The Call of Citizenship is Both Civic and Spiritual

On October 19, Canadians will head to the polls and elect a new federal government. As Bishop Johnson helpfully reminds us in her column this month, Martin Luther taught that Christians are obliged to respect and participate in civic life.  Luther, of course, lived in an age wherein societies were governed in ways very different from our own. In this present time and context, however, I believe that Luther would strongly challenge us to become informed and engaged participants in our nation’s electoral processes. Bishop Johnson’s article also directs us to a very helpful ecumenical resource that has been prepared by to assist us in this task. I encourage you to take a look.

This morning, my own pre-election ruminations are dominated by three issues.

The news today – September 3 – is dominated by the heart wrenching story of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee who drowned en route to Turkey along with his 5 year old brother Gulip and mother Reham.  We are presently experiencing a refugee crisis that is unprecedented in the post WWII world. Seventy million Aylans, Gulips and Rehams have been cruelly displaced and are desperately seeking refuge.   

At our July National convention the ELCIC adopted a social statement entitled “Welcoming the Stranger.” Similar statements have been issued by Lutheran and ecumenical partners throughout the global Christian world. We also issue a Reformation challenge to ourselves, part of which involves sponsoring 500 refugees. This is an issue that is near and dear to us. Many of us are descendants of refugees. Many of our moms and dads and grammas and grampas came to Canada as refugees.  Care for refugees is part of our global Lutheran DNA. Hence, as I exercise my franchise on October 19, I feel that I have both a civic and moral responsibility to help elect the government which is best able to help Canadians to “welcome the stranger.”

The second issue weighing on my mind today concerns forthcoming legislation on assisted death.  In February of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada stuck down our nation’s century old law preventing physician assisted death and directed the federal government to enact legislation addressing this important question within twelve months. On October 19, Canadians will elect the government who will ultimately bear responsibility for enacting this directive.

At July’s convention our church’s National Church Council was similarly directed to review, and if warranted to update our church’s policy statements concerning end-of life decisions. Clearly, a lot has changed since 1983.

In a September 1 National Newswatch article, Waterloo Lutheran Seminary’s John Milloy, himself a former provincial cabinet minister, challenged the absence of meaningful conversation concerning  these questions in the midst of the current  federal election campaign. “Yes, we need a national conversation. A conversation that is going to be tough, complicated, emotional and very messy.  At its core, it’s a conversation about how we collectively think about the meaning, value and purpose of life as well as the limits of personal autonomy.”

Again, I feel that I have both a civic and moral responsibility to help elect the government that is best able to help Canadians have that conversation.

Third – I am reflecting on the coming election in light of the ongoing challenge of seeking renewed and right relationships between Canada’s indigenous and non-indigenous populations.  This is work that our church is striving to faithfully engage.  

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 recommendations present a monumental challenge calling for nothing less than a complete overhaul in the relationship between Canada and its Aboriginal peoples.  How distressing it was, therefore, that the only time indigenous peoples were mentioned in the first – and at this point, only – leader’s debate on August 6, was in reference to pipeline projects. 

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report was unveiled in June, Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair said, “We have described for you a mountain. We have shown you a path to the top. We call upon you to do the climbing.” Here too, I feel both a civic and moral responsibility to help elect the government that is best able to help Canadians engage in that climb.

These are only three of the countless challenges that our new federal governments will need to engage after October 19.  You, no doubt, have your own list of issues about which you care deeply.  So engage them! Educate yourselves on the positions of the different political parties; engage in conversation about them with friends, family members and co-workers. And then, on October 19, exercise your franchise and make an informed vote in support of your candidate of choice.  Our citizenship, both as Canadians and as a Christians, requires it.