(Note that all opinions expressed below are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the official stance of the United Church of Canada. Kate.)
On Wednesday morning, just after 11:00 Atlantic time, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, accompanied by Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, paid a call on Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada. When he walked out of Rideau Hall a short time later, parliament had been dissolved and Canada had entered our next federal election.
And now we are facing 40 days of being tempted in the wilderness. When we emerge from the other side, we Canadians will have collectively discerned the direction that we want our country to go for the next 4 years (give or take). This election does not come as a surprise – we have known that it was coming this fall for the past 4 years. The political parties have been gearing up towards this for the past months, releasing platforms and slogans, and announcing candidates in the various ridings across the country.
The one whom I believe reveals God to us, Jesus Christ, said that the two most important things that we have to do are:
1) To love God with all our heart, all our being, all our strength, and all our mind
2) To love our neighbour as ourselves.
(Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:27-28)
And so I would like to examine the campaign slogans of the various political parties through this lens of loving God and loving our neighbour. In alphabetical order, with no party names attached, here we go!
Forward is good, but my question for this party would be who is moving forward? If I love my neighbour as myself, any forward movement has to include all of my neighbours, not just the ones who look like me and sound like me and pray like me etc. (see The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37). This forward movement has to include my neighbour who is sleeping under the viaduct in Saint John; it has to include my neighbours who are living on remote reserves in northern Ontario; it has to include my neighbours who have recently moved to Canada and who are struggling to learn English and/or French and adapt to life in a new country. If I were to re-write this slogan in light of Jesus’ double-love commandment, it might say something like, “Choose forward for everyone.”
“In it for you”
OK, but what if I don’t want you to be in it only for me? What if I believe that what is best for my neighbour is equally important to what is best for me? (see Matthew 22:39) We are communal beings – our lives are interconnected with one another – our well-being is dependent on our interdependence. I want you to be in it not only for me, but for my neighbour who is struggling with addiction, my neighbour who is currently unable to access appropriate health care, my neighbour who is unemployed or under-employed. I want you to be especially in it for any vulnerable or marginalized person in this country. If I were to re-write this slogan in light of Jesus’ double-love commandment, it might say something like, “In it for ALL Canadians.”
“It’s time for you to get ahead”
Nope. Just nope. It is not time for me to get ahead. As a person with white skin, who speaks English, who has an excellent education, who has stable employment in my chosen field, who owns her own house (well, the bank still owns a good chunk of it, but I was in a position to be given a mortgage), who has the freedom to travel, it is NOT time for me to get ahead. My privilege means that I am already ahead. Again, getting back to that whole “love your neighbour as yourself” thing (and note that Jesus didn’t make this up himself – he was quoting the Hebrew scriptures – see Leviticus 19:9-18), instead I want my neighbour – all of my neighbours – to have the same advantages as I enjoy. Maybe it is even time for me to take a step backwards in order to allow someone with less privilege to take a step forwards. If I were to re-write this slogan in light of Jesus’ double-love commandment, it might say something like, “It’s time for Canada’s marginalized people to get ahead.”
“Not left. Not right. Forward together.”
I find this slogan harder to analyze – possibly because of the mixed metaphors it incorporates! I can’t look at it outside of context – in order for it to make any sense, I have to know that the “left” and “right” refer to political leanings, while the “forward” refers to progress. Clever wordplay; nonsensical without context! But of all of the slogans, this might be the only one that acknowledges that I am to love my neighbours as I love myself. It is the only slogan that hints that we are interdependent and that I can’t move forward without my neighbour. In order for anyone to benefit, we all must benefit. If I were to tweak it at all, I might try to include the first half of the Jesus’ double love commandment – maybe something like, “Not left. Not right. Forward together towards God's vision.” (Though I know that this would never fly in secular Canada!)
“Strong and Free”
So this slogan is an intentional reference to the Canadian National Anthem – “with glowing hearts we see thee rise / the True North strong and free!” And therefore, I know that this slogan was crafted to inspire patriotism in everyone who hears it. Yet Jesus’ double-love commandment doesn’t include anything about loving your country. In fact, Jesus’ ministry as a whole tended to be subversive with respect to the political powers and authorities. Last Sunday’s sermon hinted at the dangers that can arise when nationalism becomes the most important thing in a person’s life. Jesus is quite clear that loving God and loving our neighbour are to be the most important thing in our lives. Re-writing this slogan in light of his double-love commandment, I would probably have to change it completely to move away from the nationalism it promotes. How about, “Love God; love your neighbour!” instead?
Image borrowed from the World Communion of Reformed
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