Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: Faith & Politics

April 28, 2006

Faith & Politics

I am a Christian. That said, I have no need for others to adopt my personal beliefs or values. I say this because it should be clear that I am working to serve my constituency and my party. I'm not here to tell people how they should or shouldn't live their lives. There is a clear line between my political duties and my spiritual duties. However, I choose to live by example using principles such as tolerance, patience & compassion, and therefore my spirituality is always a part of my political life. I've chosen to be a part of the Green Party which best represents my beliefs, and I'm open about where I stand on all issues. Since there can never be a political party that represents all of any one person's beliefs or values, I see it as wise for us to vote based on political issues, and live our daily lives according to our own personal values and beliefs.

I made the decision to become a Christian in 2005. I had been married for almost two years, and over that time I came to know my wife's family very well. My wife Jennifer and her family are Christians. Her parents worked as missionaries in Laos for many years. My father-in-law is currently a semi-retired chaplain at the Drumheller penitentiary, and my mother-in-law is retired, having also worked at the penitentiary as a psychologist. While I was raised with Christian values, never in my life have I known Christians as devoted and down to Earth as my wife's family. These are normal people, complete with the same set of trials and tests as anyone else. The way they deal with their struggles is an example of living by faith. I have known many Christians. Some are active in living by their faith in God, while others are not.

Some Christians use single issues to guide their vote. It's my belief that a lot of us experience this temptation, but I think single issues should not determine our choice. We can become so involved in a single issue that it affects all of our political involvement including voting. Your vote helps to elect one political party as our governing power for many years. They will determine the use of our taxes, resources and write laws. We can ask ourselves, “do I want to vote someone into power just because of one moral issue?” Looking at all issues and policies - what benefits everyone - is a good idea. We all have different priorities, but our voting choice needs to be based on a bigger view than just one issue.

Politicians from all walks of life need to work in harmony with their personal principles. A Christian could always vote for the sole reason that a politician is openly Christian, but is this the best way to vote for a political candidate? Look at how politicians explain the impact of their faith for the policies they propose. Explore the reasons behind a politician's support (or lack of support) for governmental involvement in the issues that concern you.

Jesuit priest and theologian John Courtney Murray said, "it is not the function of civil law to prescribe everything that is morally right and to forbid everything that is morally wrong." I find this argument interesting because in Canada the line between what is the responsibility of the government and what's not is often blurred. At the same time one might say that it's not the place of the church to dictate what we should or shouldn't do; what we as Canadians have a right to do under civil law. A former Canadian prime minister said, “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” In the end, common sense should allow our government to make the right call on issues related to morality and values, but can we assume they possess the necessary common sense to make these decisions? And where do we as a country draw the line regarding government involvement in our own personal lives? These are some of the tough questions that need to be answered.

Preston Manning wrote "moral leadership in our society must of necessity involve bridging the current 'disconnect' between political leadership and people of faith." However, he has argued, not by treating the faith community as an interest group to be targeted and mobilized for political purposes. "Appealing for votes on the basis of religious faith is ultimately bad politics and bad public policy, conducive to creating permanent and divisive cleavages in society," says Manning. "More important, mobilizing votes on the basis of religious commitment can be particularly destructive to the religious community itself and its testimony to the rest of the public."

Janet Epp Buckingham, director of the Centre for Faith and Public Life of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, concurs. "While believers should be involved in politics, the separation of Church and state is necessary, and even beneficial, to allow for perspective and criticism of public policies," she says.

Prior to the recent US election, Buckingham wrote "we have lately witnessed not only a lack of separation but positive co-operation of Church and politics. The alignment of the so-called 'Christian right' with the Republican Party in the U.S. was very negative for both. It focused attention on one brand of Christian ideology while at the same time moving the Republicans from the mainstream: when the Republicans lost, the Christian right demonized the Democrats." Today the damage is going the other way. With Republicans having done well, many now demonize America's religious right.

"In Canada, there is a long tradition of people of faith being involved in politics," says Buckingham. "But this is a very different thing from churches themselves being involved in politics … .The Church must be able to keep distance and perspective on public policy. It must be able to be critical of policies. Its job is to offer a better way. Of course, there are Christians in politics. This is as it should be, as there are many Christians in society. The Church should be supportive of these Christians, no matter which political party they represent … .Canadian Christians have voted in very similar proportions as the general population. There are Christian MPs in every political party. No one party can claim that it represents the interests or concerns of Christians in Canada. There is great danger in the Church or any part of it aligning with any one party."

Manning tells audiences the story of "the day the scribes and Pharisees tried to get Jesus into political trouble over the issue of taxes. 'Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?' They think they have Him. If He says Yes, He will lose the support of the ordinary people who despised Roman taxes. But if He says No, He will be guilty of treason. What does He do? First, He takes His time. He asks for a coin. Whose inscription is this? Caesar's. 'Then render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's but unto God the things that are God's.'"


SUZANNE said...

Hi Cameron

I saw your blogpost through Babble.

I think one-issue voting is legit, when you consider what most so-cons base their votes on: fetal rights.

Consider this scenario: suppose a country elected government with whom you agreed with most of the policies except one: they want to kill off people with brown-eyes.

Now, do you think the people with brown-eyes would want you to be a one-issue voter or not?

The alternative may be horrible: a bunch of right-wing libertarians out to destroy every social program and allow tax breaks to all the corporations.

But they will save brown-eyed people.

This is why social conservative Christians are one-issue voters.

God Bless.

Cameron W said...

Thanks for your reply Suzanne. Your argument offers insight on this subject.

You bring up fetal rights. I'm proud that the GPC includes support of reducing the number of abortions through preventative measures. This puts the choice in the hands of those it directly impacts upon. To impose a moral judgement on an entire nation is in my mind extreme, and a more fair way to try to reduce this traumatic and horrible experience (I've known a number of women who've had abortions and all of them deeply regret it) is through prevetative measures including education, outreach, and social change.

This is a tough subject to discuss, but I hope through peacefull communication we can continue to explore it.

God Bless.