A colleague on the Friday Morning Round Table (AM-1150 radio) recently forwarded a National Post article which described religion as the sleeper issue in the 2019 election.
Cutting directly to the bottom line, the article suggested that all the major party leaders embrace some level of religious belief which impacts their world view and policies yet none seems too eager to talk openly about those beliefs.
It seems fair to ask, “If religion is influencing Canadian politics, why isn’t it part of the conversation?”
There are several good reasons for keeping religion out of politics and several not so good reasons.
It is reasonable to argue that Church and State play different roles in society and each should stay out of the other’s kitchen. Historically bad things have happened when either side forgets the distinction and blurs those lines.
From a Christian perspective, I suggest most thoughtful Christians understand that it is not defensible to expect a secular society to live according to Christian standards or for a secular government to enact policy or legislation to support Christian beliefs or standards.
Frankly, in moments of blatant honesty I don’t think some Christians do that great a job living up to our own standards. Expecting a non-Christian society to enshrine them is hypocritical.
It does become complex when issues about which views of right or wrong are passionately held. It’s quite simple if they are issues about which people of all faiths and those of no faith agree, however when there are sharply differing views, I long for representatives to be allowed to vote their conscience, representing their constituents rather than be forced to support party lines.
A further argument in favour of keeping religion as far away from the political scene as possible is found in the distaste many of us have for any and all special interest lobby groups. Whether it’s a gun lobby, an oil lobby, a French/English lobby or a religious lobby, we all hope our government possesses the ability to see the whole picture and resist becoming puppets to any special interest group.
There is, however, another side to the debate.
Why has it become taboo for a political leader in Canada to talk about his or her faith? As a nation. we seem to have come a long way in developing tolerance for each other when it comes to almost any issue or expression except religion.
We have narrow-mindedly concluded that if a person holds deep religious convictions they cannot possibly be competent national leaders regardless their track record of treating all people with dignity and respect.
I acknowledged the hypocrisy of Christians expecting society to uphold Christian values when we don’t do a great job of it ourselves.
I now feel free to suggest it is every bit as hypocritical for society to say it embraces tolerance and then act intolerantly toward those who dare to acknowledge their deeply held religious beliefs.
It’s a shame that in the diverse, tolerant, Mosaic known as Canada, religion is described as the sleeper issue and kept under the table. We’ll have come a long way when major party leaders feel free to talk openly about their own faith.
Tim Schroeder is pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Kelowna.