In Ontario we are facing an upcoming election. On June 12th, thousands or millions of voters will hit the polls to make their voice heard. Before June 12th thousands of more Canadians will be meeting with their local Members of Provincial Parliament, attending rallies, and writing petitions which they hope will hold some merit.
As I consider the upcoming elections, it has started to get me thinking about what the healthy Christian response to holding politics should be. Should Christians evade the topic entirely or should they run for office themselves? Does having a Christian represent us in parliament really make that big of a difference or is the only thing that counts when it comes down to it the opinions they hold on paper? How does an Anabaptist deal with the tension of pacifism and politics? Furthermore, as a question to something we’ve been exploring in my Church History class in seminary – are there still fragments of Christendom that evade our politics and if so should they be abolished?
There are a variety of hot button topics that trouble me as a voter and as a Christian alike. What should I feel about abortion? Do I truly disagree with it from a fundamental standpoint or am I allowing my religious viewpoints colour how I feel on this issue? What about homosexual union? There are many Christians who are against homosexuality and there are many others who are in favour of it. My point here is not to get into a discussion about the various pros and cons this would create nor is it to share my own viewpoint on this subject, but it is simply a question of: should my moral and religious obligation be to stand behind a fundamental approach to Biblical texts or should it be to become more inclusive in our society? (After all, are there logical arguments against gay/bi-sexual unions apart from the Bible and fundamentalism in general and if there aren’t should Christians be imposing theological texts on a society that generally is uninterested in matters of Christianity?).
As I think about my role as a voter, these are all issues that I have to learn to hold gently, but also in tension and contrast with one another. Although I do not believe the Bible speaks to the issue of voting, I do know that the Bible does discuss the importance of how we view those in authority over us. In Romans 13 we read that those who rule over us are given that appointment by God and that we should not resist their power (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+13). We are reminded of the importance of not evading civil responsibility such as the payment of taxes (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22:15-22). And yet, as a Christian our highest calling is to do justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly with our God (http://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Micah%206:8).
You may wonder what your role as a Christian voter is, but I think the answer is pretty clearly laid out in God’s Word. He commands us to speak out against injustice and to defend the rights of the most vulnerable in society (http://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Isaiah%201%3A17). The Christian way to approach politics, then, is not to ignore the pressing issues, but to seek out more ways to promote gender equality, economic justice, and empowerment of the “least of these.”
It greatly sadness me when my peers (who are young adults) seem not to care about what is happening in the political arena. This especially troubles me when I consider my peers who I went to Bible College and Seminary with as well as my colleagues in various forms of Christian ministry. The truth is, that we can indeed serve God and give Him the glory through making informed and educated decisions about who will best represent us in parliament.
Below, I’ve highlighted some ways that I believe will serve God as we approach this election:
1) Be informed. Whether or not you are a Canadian born citizen, landed immigrant, Permanent Resident, or Canadian living abroad get to know the issues. Maybe you feel that because you are a PR rather than a citizen and therefore cannot vote that you do not want to spend time getting to know what is burning on Canadian’s minds. HOWEVER, if you presently call Canada your home then I would URGE you to help take responsibility of what is happening in our country. If you are an immigrant, you can bring a special perspective to what is happening politically. In many ways, there are still important ways that we need to reform immigration in Canada providing resources, governmental grants, and jobs to people who have chosen to live with us.
On the flip side, there are certain individuals who feel that immigration is not a big deal. They think that we should be granting jobs only to Canadian born and bred youth and radical people who feel like Canada should not accept any more immigrants. To this I say the following, unless you are 100% Native (Aboriginal) Canadian, do you really have the right to say this? Canada is a country made up of immigrants! Sure, maybe it was 5 generations ago that your great-great-great grandparents came over here, but the fact is, had they not immigrated you’d still be back in the motherland! Please also consider, as your Christian duty, that sometimes people HAVE to immigrate to other countries due to religious persecution and intolerance or due to severe famine or natural disasters. That’s what whether or not you are a Canadian citizen, I’d encourage you to read up and research information on immigration reform.
2) Vote wisely or choose not to vote. Don’t just take voting lightly, go to the polls and check off the box your parents expect you to check off, or spoil your ballot because you think all politicians are out to get you. Instead, think before you vote. Similar to the previous point, go to each party’s website and read their platforms. Phone, email, or drop in to your MPs office to ask them questions that are pressing on your mind. Then choose which one you agree with the most and which one you think will represent you the best. If you choose not to vote, make sure that you are doing it for good reasons not simply because of laziness or thinking that all politicians are crooks. I do believe that there could be legitimate reasons for a Christian to not want to vote, but before you decide to take that route truly ask yourself, “will I be serving God more with or without my ballot?” And if you choose not to do the ballot ask yourself how else you are expecting your voice to be heard. Remember that in many cases a spoiled ballot may say a whole lot more than simply not showing up to the polls.
3) Refuse to let Religion Rule to Roost. By religion I am not necessarily talking about true Evangelical faith which cannot lie dormant. I’m not talking about the relationship with Christ part, but about downright fundamentalism. You see, there are certain Christians who believe that the only “Christian” party is the Conservative wing. I have actually attended youth events where the Conservative leader tried to hook young adults into voting for him (or her) simply because he (or she) was a “Christian” and would represent them as a “Christian” in power. I’m not saying that having Christians in power is not important. I truly would love it if our prime minister and all the MPs and MPPs WERE Christian. After all, as a Christian I believe it is our responsibility to go and make disciples (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2028:19). HOWEVER, never vote for someone SIMPLY because they are a Christian. If they have the most God-fearing and best platform (in your opinion) and HAPPEN to be Christian consider that an added plus. But remember that many God-fearing Hindus, Jews, and Muslims can also serve you really well in the political arena. Sure they may not believe theologically as you do, but they still have very good morals and high standards.
As Christians we are blessed with the honour of showing our dedication to Christ in every aspect of our lives. When I was at Tyndale University I had an amazing professor who used to challenge my class full of 17 and 18 year old kids that everything we do is an act of worship – an act of giving God worth. In that sense it doesn’t matter whether you’re leading your youth group, serving on the mission field, or writing an academic paper – as long as you do it with the right heart and the right motivation you can be praising God. So, I’d like to take this a step further and encourage you to consider giving God worth with your ballot this year. Read and watch the news, talk with your friends and get them energized about voting, discuss the hard questions between the intermix of faith and politics with your pastor, youth leader, or campus chaplain. Then, GO. Go to the polls on June 12th and check off the name that you feel best reflects Christ’s will. And, always remember to PRAY. PRAY for all the parties and candidates who are running that they will be able to seek Christ’s face and if they don’t know Him yet, that they will form a personal relationship with Him someday. PRAY before AND after your cast your ballot and then leave it into God’s hands. And as you walk away from the polls remember that even if the person you wanted to see doesn’t get into power, that as Christians we can still work towards political, racial, and gender equality and that we should never give up. Especially not after June 12th.