On October 19, after one of the most hotly contested election campaigns in recent decades, Canadians will head to the polls to decide who they want to represent them in Ottawa for the next four years.
While the Anglican Church of Canada and the Canadian Council of Churches both released guides highlighting issues that should be of importance to Christians, neither officially endorsed any parties or candidates. So who are Anglicans going to vote for?
Anglicanism has been described as being a “big tent” under which many opposing opinions and ideologies exist in greater and lesser degrees of harmony, and this is especially true when it comes to politics. While all four of Canada’s Anglican prime ministers—Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir John Abbott, Sir Robert Borden and Kim Campbell—were Conservatives, Anglicans will be casting votes on Monday for representatives of every major party, and a few minor parties as well.
We asked Canadian Anglicans to say for whom they are voting and why. Here are some of the responses:
Why might a Canadian Christian vote Conservative? My goal here isn’t so much to defend the current government, which has had a long go at it and may well be due for a change, but rather to point out why I, at the end of the day, identify as conservative and what that has to do with my faith.
There is nothing particularly Christian about being conservative, and I share with my left-leaning friends a desire to see a more just and peaceful world. Ultimately, though, I disagree with these friends about the role of government in producing that peace and justice.
At its best, conservativism understands the limits of government, and holds itself to those limits, ensuring the legal and economic stability needed for human flourishing without trying to define more particularly that flourishing itself.
I’m not a political utopian. At the same time, Christ calls us to a radically different way of seeing the world—one that cuts through the ways value is calculated. For me, then, as a Christian of conservative bent, the way the current government heaps shame on criminals is deeply problematic. At the same time, I appreciate the government’s commitment to its core duties, even while I think that it has misconstrued or overlooked some of them. For instance, I think we need a conservatism that features as a core principle environmental conservation.
—Dr. Paul Dyck
When I was nine years old, I loved going to the neighbourhood school on election day and following my parents into the voting booth. I loved the little circles that they carefully traced an “x” inside. I wanted nothing more than the right to vote.
Turning 18 was monumental, not because I was of legal drinking age, but because I was finally permitted to participate fully in our democratic process. Today, when elections come around, I vote with joy and a sense of responsibility. I vote also with gratitude to my forebears who, a scant century ago, fought for my right as a woman to have my say.
But when I have my say, should I make my choice based on environmental issues? Fiscal policies? Abortion, assisted suicide, Aboriginal rights, LGBTQ issues, pipelines, military spending, terrorism, taxes, food security, daycare, minimum wage—so many issues clamour for attention. Beyond issues is voting strategy: focus on candidate or party? Vote strategically or with my conscience, or both? I often feel overwhelmed by the number of variables.
What I have realized, however, is that I can drastically simplify the number of variables. A claim was recently made by a candidate that “Jesus would have voted for me.” While I find this claim too grandiose for my taste, it reminded me to consider what principles Jesus taught. Jesus might have had little to say about the treatment of Aboriginal peoples; but he had much to say about the “least of these.” He may have never mentioned environmental protection, but he referred back to scriptures in Genesis, which tells us to be good stewards of the good creation. Daycare and minimum wage were foreign concepts to the Israelites, but Jesus spoke passionately about caring for the orphans, widows and poor among us.
Come October 11 (advance polling), I will cast my vote for my Liberal candidate. In a riding with an NDP option, I might have chosen them, but I am constrained by the slate of parties running candidates. My faith tells me that protecting the poor and the planet are top priorities; I want to vote for a candidate and a party whom I believe will best carry out that mandate. What principles are core to your faith? And who will live them out?
Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, Christians all over the world [say this prayer] daily. A prayer pseudepigraphally attributed to St. Francis pleads, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. In the Book of Alternative Service’s baptismal rite, the people pledge to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
The New Testament, especially the gospel, demands that Christians be reputed for our commitment to making God’s love known to the hungry, the naked, the sick and imprisoned. Let your gentleness be known to all, writes the apostle. The first Christians held all property in common, as our religious orders do today. We are called to subsume all earthly distinctions in the love of God. There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. That’s why I’m voting for my local Communist Party candidate this October.
Since “our citizenship is in heaven,” I don’t believe it is really possible for Christians to lend uncritical support to any party platform, nor that meaningfully positive change in society can be effected by Parliament alone. I certainly don’t long for the return of the Soviet Union, and in many respects I differ from the Communist Party’s vision. (The provincial party I belong to includes Bloc, NDP, Green and Communist voters and has made no federal endorsement.) But I have to give them credit for taking an unabashedly anti-capitalist, feminist, anti-colonial stand in an era of cynical, mushy-middle politics. I believe many others who would not call themselves communists can find much to admire in their platform.
The Anglican Communion has a tradition of Catholic socialism, often summarized in Bishop Frank Weston’s admonition (after Chrysostom): You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the tabernacle if you do not pity Jesus in the slums. Conrad Noel invoked the Magnificat as a hymn for the oppressed and witnessed to the Kingship of Christ’s love over the principalities of the Earth, in the rite of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Frederic Hastings Smyth, the Marxist Anglo-Catholic priest-scientist, lamented that atheist Communists underestimated the Fall, but concluded that they “at least work for a better world at this moment of history, one more in accord with the will of God than is our present capitalist one. [I]n so far as they succeed in moving human life in the direction of a greater justice…they move in the direction of God's further purpose.” May all of us who vote, along with those who conscientiously abstain, always seek to move in that direction.
I tend not to get excited about elections, but voting remains the easiest way to make a small difference, hopefully for the better.
I see fundamental problems with the Canadian nation state, with the colonial premise that undergirds it, and with electoral politics in general. But I also see this election as an opportunity for some much-needed damage control.
It seems clear to me the Conservative regime must be dismantled, but I see in other party leaders an obvious mellowing of progressive principles: support of some very questionable bills, ambiguous support for Keystone/XL, and so on.
While my vote remains with the NDP, I would still see a Liberal government as the tiniest of victories. My hope is that with a new party in power, we'll see an end to omnibus bills that target and further marginalize vulnerable communities. I want to see a proactive approach to the environment, climate change, to immigration and to the Syrian refugee crisis. But most importantly, I want to see much more consultation with Indigenous peoples and a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. Here's hoping for a government that will be accountable and willing to listen to our host peoples.
—Jonathan DyckBack to Top
André Forget joined the Anglican Journal in 2014 as staff writer and social media lead. He also serves as managing editor of Whether Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Winnipeg Review, and the Town Crier.
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