Well, that was an interesting weekend to say the least!
It has not taken long for people to express the stress-laden feelings that this election is causing. There seem to be political storm clouds brewing on the horizon. If I have any fear, it’s that this will be an ugly election. That as an Ontario family we will say things to each other and about each other that will be difficult to overcome once the election is said and done.
At the end of the day, while we may not all be in the same political family, we are neighbors.
I am a pastor first and a taxpayer second. I believe firmly in the separation of church and state. Why? Because it frees me up to be politically active in a particular way. Not to tell people what to think or how to vote – but to strongly encourage people to enter the political process with a particular state of mind and condition of spirit.
I don’t take that lightly, by the way. Crazy and naive as it may sound, I fundamentally believe that with the right spirit, the ugly things people are already fearing will materialize just simply won’t in enough force to prevent us from improving our society.
Does that mean that I don’t think that there are serious issues at hand? Far from it. From the economy to climate issues to changing demographics and the societal changes that follow, there are tons of issues before us. It’s quite a political soup we are swimming in to say the least. It’s so important that I don’t think we can afford the luxury of dispensing with rational, respectful and committed debate. That’s not a viable option.
Voters must have the tools to make informed choices come election day. Those tools don’t come from the tooth fairy. They come from us and how we treat each other, even as, and especially when, we disagree. There is so much more to be gained in knowing what you are “voting for” rather than only being guided what you are “voting against”. (And so if you find yourself holding your nose at certain parts of a platform and voting for a particular party anyway because you “can’t stand so-and-so”, you might want to take a step back and be better informed about the range of policies. Vote for a platform, not a personality.)
So, in all seriousness as a Pastor, I ask the question, “What is the Christian thing to do in this election?”
Jesus said at least three important things that relate to this –
(1) Love your enemy. What good is it to love people who are just like you? That’s too easy. (Jesus said that too.)
(2) Love your neighbour as yourself. It’s a recognition that we are truly connected, for better or worse, whether we like it or not. So let’s learn to like it because it’s for the better.
(3) Be a good Samaritan (which is rather misunderstood in modern days.) In essence being a good Samaritan means going the extra mile to understand that the person who is furthest from who you might consider to be your neighbour … that person is the very person you should be willing to stop for, listen to, and find a way to work together with.
There is, BTW, strong overtones in the Good Samaritan story of religious harmony found in diversity.
So in modern language…
Be informed, be engaged and above all, be intelligent and rational. It boils down to respect. Being respectful doesn’t mean being a door mat. It means … well being respectful. (The word literally means to look and re-look until one gains a measure of appreciation and understanding. In the words of St-Francis of Assisi – to not be understood so much as to understand.)
Sensational language, closed mindedness and a desire to be right instead of being willing to listen will only impoverish us. I don’t mean that as a metaphor. I mean it literally. That kind of division costs money and jobs and social well being suffers immensely. Its only wages are missed opportunities. And we will only have ourselves to blame.
So go for it Ontario! Be a light to the nations. Let’s have a great election. Let the best platform win so that all our leaders and our citizens can focus on being good neighbours – brothers and sisters and family members even.
Be blessed. Being a blessing.
Rev. Eric Lukacs