Election 2015: A Christian Vote?

Two retired priests address the question, “What is the most important issue for Anglicans to consider in the upcoming election?”… each from personal perspective and experience.
Tony Harwood-Jones: Dual Citizenship
Anglicans — indeed, all Christians — are dual citizens. I don’t mean “British Canadian” or “Lebanese Canadian.” Our other citizenship is the Kingdom of Heaven, where Jesus Christ is ruler of all earthly rulers. We are fortunate to live in Canada, for it is one of the best places on earth to live, but our primary loyalty is, and must be, that other “country” to which we belong. If ever there is a conflict between the policies of Canada and the law of God, there is no question what we must choose.
Admittedly, we Christians can get into horrible tangles about what some of the laws of God might voteactually be. We have struggled over divorce and remarriage, and over the status of women, among other things. A struggle over euthanasia is just around the corner. But what Christian anywhere will disagree with the greatest law of all: “Love God with all your heart”? And what about the one that is a close second: “Love your neighbour as yourself”? And what Christian cannot also endorse, “Forgive those who sin against you,” or the importance of generosity, and care for the poor?
Currently there is no political party in Canada, in my opinion, that is evil and opposed to God’s standards. Christians may well prefer any one of our federal parties for the values they uphold:  the Conservatives, for their desire to lower taxes, promote personal freedom, and reduce red tape for businesses; the Liberals, for their moderation and willingness to pick the best from both left and right; the NDP, for the priority it places on social well-being; the Greens, for their commitment to the environment; and the Bloq, for its commitment to French language and culture. Of course, the parties all have failings, too, but Christian Canadians have every right to emphasize the good in their preferred party, and work to get the bad fixed.
Here are some policies that have a genuine Christian flavour:
– care for the poor
– care for the environment
– a commitment to community:  particularly good infrastructure (transportation, energy, telecommunications, medical care, and public safety)
– a preference for rehabilitation, rather than punishment and retribution, of convicted criminals (remember, Christians are commanded to forgive both enemies and neighbours)
– foreign trade that does not benefit from child labour and sweatshops
– military action for moral, rather than economic, causes
Of course, the country is ultimately run by people, so we should not blindly vote for party or policy when the person who represents that position in our riding is immoral or incompetent or both.
Here is my list of desirable traits in political candidates:
– respect for constituents
– courtesy
– intelligence
– wisdom
– respect for the rule of law
– mercy, peacemaking, and a thirst for righteousness (see Matthew 5)
– patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and self-control (see Ephesians 5:22)
Undesirable traits:
– lust for power
– lying; preferring “spin” to truth
– excessive enjoyment of privilege and ‘perks’
– lust for material gain
– inability to work cooperatively with others
When you prepare to vote, treat this article as a checklist.  I suspect that our true sovereign would be pleased.
Tim Sale: The Elephant in the Room
The length of this election has at least one blessing: it gives us Anglican Christians time to reflect carefully on the issues. The pundits are pointing to the fragile Canadian economy as the central issue. Some see the various trials currently underway involving senior civil servants and politicians as a central issue. Others would focus on the state of health care, or point to the threat of climate change and Canada’s weak response to that threat. Advocates for education, health care, and housing (of which I am one), those speaking for business and labour, and a myriad of other concerns compete to make their voices heard — as they should and must in a free society.
As much as I care deeply about many of these issues, for me there is a deeper and more central issue, namely the actual health of the Canadian version of democracy. “Democracy is the worst form of Government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”  So said Sir Winston Churchill in the House of Commons in 1947. If asked, he might also have reflected on the fragility of democracy and how easily and quickly the legislative process can be corrupted.

Photo: Becky Mayhew
Photo: Becky Mayhew

The integrity of a democracy rests on several pillars, most of which have been weakened by various Canadian governments over several decades. The first and most basic is free and fair elections. Fundamentally, a free election means all citizens, including the poorest, are both encouraged and enabled to vote. Voter suppression, whether by bad law or by nefarious practice, debases democracy. Free and fair elections means limits on funding and limits on donors. To see why, we have only to look south, where literally billions will be raised and spent, and only those with the connections to do so need apply to run.
Nominations also need to be open and fair. Candidates must have a reasonably equal chance to be heard, to contact voters, and to be seen and questioned in public. The same should be true of the leaders of parties: to take part in debates, to be accessible to the press and the public, to articulate a vision for Canada, and have the capacity to address that vision.
Once a parliament is summoned, the most important figure is the Speaker, who oversees the process by which every law of the land is created. If a strong government wishes to pass a bad law by evading or distorting procedures which have been developed over centuries to prevent the rise of a totalitarian government, it is only the Speaker who can defend due process.
Any modern government also needs a non-partisan and highly professional, civil service. Of course, the civil service has to carry out the lawful decisions of government. But it also is a key source of wisdom, information, and guidance. To share that wisdom and give good guidance, it must be both free of political bias and secure enough that, in “speaking truth to power”, it does not find itself either fired or shunted off to the sidelines. Much modern policy requires rigorous scientific input that must be available freely to all, both inside and outside the political process.
Other key roles in a modern democracy rest on the officers of parliament: the Auditor General, the Supreme Court, the Governor of the Central Bank, the heads of critical regulatory bodies involving food safety, nuclear power generation, rail and pipeline safety, and so forth. All such senior officials need a sense of security to do their job well, because in many cases, doing their job will mean being critical of government.
Finally, an enduring democracy rests to a great degree on its openness to inquiry and challenge, whether from individual citizens, members of the press, or other levels of government. So then, for me, there are many important issues, but the central one is the state of our democracy itself. The appropriate response to the many important issues we all care about rests on the free and effective functioning of parliament, the honour and integrity of the government, and the strength of the structures around that government. What do you think?
Respond to Tony and Tim with your own opinion on the most pressing issue in the upcoming election by sharing your ideas in the comment section below. Remember, what’s most important is to get out and vote! If you cannot vote for reasons of identification or mobility and would like assistance, please email the Editor.

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