By Thomas Coldwell
We respond in a variety of ways to the mention of “politics.” Some people feel pride, others become angry, and several fall asleep.
However, whether we are impatient, apathetic, or just busy, political decisions have real consequences for us as individuals, families, and communities. If we want these decisions to have long-term, positive impacts and if we desire more effective and ethical governance, we must be involved in the political process.
We have all heard the saying, “Give someone a fish and you’ll feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish and you’ll feed them for a lifetime.” While there is some truth to this, there are many other considerations. What if the fishing gear is too expensive? What if access to the water source is too restricted? What if the waters are polluted and the fish are all dead?
While it is important to increase individual capacity, it is also necessary to advocate for the economic, social, and environmental conditions necessary for people to reach their potential.
But who is responsible for keeping these considerations in mind? Ideally, within our democratic society, they would always be in the minds of elected representatives. However, as we know, this is not always the case. It is, therefore, up to citizens to hold government accountable.
God wants us to be inspired and influenced by his own spirit of justice. The Bible is full of psalms, parables, and letters that describe the heart of God. With over 2,000 verses dealing with poverty and justice, clearly God cares about the world’s poor. Multiple verses about caring for creation enforce his desire for a flourishing earth.
Genesis 1 tells us that all human beings are created in God’s image with inherent worthy and dignity. But it did not take long before sin contaminated God’s creation. Cain posed a rhetorical question when he asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” But God’s response is “yes.” We are expected to be each other’s keepers. This is the heart of God.
The world will never be without corruption, greed, or lust for power, but we can influence circumstances by bringing the heart of God into our political sphere. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, it says that “we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us.” As ambassadors of Christ, Christians must become more involved in politics. For Christians, disengaging from politics means withholding the heart of God from processes that impact our neighbours— especially the poor and disenfranchised. Instead, we should be amplifying the voices of those who suffer injustice and who have difficulty being heard. Advocating for policies that will contribute to the well-being of others is part of the command to love others that we read about in Matthew 22:36-40.
Political advocacy will look different for different people. Becoming involved in politics doesn’t mean running for office (though some might choose this avenue). For those who have never been politically active, learning about Canada’s political system is a good place to start. For many of us, being politically active will mean staying informed about specific policy debates and government actions. We are also called to pray for our government leaders and “all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:2).
Most of all, it is extremely important to exercise our right to vote as we carefully consider who to vote for. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.” What would Canada look like if our political sphere reflected the heart of God? How would our communities change if we all committed to being each other’s keeper? I cannot say for sure, but I think we would all want to be awake for that.
CPJ’s Advocacy Toolkit is a great resource to help citizens engage Canadian politics. This guide includes information about advocating at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels. It has been recently updated with sections about using social media and including younger generations in advocacy. You can find our Advocacy Toolkit at www.cpj.ca/advocacy-toolkit.
Thomas Coldwell was Citizens for Public Justice’s Summer 2014 Communications Assistant.