Belief through engagement
The relationship between spirituality and politics
by James Wilt
Oct. 1 will come and go like any other Saturday.
Assignments will be completed, textbooks will be read and beer will be drunk during what will likely be one of the last days of sunshine.
But if everything goes as expected a week earlier, a significant announcement will be made sometime in the evening. One of three candidates will have emerged as victor in the second ballot of the election for the new leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta and will consequently become the premier of Alberta until the next provincial vote is held.
However, if the leadership election in 2006 was any indicator, not many people will care. Some 144,000 people voted in the second ballot of that election, which made up a miniscule four per cent of Alberta’s population at the time.
Surprisingly, all of this relates to faith.
In 2001, the federal census suggested that around two out of every three Calgarians described themselves as Christian. If every one of those 632,295 people had voted in the election five years later, it would have boosted the overall province-wide turnout by over four times.
As I see it, voting is intimately spiritual. But if the action — which takes all of five minutes — was seen like that by the other half million Christians in Calgary, then the numbers would reflect it.
Obviously, my position is an anomaly. But why?
Evangelical Christians — and I pick on them because I am one — have a funny habit of aggregating Christ’s words into a personal mission statement.
Verses such as “As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19) and “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) somehow become catchy bumper-sticker phrases like “Be in the world, but not of it.”
And just like that, any obligation to participate on the ongoing events of the world is nullified. From that bastardized worldview, all that salvation requires is for the believer to defend oneself from the lies of sinners and wait for Jesus to suck them up into the vortex of heaven. Homelessness, the gendered wage gap and environmental degradation don’t actually matter. After all, the world’s going to burn.
Although most Christians in Canada aren’t that extreme, there are remnants of similar theology surfacing from time to time. Elections are one of those times.
At the polls, we each have the ability to determine what the province’s priorities will be for the next couple of years. This should be a stunning notion. With the cross of a box, we can somehow help change health care, improve education for all and influence the direction of the economy.
But Christians stay at home and read their Bibles. Maybe, for once, it would be a good idea to follow the recorded actions of Christ, who “became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14). He became one of us to make the world a better place.
If we say that we believe in him, we should probably do the same thing.