Category Archives: Politics

Conservatives and the Evangelical Vote

Why Conservatives are still in the race for Governing Canada even though all the facts are against them. It is the Evangelical grass-roots support that gives them the advantage.

Many Evangelicals side with Stephan Harper and the Conservative party because it is the only one that potentially represents their values. However, although religious representation does exist in the Party, the Conservative psyche hardly promotes or defends these constituents core values. This behaviour is still better than the NDP and the Liberals who have shown open hostility to the Evangelical movement. The Evangelical movement in Canada is a large voting block, arguably between one to four million Canadians.

This does not mean all Evangelicals side with the Conservatives but it is safe to say that a large percentage do. Harper realizes, as Davies notes in his Guardian article, Stephen Harper: the Master Manipulator, this constituency has no voting alternative. I am no statistician, but this appears to be a large advantage. If one combines those voters who are staunch Conservatives without a religious affiliation, the lowest base that the Conservatives could achieve in voting is around 24 percent. This leverage means they only need to sway an additional 10 to 15 percent of the populace to return to power. The Conservative strategy to get the extra percentage is to target those who are concerned about security and to a lesser degree economic issues. Although it is clear to most Canadians that the level of secrecy the Government has conducted itself in, the revelations of major misdeeds within its tenure, and how the severe autocratic control of the Prime Minister’s office undermines democracy, the Conservative formula for success still works.

The Dark Side of the Canadian Barbaric Rhetoric

Who are the Barbarians?

The open use of barbarian in the Canadian political vocabulary during the 2015 election demonstrated Canada could potentially be sliding into ethnic isolationism. This ideology was very dangerous, and Canadians narrowly avoided the acceptance of this word into the cultural psyche.

This article was generated during the Canadian 2015 election. The Conservative Party of Canada has since regretted their use of the word ‘Barbarian’ during their election campaign.

Act-S7, commonly known as the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act was introduced and enacted on June 16th, 2015, in the Canadian Parliament. The Act is a piece of legislation that allows every Canadian citizen the right to consent to marriage, whether in Canada or abroad, and must be over 16 years of age. Anyone found aiding or abetting a forced marriage is liable to up to five years in prison.

Was Act-S7 even necessary? Probably not. This type of behaviour is restricted in other established Canadian laws. However, the timing of such a law exacerbates the current phobias generational Canadians have with immigrants. The tone and timing creates an atmosphere of distrust between generational and new Canadians.

The spirit behind this legislation is moving into further controversial areas. Conservative politicians Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander, who was the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration at the time, proposed a Barbaric Cultural Practices tip line. A phone number that any concerned citizen can call if they think an immigrant is practicing something that is in contradiction of standard Canadian values.(1)http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-election-2015-barbaric-cultural-practices-law-1.3254118

The hotline is reminiscent of the Japanophobia that occurred on the west coast of British Columbia during the Second World War. A time when the people of Japanese descent were treated as second-class citizens and potential enemies of the State. Over 10,000 persons of Japanese descent were slated for deportation because of ethnic fears. They also lost all their properties, businesses, and jobs during this period. It took until 1988 for the then Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, to offer an apology and compensation to the Japanese community.(2)http://pw20c.mcmaster.ca/case-study/racial-discrimination-and-internment-cooperative-committee-japanese-canadians

Fortunately, Canadians did not approve of this concept at the voting station, and the whole Barbaric tip line hurt the Conservative cause for re-election.

The word barbarian is of particular concern as a title. The historical meaning of this word does not mean foreigner, but something inferior. Meriam-Webster defines it as, “of or relating to a land, culture, or people alien and usually believed to be inferior to another land, culture, or people.”(3)http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/barbarian

It is a serious error for Government representatives or politicians to use this word. The wording of the title suggests this is a polemic against an unnamed entity. The likely targets are the Muslim or East Indian communities; ethnic groups whose values on marriage, and other practices are distinctly different than Canadian standards.

The idea of barbarian has been expressed in numerous ways in the Canadian political system for at least ten years. The official use of the word is the culmination of this mindset that must be purged.

The Conservative Government also pushed restrictive laws against immigrants in other areas. They introduced legislation that allows to strip Canadian citizens of their citizenship if they were previously or remain a citizen of another country. This rule can be enforced if a Canadian citizen who is an immigrant has been found to have broken Canadian law. These Canadians are then forced to return to the country of origin. This type of attitude represents a self-patronizing attitude and separates Canadians into two tiers; those that were born here, and others who immigrated. Immigrants are now conditional Canadians based on whether their values and behaviour continually align with Canadian principles.

The Canadian Government also has a policy of not allowing women from certain Asian countries from entering, even as a tourist. These women, unless they have clear documentation of professional status, business credentials, wealth or titled property holder, cannot enter Canada. The Canadian Government believes that there is a statistically good chance that a women from a foreign, impoverished country, will not return to their place of origin, or will be used by unscrupulous Canadians in the sex trade. Although the Canadian Government has real concerns, a complete barring of women from Asian developing countries is discriminatory and represents a self-aggrandized attitude. There has to be a better solution than this.

Foreign workers have also been discriminated against and considered a lesser person. There is difficulty in some provinces for employers to attract Canadians for entry level or service oriented jobs. The solution was to allow temporary foreign workers to fill the need. However, there were some loopholes that made these workers into potential slaves. Some paid substantial fees to recruiters to come to Canada. Upon arrival, they were housed in sub-standard living conditions, and on some occasions, after landing a job, did not receive any or proper pay. The temporary worker loathed to complain because of employer leverage. If the person complained, the employer had the power to contact the Canadian Border Services Agency, and the foreign complainant would be immediately deported without reason. An Ontario human rights tribunal recently noted that a woman was “forced to perform sex acts under threat of being sent home.”(4)http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/28/temporary-foreign-workers-vulnerability-noted-in-sexual-harassment-case_n_7455636.html. Attempts have been made through legislation to improve these conditions, but the underlying problem of tiered citizenship and an exploitive attitude towards immigrants still exist.

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Evangelicals in the Canadian Political Realm

How Evangelicals can and can’t contribute to the diverse Canadian social mosaic.

Many Evangelicals hold to an ideology that to bring about positive moral change in Canada is to directly influence those in power, and the values endorsed by the powerbrokers will trickle-down to every part of society.

In order to bring about this type of revision, the Christian movement needs leverage, clout and people power — a force that draws the attention of the key public decision makers, who then recognize the political necessity to change. If a maxim existed for such an approach, it would be, If you want God’s kingdom to have a strong influence on this land, learn to influence the key decision makers in all.

This immediately poses a number of questions. Two especially come to mind: is this trickle-down concept moral or the best methodology the Evangelical community can provide? And, are religious leaders properly equipped to delve into the political realm?

Religious Canadian leaders have successfully entered the political realm. Powerful voices in the such as J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, and William Aberhart have contributed with great success. Their experience has demonstrated lessons for others who follow. However, the line today between religious and civic leaders are drawn with little crossover. It is a new era where those Evangelicals entering today must be fully aware of what they are getting into. It can be done and is necessary, but most churches are not prepared, nor politically astute enough to provide the proper checks and balances.

Religious leaders can be exploited because of their lack of experience with the political system. David Kuo, former second in command to President Bush’s office admits to milking the religious right for their allegiance. In a Time Magazine article, he quoted Chuck Colson, once aide to President Richard Nixon, saying, “I arranged special briefings in the Roosevelt Room for religious leaders, ushered wide-eyed denominational leaders into the Oval Office for private sessions with the President,” and then Colson adds, “Of all the groups I dealt with, I found religious leaders the most naive about politics. Maybe that is because so many come from sheltered backgrounds, or perhaps it is the result of a mistaken perception of the demands of Christian charity … Or, most worrisome of all, they may simply like to be around power.”(1)David Kuo. Tempting Faith. And Inside Story of Political Seduction. New York: Free Press. 2006. Pg. 172

The late Chuck Colson, who was an important aide to President Nixon, and later a born again Christian, added that Christians must be engaged, but with eyes open, aware of the snares and to not be beholden to any political ideological alignment.(2)Charles Colson. Kingdoms in Conflict. New York: Harper PaperBacks. 1990. Pg. 477

No religious leader can remain altruistic. One of the key components of political involvement from a faith perspective is recognition that no matter how moral or pure our intentions are, the quest for power exists in every individual and must be publicly recognized.

Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to the concept of power and one-upmanship as being motivated by the ‘Drum Major Instinct’, and that no-one, including himself, is outside its influence.(3)http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_the_drum_major_instinct/ If this is true, one of the key components of political involvement from a faith perspective is recognition that no matter how moral or pure our intentions are, the drum major instinct exists and must be publicly recognized.

If people or organizations from a faith perspective do not acknowledge the drum major instinct within their realm, along with the proper checks and balances to control, potential problems may arise in the future that not only defeats the aims of the political activist, but harms the corporate religion.

Another important point Canadian religious leaders must be mindful of is public fear that religious advocates would force their agenda. Preston Manning opined this at McGill University’s “Pluralism, Religion, and Public Policy” conference held in 2002, “When advocates of faith-based positions convey the impression that they would force their positions on the rest of the population, if only they had sufficient power and influence to do so, is it any wonder that the rest of the population is reluctant to grant them standing and influence?”

From a Canadian standpoint, this fear is very ubiquitous and is found both in our creative literature and in politics. For example the well-known Canadian literary giant, Margaret Atwood, wrote a fictional novel, The Handmaiden, on what she thought could potentially happen if protestant fundamentalists took over the government — an event that she perceived would have catastrophic repercussions on the role of women in society.

The public ideological alignment of Evangelicals with the Conservative Party of Canada could especially have long-term negative damage. Although this party may best represent many Christian principles, it is still a political party, and any large political fallout with the public by way of hypocrisy, scandal, war or moral debate may cause a harsh public backlash against the Evangelical Church and foment publicly acceptable anti-Christian and Church rhetoric.

A closer look at Jesus teachings on leadership indicate that the trickle-down theory was antithetical to a message to the majority of people whom He served. He did not come to persuade the powers-to-be. He came directly to the disenfranchised and gave them hope.

Traditional Evangelicals may posit that the power Christians are to wield in this world is evangelism. Social reform is dependant and can only happen through widespread personal repentance and submittance to God. Although evangelism has a high importance, this is an incomplete answer that is over-simplistic.

Many belonging to the burgeoning charismatic movement would argue that power is to be defined in supernatural terms; it is to destroy the works of Satan. This too is not a consistent nor a comprehensive definition of power from a heavenly perspective.

Nor is it the Churches purpose to respresent, lead, and empower the oppressed and marginalized to overthrow tyrannical despots, or corrupt leadership. This is also a top-down strategy that is ineffective.

St. Francis of Assissi provided part of the answer when he wrote: “where there is hatred, let me sow Your love” which tends to go nicely together with Christ’s admonition, “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either”. This may seem like such a cowardly withdrawal from conflict that allows for exploitation or abuse, but rather, it is breaking the cycle of absolute power. They are encouraging people not to be controlled by conventions of worldly power, but guided by a higher law of love and servanthood that is not subject to corruption, dishonesty, anger, bitterness or revenge.

Jesus described the heavenly definition of power as that of servanthood, “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all.” And also, “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve”. His definition of power ascribed almost the exact opposite of what we instinctually believe it to be.

The idea of leadership from a heavenly perspective is about the person who is most willing to do whatever it costs for the betterment of another being and respects everyone as equal partners. In many circles this is called service. It is the opposite to pursuing power. Carl Jaspers, a humanist philosopher concluded this when he wrote, “Where love rules, there is no will to power and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.”

There are many implications of holding onto such a philosophy, especially where faith and politics intertwine. First of all it changes the role of the Christian. Instead of the Christian standing aloof and judging against the world, the main purpose is helping others arrive at completeness in whatever area they lack, whether spiritual or physical.

It also avoids and corrects the idea that the Church and Christians want to lord over others and force their opinions.

The mission of helping others then becomes the message. People such as Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, and lesser-knowns such as Dr. Paul Brandt, a specialist in leprosy, the late Winnipeg Pastor and activist, Harry Lehotsky, and more whose mission to serve has naturally also became the message. These names are all a positive part of the public conscience and transcends racial, socio-economic, cultural and religious barriers.

The Church then becomes a center for serving those in need and constantly making adjustments as the needs arise. By doing this, the Church through service will become an active part of the Canadian mosaic rather than an outside bystander.■

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Fanatics, Extremists, and Religion

The difference between fanaticism and true religion.

Fanaticism is an unhealthy set of principles that takes the letter of the law too literally and avoids compassion or feeling towards self or others. It is found in all faiths and ideologies. It is part of the human narrative.

On the other hand, true religion is one who lives by the higher law of love and commitment to truth. A condition that takes much more effort, patience and sacrifice to achieve than simply following a legal code.

There are good Christians and bad Christians, same with socialists, capitalists, Jews, and also Muslims. History shows that even non-religious systems such as Communism, and the attempted establishment of Western Democratic countries in the Middle East have run into the same problems of fanaticism. The ancient texts and modern history weaves the account that wherever humanity exists, greatness is found, but also the element of corruption and inhumanity always runs in parallel.

Is it the fault of religion or ideology? No. Any system designed for the benefit of humanity can also be a source of bondage. From my observations as a member of the Charismatic Church community, there are many stories where people are rescued from their own destructive behavior and discover a newfound sense of community. However, there are also those who have personally suffered either at the hands of those asserting legal principles over human need or are using religion to avoid dealing with their inner demons.

How can that be? If one lives simply by the rules and adheres to the Bible as a legal text of dos and do nots, it absolves one of any personal responsibility. The letter of the Law does not require one to love another, or even care while the spirit of it does.

The present Church is a combination of some who just go by the letter, and those who strive hard to go by the higher law. Most vacillate between the two sides – not because these are bad people, it is because the Church is a human entity. Being human is a problem of imperfection, and the ensuing challenge is to go beyond self and to be altruistic. The achievement of such a condition is not an easy path to follow.

The legal vs. spirit of the law is not just an ancient religious problem. It is a common theme today but masked in different motifs. It is seen in my place of employment where the Collective Agreement between the Union and Management is like a Bible. There is no higher standard than the words in the agreement between the two parties. Management does not have to care at all about the individual employee in any decision-making, and can harass, shame, or push for productivity as long as it does not contravene the Collective Agreement. The Union too can call out names and shame management, and treat with contempt because this behavior is not explicitly found in the Collective Agreement and therefore not punishable. The Agreement is not designed to force anyone to like, respect, or treat each other humanely. This is not in the spirit how people should treat each other, but this is the reality.

People can easily hide behind the façade of the secular Western democratic systems of governance and justice.The halls of democracy can equally abuse as that of a religious system. If people follow the legal text without being encouraged to reach for a higher standard above the Law – that is of loving one another, then it fails.

When the Law becomes a daily part of our lives, and the spirit of the Law is removed, it takes away the responsibility to think about others, communicate, or even care. Inhumanity then easily can sink in.

Are there fanatical Christians? Yes. Fanatical Muslims? Yes. Fanatical Jews? Yes. Fanatical secularists? Yes. Are most people fanatics in any system or ideology? No, but the majority voice of compassion and patience can be drowned out by a small minority of passionate zealots. Fanaticism is not the fault of any religion or ideology, it is simply the dark part of the human character that hides behind legal texts for its self-seeking purposes, and thus avoiding any personal responsibility. It’s an easy-way-out.

To not recognize or address fanatical elements in any religious system or ideology is an immature view of our human capabilities for both good and evil. It is also dangerous because ignoring the fanatical dark side in any movement can have damaging future consequences.

Where have all the Prophets gone?

The need for modern prophets in the age of spin.

Prophet is an old term used for people who have the capacity to discern between the lines. These people have the ability to discover and expose the truth where things appear unclear or hidden. They don’t take things at face value but look into the motivations behind the words. These type of people are independent, free-thinkers, who are devoted to the truth and are not bound to any particular brand, organization, or institution.

Today, the title of prophet is little used, and the noun journalist is preferred.

Unfortunately, the prophet as journalist is disappearing. It takes a lot of work to be a prophet and communicate to the masses. It is not simply an esoteric task that happens in an instant moment where someone is suddenly inspired. It takes time, research, networking, access to key persons and literature on a subject, and finding those that are in the know. It is a full time job which requires compensation and teamwork in order to succeed.

Newspapers, radio and television organizations supplied a highly developed journalism department backed by strong administrative and legal support. Today, this is no longer economically viable and the journalism that society has counted on for generations is dying. Those that do remain are forced to compete with the myriad of amateur perspectives posted on the internet. If they are not picked up by a major media outlet, their message can easily be lost. Most media channels, due to the present lack of a strong journalism department, simply restate whatever press release is given by a government or corporation.

There are many prophet/journalist wannabees who do proliferate the internet and many magazines with stories that are not grounded on truth but are written to either titillate or provoke, improve readership, their own image, or make easy money. These are false-prophets and are a different genre altogether. This further erodes public confidence in investigative journalism.

This is a dangerous time. With the erosion of the journalist role in society, governments and monolithic corporations can do or say whatever they want with impunity.

It takes a special person to be a prophet, and every society needs this type of function. It is an outside agent that calls against the excess of any social system. In the past it took the form of spiritual enlightenment where God reveals in a dream or circumstance to a person the most intimate things involving those that has significant importance. Such as the prophet Nathan being told by God of King David’s selfish act of murder to hide a secret liaison. However, this wouldn’t go over too well today in such a direct fashion. Or it could be, as Thomas Aquinas insists, the highest ability to gather all the information available; the words, the circumstances, the spirit, non-verbal expressions, testimonies, history, and any other finite detail, and make cohesive sense out of it all. Prophetic voices are needed on so many fronts from ecological, to medical, moral and economic concerns that have generational impacts.

However, this is not happening on any large-scale to counter the rhetoric being spewed by large institutions. This does not imply that institutions are inherently bad. The problem is the lack of accountability. The present social system is deeply flawed.

The Catholic Church continues to issue a prophetic voice to the nations, but this is not enough. The Occupy Wall Street movement is also a prophetic movement, albeit without the religious doctrine, on the corruption of the financial system, but is failing because of a lack of structural organization. The Muslim community is also issuing a prophetic voice — though because of the violent tactics used and misogyny within its circles, the West refuses to listen to moderates that have valid points. Organizations such as Sojourners attempt to regain the prophetic voice for Evangelicals, but it is relegated to being a special interest group. If the Evangelical Church refuses to acquire a prophetic voice, which should be a base of its activities, it will continue into its progression of being a superficial artifice. This lack of a prophetic voice will permit the growth of a society that no longer has the ability to discern good from evil.

The Evangelical Church, because of its heavy influence on American social life, which in turn effects the international psyche, needs to encourage prophets and the prophetic voice. It has the finances and resources to do such a thing. This would be a big factor in bringing accountability and justice throughout the world. It is hoped that the young people growing up in the Evangelical movement will embrace the prophetic role. It will not only change the world around them, but will also rescue the Evangelical Church from its current evacuation of young people from its ranks. ■