Editorial: Advocate: Your elected officials want to know what you care about

(Photo / Eric Black)

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An advocate is someone who pleads for, supports or recommends actions on behalf of another person. In our political system, this occurs through policy initiatives. Did I lose you at “political system?”

During the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission Advocacy Day in Austin, I learned not to tune out when people start talking about politics and politicians. Instead of tuning out, I learned how to lean into the political process. I learned just how easy it is to make a difference through advocacy.

A rationale: Advocacy is in the DNA of every Christian

“If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Inasmuch as Christians believe Jesus pleads our case before God the Father—because we do have a case before God—and inasmuch as Christians believe Jesus lives in us through the Holy Spirit, then Christians believe advocacy is at the core of our identity in Christ. Advocacy is in the Christian DNA.

Christians become ambassadors of Christ when they, in turn, serve as advocates in our political system, speaking for those whose power to seek justice is marginalized and supporting just policies that reflect the kingdom of God more than human self-interest.

And followers of Jesus Christ are perfect for this because they understand and value biblical teachings about putting the cause of the vulnerable before self-interest. They understand that people take precedence over politics, and they accept that solving problems and addressing needs is more important than winning.

These are some of the things I learned about advocacy during the CLC Advocacy Day.

Advocacy is simple: The nuts and bolts

“Constituents who make the effort to personally communicate with their senators and representatives … are more influential than lobbyists and news editors,” Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the CLC, said.

Don’t miss what she said.

You are a constituent.

Your personal communication is more influential than high powered lobbyists. Did you know that?

Your personal communication is more influential than mine is as an editor.

So, how do you make your communication personal? The same way you make any communication personal.

Prepare ahead for communicating with your elected officials. Know the most important thing you want to get across and gather the facts about it. Think of a personal story about why that issue matters to you. And tell your story. Keep it brief, simple and to the point.

Visit your elected officials at their offices, and be prepared to leave a note with their staff in case they are not available.

Call your elected officials … on the phone.

Send a personal email or letter.

Pray for them, and let them know you are praying for them.

Advocacy: There is power in numbers

Each of the 31 members of the Texas Senate represents about 800,000 people. Each of the 150 members of the Texas House of Representatives represents about 168,000 people.

Yes, these elected officials are busy. They represent complex communities throughout an immense state, and they must keep their eyes and ears open to all their constituents.

Your visit, your story, your advocacy can cut through the complexity and commotion and can be the difference between just policies being adopted or being ignored.

I grew up in New Mexico, and today—March 27, 2019—was my first visit to the Texas State Capitol. The building is as impressive as I imagined. The most impressive thing about it, though, is that as a citizen of the State of Texas now, it’s just as much my building as it is those who’ve been in Texas for generations.

During my first visit to the Texas Capitol, a small group of Texas Baptist advocates who were visiting their elected officials invited me to join them, and I had the honor of meeting their senator.

He was mulling over Senate Bill 17, a religious freedom bill proposed by Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, that would allow refusal of service based on sincerely held beliefs. The senator wanted to know what we thought of this bill, and I listened as his constituents responded.

And then the senator wanted to know what I thought. He wasn’t patronizing me. He feels the weight of this bill and wanted to hear me.

There is great power in the number one. Every single constituent in the State of Texas has the power to help senators and representatives wrestle with the weight of governing a complex and immense state and to arrive at just solutions.

All you have to do is advocate. Your elected officials want—no, they need—to hear you.

Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at eric.black@baptiststandard.com or on Twitter at @EricBlackBSP.

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If we achieved our goal—or didn’t—we’d love to hear from you. Send an email to Eric Black, our editor. Maximum length for publication is 250 words.

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