I helped prepare ministers for the rigors of Question Period, researched controversial issues, scanned the horizon for possible problems, did some grunt work, and later, worked on things like press releases.
I also had a lot of flavored coffee and on-the-run hot dogs.
So I’ve always had an interest in faith and politics.
At the time I was worshiping at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in downtown Toronto. My wife and I volunteered for the Out of the Cold Program, found Cameron Brett’s Sunday messages engaging, and started a young adults’ group called Wine, Cheeses and Jesus.
Yup. That’s right.
Faith and politics are always on my mind. And that’s also true with the upcoming Canadian federal election.
According to Statistics Canada, over 20 million people in this country self-identify with some form of Christianity. There are also many Muslims and adherents of other traditions. Maybe some are asking the same questions I am:
- Who should I vote for?
- How does my faith affect my vote?
Is one party more “Christian” than another?
That’s a tricky one. And controversial.
I’ll admit that I’m not really well-versed in the smaller parties, so let me focus on the big three.
Recently there seems to be a semi-muted alliance between many Christians and the Conservative party. However, the connection is probably more debatable than people think.
Author Michael Coren recently threw this alliance into question when he decided the Conservative party was NOT in step with his Christian faith. (Click here to read his article about it in the Toronto Star.)
When describing the NDP, Coren points out that Tommy Douglas was an ordained minister, and that Jack Layton was “deeply shaped by his faith.”
The Liberal party—who has ruled for large swaths of Canadian history—has also occupied a place in the hearts of many Christian voters, party because of the concern for a better and more just society. Some people might be reminded of the words of the prophet Jeremiah to the Jews living in exile—that even though were not in their homeland, they were to seek the peace and prosperity of the city in which they found themselves (Jeremiah 29:7).
In short, I don’t think asking which party is more “Christian” is as cut and dry as some people think.
During a recent interview with LIFE 100.3FM, the Christian radio station, I was asked what people of faith should keep in mind when thinking about the election.
The first thing that came to mind was Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.”
To me this is a direct rebuttal of the whole faith-is-only-a-private-thing way of thinking. Everything belongs to God. God cares about this world. A tonne.
So should we.
And since God is in the process of renovating everything, of restoring his original dream to earth, I think that should also be the agenda of people of faith.
Here’s how I think of it: Since God will restore the world to how it should be, so should we.
A robust faith isn’t about waiting for heaven. It’s actively campaigning in this world, in this life, for the marriage of heaven and earth. As Jesus said: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Faith should make us MORE engaged in the issues of our world—not less.
I’m reminded of the time a father dragged his son into pastor Tony Campolo’s office. He was upset that this Christian teacher had put strange ideas in his head.
And instead of “making something of himself,” his son was doing mission work, giving his money to the poor, working with drug pushers and prostitutes, and reaching out to the “losers” of the world.
The father said, “Don’t get me wrong, Campolo, I don’t mind being Christian–up to a point!”
“Up to a point.” There’s the rub. But no.
The story segues beautifully into one of Franz Kafka’s thoughts in The Zurau Aphorisms: “From a certain point on, there is no more turning back. That is the point that must be reached.” Boom.
We’ve probably all heard about the debates concerning the Niqab or Justin Trudeau saying anti-abortion candidates need not apply to represent the Liberal party.
We’ve also heard about the Supreme Court of Canada decision that assisted-suicide is constitutional. (You can read my blog called ‘Assisted Suicide: Is it Ethical? Murder? Both?’ here)
But in light of what I’ve said above, EVERY issue is a faith issue. No area is untouched.
So to focus us a bit, the Canadian Council of Churches put together a helpful resource. It doesn’t suggest a particular party to vote for—but it does highlight several issues and perspectives that assist the faithful voter such as:
- The environment
- Poverty (4.8 million Canadians are dealing with poverty)
- The treatment of indigenous peoples
- Immigration & refugees
- International aid
- The economy
- Our response to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
Personally, I sit down and ask myself: What party or candidate best advances God’s dream for the world?
The answer may not always be clear. And how you understand that dream will impact how you answer.
And maybe you don’t like any of the options.
But for me, that’s the #1 question when it comes to helping me decide who to vote for: What party or candidate best advances God’s dream for the world?
A Helpful Tool
I also want to let you know about this site from Pollenize.org. My brother Jason shared it on Facebook as a help for students to compare different parties and platforms.
If you need a user-friendly tool to cut through the fuzz and narrow down your options, you might want to check it out.
Who will win?
I don’t know! On my walk to the church there were a pretty even smattering of party signs. Perhaps a few more for the Conservatives. And one NDP sign that had been kissed by a sledge hammer.
We’ll just have to see.
But I think there’s great wisdom in something attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
So, how does your faith affect your vote?
Only you can answer that.
But one thing’s for sure: