Monday, November 28, 2005

Election in Canada

Well, the vote of “no-confidence” passed today, which means there will be an election in Canada. They’re saying probably on January the 23rd, but, when I wrote this, it wasn’t official yet.

Which means that I have to bone up on my Canadian politics; although I’ve been reading The Nation lately—and watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, of course—I haven’t been following Canadian politics as I should. I need to research the issues a bit, and especially who will be running in my particular ward. If you’re Canadian, I also urge you to please—please!—research the issues, and make an informed decision! Don’t just say “I’m a conservative, so I’m going to vote Conservative”, or “I’m a liberal so I’m going to vote Liberal”—that way lies madness!

Well, that’s a bit over the top... But consider this article (American, unfortunately): If asked in a survey, 30% of Americans would call themselves “conservatives”, while only 18% would call themselves “liberals”. However, when asked about actual issues—not just “are you a conservative or a liberal”, but “how do you feel about X”, where X is health insurance, or raising the minimum wage, or protecting the environment, or “do you think the troops should come home from Iraq”—an overwhelming majority of Americans respond in a very “liberal” way. Regardless of what they may call themselves, they are actually responding very “liberally” to the issues.

This is especially important for Christians to consider. (I know that most of the people who read my blog are personal friends of mine, meaning that a lot of them are Christians.) It’s very tempting, if you’re a Christian, to just say “well, Christian = conservative”, and vote for a conservative party—whether that’s the Conservatives in Canada, or the Republicans in America. But if you look at the actual issues for which these parties stand—and I mean all of them, not just the ones emphasized when the neocons are talking to church groups—you’ll find that they don’t agree with Christian teachings most of the time. How do you feel about the poor? Well, conservatives aren’t big fans; they’d much prefer that the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. How do you feel about the environment? Well, conservatives would rather loosen environmental laws, because they say that would be good for business, while liberals would prefer to have strong environmental laws, so that people don’t have to live next to un-advertised toxic waste dumps. (I am, of course, very much over-simplifying, to make a point; however, I’m hoping to research the issues more, and post more about them here, and I think you’ll find that it’s true much of the time.)

Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, things aren’t simple. For example, if you’re a Christian, and have really given some thought and analysis to the issues, you probably have certain stances on some things1. For example:

  • You may be against abortion, which would make you a conservative
  • You may be in favour of environmental protection, which would make you a liberal
  • You may be against gay marriage, which would make you a conservative
  • You may feel that the richer you are, the more taxes you should pay, and the poorer you are, the less taxes, which would make you a liberal—conservatives tend to believe in something called “trickle down economics”, also called “supply-side economics” (this is the current trendy term), also called “voodoo economics”, under which they want to make it so that rich people don’t have to pay taxes, because they feel it would be good for business.
These are a few examples; there are others. The point is, there won’t be a political party which matches your beliefs 100%. So you’re going to have to decide what’s important to you, and what you can let slide.

As a Christian, you may be surprised to find that I take a more “liberal” stance, overall. I’d rather feed the poor, and help the hungry, even if it does mean that gay people can get married. It doesn’t mean that I’m for gay marriage; it just means that I care more about the issue of feeding the poor than I do about whether gay people can get married. There is a good portion of the book What’s So Amazing About Grace, by Philip Yancey, that sort of applies:

When I went to the White House to visit President Clinton, I knew well that his reputation among conservative Christians hinged on two issues: abortion and homosexual rights. I agree fully that these are important moral issues which Christians must address. But when I went through the New Testament I could find very little related to either one. Both practices existed then, in a different and more egregious form. Roman citizens did not rely principally on abortion for birth control. The women bore their babies, then abandoned them by the side of the road for wild animals or vultures. Likewise, Romans and Greeks also practiced a form of same-gender sex: older men commonly used young boys as their sex slaves, in pederasty.

Thus in Jesus’ and Paul’s day both these moral issues asserted themselves in ways that today would be criminal in any civilized country on earth[sic]. No country allows a person to kill a full-term, delivered baby. No country legally permits sex with children. Jesus and Paul doubtless knew of these deplorable practices. And yet Jesus said nothing about either one, and Paul made only a few references to cross-gender sex. Both concentrated not on the pagan kingdom around them but on the alternative kingdom of God.

For this reason, I wonder about the enormous energy being devoted these days to restoring morality to the United States. Are we concentrating more on the kingdom of this world than on the kingdom that is not of this world? The public image of the evangelical church today is practically defined by an emphasis on two issues that Jesus did not even mention. How will we feel if historians of the future look back on the evengelical church of the 1990s and declare, “They fought bravely on the moral fronts of abortion and homosexual rights,” while at the same time reporting that we did little to fulfil the Great Commission, and we did little to spread the aroma of grace in the world?

One more thing to think about, for those of us living in Rexdale: In the last election, in Ward 1 (where I live), 140 people voted. One hundred and forty. People always say that their vote doesn’t count, but when your vote is only one in 140, it counts a lot more!

Anyway, I have a lot more to say on the topic, but I’m hoping to do some research on the actual issues, and post some real information here. I’m going to try not to sway you my way, politically, and just present the issues, and where the different parties stand—but we all know that it will be hard for me to do that, and my views will probably come through. So too bad!

1You may disagree with me on some aspects of this post, by the way. When it comes to politics, things aren’t always as cut and dried as we’d like. There will be some issues where I can take a hard-line stance, and say “if you’re a Christian”, you should believe this, but there are a bunch of other issues where it’s not that simple.

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