“Jeremiah Faithful” & Election Violence Prevention

by | May 7, 2024 | Front Page Featured, Seeds eNewsletter

MY FIRST ELECTION VIOLENCE PREVENTION GROUP HAD THREE PEOPLE IN IT. So I offered the series again, and that group had four. So I did it again. That one had six.

We are called to be faithful, not successful—although the election violence prevention project, thus far, has been both. With repetition, it has grown. The most recent cohort has twenty-two regular attenders and forty-five registrants. I get new email inquiries on the topic every day. The mailing list is up to 111 recipients. I have dozens of election violence prevention events scheduled for over the summer. Best of all, I’m hearing stories about the concrete actions people are taking after joining conversations with me.

But I wanted to tell you about the first three people because that situation reflects an essential truth: we are called to be faithful, not successful. If I had only ever managed to reach those three, I would still have been faithful. I would still have followed the call.


Like Jeremiah

One common response to the idea of election violence prevention (EVP) is, “I don’t see how I can possibly do anything. The problem’s too big, and I am too small.” If that’s your reaction, you’re far from alone. The prophet Jeremiah thought the same thing.

So we try to reach three people. The next time four. We go where God tells us to go, and we say what God tells us to say. In New York City, I was speaking to a group when I noticed that some people in the room looked really afraid. I paused, invited us all to take a breath, and then asked, “How are you doing? Are you okay?”

One young man blinked up at me. “Should we be okay?”

He had an excellent point. I think the answer’s yes and no. If we’re feeling okay because we don’t think there’s a problem, or because we’re hiding our heads in the sand, then we’re missing something and need to be shaken up a bit. But it’s also very easy to be so frightened, or so angry, or so sad that we have no room for anything else.

When we’re experiencing such feelings, it’s unhealthy (and generally unhelpful) to simply try to suppress them. One exercise I introduce in the EVP conversation series is about recognizing the moments when our bodies and brains are overwhelmed by difficult feelings. We need to notice those feelings, acknowledge and affirm them, and then continue moving forward either with or through them.

Should we be okay? Well, there’s a broader okay-ness, a way to be okay when things are absolutely not okay. It comes from faith and from trusting that we’ll be led by God. We are not all called to do the same things nor even all called to carry the same concerns, but the Holy Spirit is with us as Guide and Comforter.

Right Steps for Everyone

When I started learning about EVP, I wanted to know as much as I could about it: the causes, the thought processes, the social dynamics, and all of the ways we might prevent it. I knew there would not be a single fool-proof plan. Violence is not planned and centralized. It is caused by a confluence of factors, with many people contributing to an environment that is reactive and unstable, including people who would never, themselves, intend to be violent. Peacebuilding works the same way, with many people contributing in many different ways to a society that is stable and chooses peace.

I talk with groups about all of their options, everything that we know can help prevent election violence. And then we do the work of discerning what kinds of steps are right for each participant. Here are some of the things that people have done thus far:

  • Speak with a local police commissioner about community relations and planning ahead to keep protests peaceful.
  • Register to serve as a poll worker.
  • Advocate for bipartisan election reform.
  • Host neighborhood conversations about election violence over wood-fired pizza.
  • Organize civic education in a local high school.
  • Create an art show centering peaceful election messaging.
  • Talk one-on-one with diverse leaders in a local community.
  • Hold a craft day to discuss election violence prevention strategies.
  • Get to know neighbors.
  • And write letters to the media explaining why certain types of coverage lead to election violence.

What I love seeing most is the groups that come together and discover they can be on the same team about this one issue, even if they disagree about many (or most) other things. If we define the team as including anybody who doesn’t want violence, then it’s a really big team.


“We Don’t Want Violence”

Over the summer, I’ll do workshops, conversations, interest groups, and lectures in about twenty-five or thirty different places, plus online. I hope you’ll join. Learn more about the issue and register for online conversations here: https://quakeremily.wordpress.com/election-violence-prevention/


  • Upcoming Online Conversation #1 “Start”  – Choose May 22nd, June 18th, or July 15th, 2024