By Archbishop Colin Johnson
This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of The Anglican newspaper.
Some years ago in my parish, we displayed a poster produced by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) with the slogan: “JUSTICE, not Just-Us.” It has stuck with me. It was meant to.
We are in the midst of an election campaign. In fact, if you are in some parts of the diocese, you might be in the midst of three – federal, provincial and municipal. Various parties’ election platforms are pitched directly to a self-interested, “just us,” emotion. “What’s in it for me?” is a refrain that every candidate will hear as they knock on doors.
There is a much deeper call for us as Christians. As Anglicans, we understand that in building up our society we are also helping to prepare the way of God’s kingdom. Our prophetic command has always been to seek the welfare of the communities where God has placed us (Jeremiah 29.7), and in baptism, we promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” and to “respect the dignity of every human being.”
You have an opportunity to exert your influence. But let it not be “just about you” or “just us.” Let your voice be used for “justice for all.” Pray for the candidates. When they come to your door to ask for your vote, speak to them about issues of poverty and hunger, about housing, about the well-being of children and the vulnerable in our society. Learn about the issues. Get out and VOTE!
I do not care who you vote for – well, actually, I do but I won’t tell you that – but I believe you have an obligation as a Christian to exercise your franchise. I do not understand those in a democratic society who can but do not vote. People have fought and lost their lives for that right. Women struggled for years to gain that responsibility. People have left their homeland to come here to gain the freedom to have a say in those who will govern them.
Too many people do not vote because they think it makes no difference. That’s another version of what’s-in-it-for-me. It does make a difference, even if the person or the party you vote for doesn’t get elected. You are registering your interest in the life and the future of our community.
Politicians want to make a difference in their communities and they work hard at it. They want to do the right thing and they want to respond to their constituents. They listen and are influenced by the electorate – maybe not responding to your individual interest, but they do hear what groups of their constituents are saying – at the door, at political gatherings, in letters, on the phone, in the coffee hour when they visit your church event, and in the local restaurant or pub.
The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost was poured out on the disciples so that they proclaimed to everyone, in a language that each could understand, the Good News of Jesus, “opening to every race and nation the way of eternal life.” The gift is extended to all, not some. Those who listened and responded to the invitation created a commonwealth of life so that “each person’s need was met” (Acts 2).
Part of the Anglican ethos is to engage actively in the wider society around us. We have an enviable history of that, and hospitals, schools and universities, libraries, social service agencies, businesses and public service are the tangible results. We elect people to serve as our representatives to build, maintain and develop the structures and infrastructure that create healthy and sustainable civil life where all can find a secure place – ALL, not just a few, not just many, but ALL!
When the election is over, pray for our government, politicians and civil service; continue to learn about the issues; keep in touch with your elected representative to express your hopes and concerns for a better society; do your part in working actively for the inclusion of all in the abundant life God offers us.