Michael Coren’s latest book, Reclaiming Faith, is set to be published next month. He is about to be ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada.
Canadian politics differs from the U.S. variety on numerous levels. And one of the most obvious is the importance of the Christian vote.
It matters deeply there: A quarter of voters in the past four national elections have been white evangelicals, and 81 per cent of them voted for Donald Trump. In other words, without this massive, organized and in every sense faithful constituency, the Republicans cannot achieve victory.
In Canada, evangelicals have traditionally voted Conservative, Roman Catholics Liberal, and progressive Protestants, such as members of the United Church, NDP. But strict definitions are difficult to maintain. Catholics, just as they do in the United States, vote according to class rather than religion, unless they are especially orthodox. The evangelical vote is still solidly to the right, but that only comprises about 10 per cent of the general population.
So in examining how Canadian Christians could view this election, it may be better to focus not on how Christians vote but how Christians should vote.
The issues that are often assumed to be at the forefront of the Christian community’s electoral decisions – abortion and homosexuality – are very much artificially constructed. Jesus never mentions either, there are a mere handful of references in the entire Bible, and those that do exist are deeply ambiguous and tied to their ancient origins rather than modern societal standards.
If anything does permeate the scriptures, it’s a call to justice and peace, to welcome the stranger, to stand with the marginalized, to liberate the poor and oppressed, to be stewards of God’s creation. As Jesus says: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Putting the erratic and often bizarre policies of the People’s Party of Canada aside, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has been the least enthusiastic about immigration, and his promise to cut foreign aid by 25 per cent seems to go against that Gospel grain. Meanwhile, when it comes to preserving the planet – the protection of creation – the Liberals may have moved somewhat in the right direction, but there is a very long way to travel. The NDP and the Greens go to the top of the theology class on this subject. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, in fact, once considered becoming an Anglican priest and has even been criticized for wearing a cross around her neck.
On war and peace, matters are less absolute than we might think. Internationally, parties of the left as well as the right have taken countries into war, but Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien courageously refused to join the disastrous war in Iraq in 2002, the first time in modern history that Canada did not participate in a conflict alongside the U.S. and Britain. The Trudeau government, however, threatens to undo this moral legacy, as it continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, which oppresses its own people and is fighting a brutal war in Yemen.
Regarding the poor and marginalized, I’ve spent the past four years of my life working with those on the fringes of society and I’ve had to deal with social services at a provincial and federal level. I’ve seen firsthand that money is far from the only thing such people need, but their lives seem easier under progressive governments.
These are some of the issues that should animate Christian voters. But the one issue this election is decidedly not about? The protection of religious freedom. All the major parties are committed to that, despite the allegations surrounding the government’s decision to reform the Canada Summer Jobs Program, designed to fund short-term contracts for students. When it became known that some of this public money was financing anti-abortion activists who compared the right of women to choose to the Holocaust and displayed graphic pictures of aborted fetuses, the government asked recipients to indicate their support for the Charter of Rights. That’s not exactly persecution.
Of the 2,728 faith-based organizations that applied for funding, 58 per cent were willing to sign the attestation. Of the 115 Anglican groups that applied, only 10 refused to sign, and only two of the 199 United Church-affiliated organizations refused. Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that the previous Conservative government rejected a $7-million funding request from KAIROS, a Christian aid organization that represents 11 major churches.
The choice on Oct. 21 is yours. My advice in these difficult circumstances? Pray.
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