positive change. We must prepare now to demonstrate our power in November.
The Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller is the senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia.