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Thursday, 8 November 2018

United Church Supports Proportional Representation

With the recent mid-term elections in the USA, it is readily apparent why first-past-the-post voting systems don't work.  I believe that this winner-take-all mentality leads to the kind of partisan, polarized politics we see south of the border, and are beginning to see more and more in Canada.  With the stakes so high around the world--climate change and people on the move--we can't afford the authoritarian, narrow-minded politics of fear (which first-past-the-post can heighten) any longer.

I often get asked about my political and economic stance with respect to my beliefs as a progressive, liberal Christian.  Often the question is posed as a means for the questioner to argue that religion has no business in the political or economic realm.  The first paragraph I wrote above will rile some who feel that the church has no place speaking about politics or economics.  I beg to differ.

I grew up in the United Church and learned early on from my father that when I vote, I bring all that I am to the voting booth.  I can not suspend what I value and believe when I vote for a party or candidate.  As a whole human being, how I make economic and political decisions is part and parcel of who I am as a person of faith.

Advocating for justice is an important tradition within the United Church; along with people of faith and peace-advocates, the United Church is rooted in concern for the marginalized and disenfranchised.  Seeking an end to poverty, racism, and discrimination is part of what we believe Jesus taught with respect to the Family of God, the Realm of Peace.  Seeking climate justice and the mitigation of global warming as well as pursuing justice and reconciliation in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people continue to be part of our work of peace and hope. The KinDom of Heaven is making the world a better place here and now.

To try to change the narrative of how we do politics in BC, the BC Conference of The United Church of Canada endorsed proportional representation at a general meeting held last May. 
BC Conference is the regional body of the United Church and is comprised of more than 400 delegates from urban and rural congregations of BC.

Some of the reasons why I support proportional representation from a spiritual perspective follow here.  I want to vote for a system that encourages consensus building and people working together.  Proportional Representation values the contribution of everyone and all voices have a chance to be heard.  Proportional Representation is inclusive and invites people to move beyond partisan politics to understand other perspectives.  I believe in mutual respect and people working together.

My grounding in the Jesus tradition—so full of compassion, hope and love—leads me to bring all that I am to political decisions and for that reason, I support proportional representation.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

“We Mourn the Deaths in Pittsburgh”

(I wrote this op-ed piece for the Nelson Star last week and include it here.)

Do you know the significance of April 4th, 2018?

If you answered that it was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., you’d get a gold star.  Dr. King was murdered on April 4, 1968.  Sadly, it doesn’t seem that we’ve come very far since then in terms of peace and race relations; we certainly haven’t achieved the dream that Dr. King articulated more than 50 years ago!

What was that dream?  In 1963, Dr. King delivered his “I have a dream” speech in which he said near the end, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.  I have a dream today!”  The interesting thing about this speech is that some of it was delivered in an impromptu fashion; when Mahalia Jackson, the great Gospel singer, said, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”, he diverted from his text and articulated his dream of freedom and equality.

I despair that we will never see that dream come to fruition.  The murder of 11 Jewish people in Pittsburgh a few days ago, the latest incident of how Dr. King’s dream is still unfulfilled, is a deep tragedy that affects all of us around the world.  It highlights again Dr. King’s famous words that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!

I don’t have any easy answers to solving the problems of injustice and violence in the world.  I do know that we have to give tangible expression to King’s dream.  We have to speak against the purveyors of hate and authoritarianism that are gaining political power around the world, the latest of which is in Brazil.  We have to continue to march, to speak out, to not let hate speech become normalized, to speak against anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and anything that threatens to destroy communities, eco-systems and neighbourhoods.

For the sake of our planet, for peace, and for the sake of the many species that have been driven to extinction by our inhumanity, we must not be idle.  “For what does God require of us, but to seek justice, love compassion and walk humbly with our God.”  (Micah 6:8)

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Back to writing.

It's been a while since I’ve written a blog.  The reasons for not writing were personal; but it's time to get back to sharing a few thoughts from time to time.  This is one way that I can contribute to a just and loving world.  It’s also been therapeutic for me to write.  So, thanks for listening…

There are many things that we can do to make our world a more just and peace-filled island home.  What I can contribute are words and solidarity with those who choose to do more front-line protest.  It’s a small thing, but it is something...

While I'm not a conservative—anyone who reads this blog or knows me will attest to that!—I agree with the 18th-century Irish philosopher and parliamentarian, Edmund Burke, who said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [sic] to do nothing."  Gandhi said similar things, as did Martin Luther King, Jr.  Anyone who has felt at odds with the dominant culture has said something to the effect that evil feeds on the complacency of ordinary people who choose to do nothing.

Do you know the name Martin Niemöller?  He was a German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran Pastor; he started off as a conservative in Germany and is a controversial figure because of his early life.  However, he chose to become involved in the Confessing Church in Germany and he deeply regretted his early views; he deeply regretted that he didn’t do enough for Jews, Socialists, Gay and Lesbian people, and others discriminated against by the Nazis; he wrote these words after World War 2,
First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
In many speeches Niemöller spoke a variation of the above quote; he included other groups who’d been discriminated against by the Nazis.

The point is that I’m joining my voice—at least this online voice—along with my preaching and local activism in the fight against tribalism, bigotry and fear.  I’m back to writing and if only one or two people are listening, that’s at least something!