The religious landscape in Canada is changing. Although global Christianity continues to grow, and as its global centre moves south, much has been made of the decline of long-standing, mainline denominations in Canada.
And yet, according to Statistics Canada, over 20 million Canadians continue to self-identify with some form of Christianity. Although ticking a box on a form doesn’t make you a disciple of Jesus, it highlights the spiritual roots many people continue to feel. Plus, despite the challenges of some mainline denominations, we continue to hear about the numerical growth of some churches of a more evangelical persuasion.
I’m a Christian and a pastor. So if you’re like me and somehow self-identify with the Christian faith, maybe you wonder how your faith affects your vote when an election comes knocking.
To be honest, something that bothers me is when a few issues get earmarked as the only ones with a “religious” dimension, when in fact, all of them do.
Perhaps our reluctance to identify and talk about the broader range of issues that are informed by our faith is because we see some politicians, particularly to the south of us, talking about faith—but only when it seems to suit their agenda. Since this sometimes seems hypocritical to us, it can make us want to create a distance between us and them. After all, maybe our friends, family or neighbours will think we’re all the same.
One issue that has recently been in the news is abortion. And although the Bible certainly offers wisdom about abortion [read my blog about it here], biblical teachings also shed light on many other critical issues facing our nation today.
In Genesis 1:31 God looked on the world he made and called it “very good.” Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it…” Although these texts were written in a pre-industrial era and aren’t exclusively “about the environment,” many Christians look to these and consider environmental stewardship a very important faith issue.
A well-known prophetic text is Micah 6:8. In it, God tells his people how they are to be in right relationship with him in the midst of their own political turmoil: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This, combined with dozens of passages about God’s concern for justice, make justice for people individually, and for fair judicial systems generally, a faith issue for many people.
After Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians, the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiles with a message from God: “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7). Some Christians continue to be inspired by this text to work and pray for the welfare of their cities. I once saw this same verse painted on a wall outside a church. The well-being of our communities is, for many, a faith issue.
The list goes on. Since Christians believe that all humans are created in God’s image and have value and dignity (Genesis 1:27), this has driven movements in accessible health care, free education and literacy, human rights advancements, and even democracy. That’s a pretty broad range of issues, isn’t it?
And what about God’s endless concern for those who are struggling? In James 1:27, advice is given about religion that is pure and faultless: “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Jesus himself teaches that when we feed the hungry, clothe the poor, tend the sick, and visit those in prison, we’re not only doing it for others, but we’re doing it for him as well (Matthew 25:40).
Plus, people are encouraged to grow in the virtues of integrity and honesty. These are commendable traits not only for us as individuals, but for those who would become our MP’s and Prime Minister. Leaders of integrity and honesty benefit everyone. Another faith issue.
Over 20 million people in Canada somehow identify with the Christian faith, however tenuous that connection may sometimes be. And many of them are going to the polls. Something Christianity teaches is that our faith impacts the totality of our being—this includes not only our personal opinions, but our decisions, actions, and our votes.
Despite what you may sometimes hear, faith in Christ isn’t limited to waiting on earth for heaven, but working for heaven on earth. Since our MP’s, governments and leaders have a major part to play in the unfolding landscape of our country, electing those who could help it look a little more like heaven would be a blessing for all of us.
At election time, don’t be duped; there are more than one or two “faith issues.” So, how does your faith affect your vote? Only you can answer that. But one thing’s for sure: It should.