The recent election and inauguration of a new president south of the 49th parallel has got me thinking a wee bit about church and state—or religion and politics—and Canada-U.S.A. relations.
I, like a lot of people in the U.S., Canada, and around the globe am rather upset about the election results and inauguration of the new U.S. president. It still seems rather surreal to me that our American neighbours would choose the person they did to be their president for the next four years. Someone who has no political experience, and his moral-ethical standards are at best questionable and controversial, and at worst downright dangerous.
For example, there have been folks who have monitored what he has said publicly on social media claiming that he has lied a lot; and there have been alleged incidents of sexual abuse. Yet, his agenda to “make America great again” seems to have appealed and still appeals to a lot of Americans.
What disturbs me most and perhaps others is the polarization of Americans, and of everyone really, into “us” and “them,” and the blanket demonization of “them,” so as to feed the fires of fear, hatred, xenophobia, sexism, and religious discrimination, etc. Civilized political debate seems to be abandoned, and the value of the common good: that we as human beings are all in this together, and I may disagree with you adamantly, yet I still respect you as a human being and want to continue to dialogue with you, and remain your neighbour, friend, fellow citizen—which is a bedrock principle of any healthy democracy seems to alarmingly be in grave danger of becoming an extinct freedom.
Where is the church in relation to what is going on in the state these days? Well, as a follower of Jesus I cannot in good conscience be an open promoter of any particular political party or candidate. However, like Jesus, like the Hebrew prophets of old, like those who signed the Barmen’s Declaration during the Nazi regime in Germany, like such leaders as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a host of other less famous people of faith, I am compelled by conscience to speak out against whatever powers and principalities that would divide every human being into either an “us” or a “them.” Jesus the Messiah of all humankind and his gospel, along with the Hebrew Bible prophets give us our marching orders. As God’s people we are: forgiven sinner-saints, called and gifted, graced and freed to speak truth to power, to transform division into unity, to see every human being as a sister and brother created in God’s image, to, in the words of Micah, “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God,” to in the words of Jesus, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” to boldly proclaim with Peter and the other apostles our ultimate allegiance to the highest authority, saying, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”
Therefore, it is with all of this weighing heavy in the minds, hearts and lives of many that I, along with a host of other members and advocates for Amnesty International appealed to our Canadian prime minister to speak out for justice and peace, unity and the common good, and respect for the human rights of everyone when he meets with the U.S. president.I shall also be remembering them both in my prayers.