As I write, Canada is midway through a fractious federal election campaign. Many people feel Election 2021 could change our country forever.
Yesterday I had a conversation that irritated me. With the election campaign well underway, this mature adult didn’t know if the election is provincial or federal. They couldn’t name the names of the major parties, nor the current Member of Parliament. In our roughly half-hour conversation, I detected no understanding of which issues may be crucial, or why it should be important to learn them. I did hear, though, a long story of personal woes and institutional failures.
I shouldn’t have been cross, perhaps. Bad news, from every angle, bombards us all these days. Some, in despair, tune it all out. But it bothered me that my conversation partner, a lifetime churchgoer, revealed a long and willful ignorance.
Thankfully, that response from a fellow Christian believer isn’t typical. Many others understand that while on earth, Jesus, though shunning political power for himself, was nevertheless no passive bystander to the issues of the day.
Elections determine which party will govern. But parties don’t only have platforms and policies. They have ideologies—the ideas that shape their policies. The thoughts that guide our governors are the hidden compass that points the direction and ultimate destination of a nation. Ideologies reveal what could await our beloved children and grandchildren when they become old enough to realize that the choices of their elders created the country they live in, for better or worse.
For decades, our family has worked elections, even campaigned for candidates we supported. And for the last decade I’ve had the honour of working full-time for two parliamentarians. Both entered politics hoping to help keep Canada glorious and free for the generations that follow. That same motivation should spur all people of faith to vote with as much understanding as possible.
In 1803, a preacher named Matthias Barnet spoke these words, old fashioned, to be sure, but up-to-the minute relevant: “To God and posterity, you are accountable for your rights and your rulers…Let not your children have reason to curse you for giving up those rights and prostrating those institutions which your fathers delivered to you.”
Do churches have a role in politics? Absolutely. Not to take power, but to shine God’s light on and speak his truth to power. I’m grateful to know that some churches (and Christian organizations) keep congregants and watchers informed on how party policies intersect with their faith. Some are currently holding prayer vigils for our country.
There will be no perfect options on our ballots on September 20th. But voting wisely often means choosing the best of less than perfect options, so that the worst of those choices doesn’t overcome the opportunity to make gradual changes for the better.
Whatever happens on election day, we can be certain of what the Bible clearly demonstrates: God holds all government in his own hands, and ultimately uses it for his own purposes.