To politic or not to politic

This week’s blog is written by Debra Fehr, 4th year Social Work student at the University of Manitoba. Debra attended the Ottawa Office’s annual student seminar in February, and wrote this reflection about it.

How do you get involved with something? How do you become uninvolved?

Sometimes things just happen to send us in a direction. Perhaps a child is born with a disability and we have to get involved to support and advocate for that child. Perhaps we get an inheritance and we get involved with understanding wealth in a new way. Perhaps we get fired from a job or reach a certain age and so we have to get uninvolved. Perhaps we get an offer out of the blue and it takes our involvement in a totally new direction.

Occasionally we make choices to deliberately change direction. How do we decide to get involved or remain uninvolved?

Participants in the Ottawa Office student seminar stop to pray and sing at the eternal flame in front of the Parliament Buildings. This was part of a Witness Walk that concluded the seminar.

Reasons we might not get involved in politics.  Because we are doing fine. Because, over time, the laws have generally worked for me and my family. I don’t have to say anything because the people I know are doing fine with the way things are. If they’re not, perhaps they will just do whatever it takes to get by. Perhaps we put our trust completely in God because God will take care of the lilies of the field, and for us.

Politics doesn’t have clear lines. We often say politicians speak out of both sides of their mouths, meaning that they might say things to you and turn around and speak in a totally different direction about the same topic. To many people of faith, this is seen as two-faced and lying.

These are all good reasons not to get involved in politics.

Reasons we might get involved in politics. Because we are not doing fine. Because there are some serious problems with the laws and my family is not getting what it needs. Maybe if someone says something, if more people know, there might be a chance that things will change. We see a lot of people suffering and we are just tired of the injustice of it all. Perhaps we put our trust completely in God and say my vulnerability needs to be heard by others.

Politics doesn’t have clear lines. Politicians can pick up something that works for Christians just as it might work for athiests.

These are all good reasons to get involved in politics.

I recently attended the MCC Ottawa Office Student Seminar in February, 2015 and the topic was Citizens. Disciples. Advocates. Christian faith and political responsibility. We discussed the separation and intersection of those pieces at great length.

Student seminar participants heard stories from Nigeria, Palestine and Colombia.  These three young men are participants in a program in Nigeria which extends love and support to marginalized youth.

Student seminar participants heard stories from Nigeria, Palestine and Colombia. These three young men are participants in an MCC program in Nigeria which extends love and support to marginalized youth.

Stories Matter. One of the ways that MCC impacts policies at home and in other countries is by sharing stories with politicians in Ottawa. Sharing the story of how people are impacted around the world by various events impacts Canada’s foreign policy, often significantly, and often it just takes one story.

Politicians are people too. Samara Canada, a charity dedicated to be a non-partisan champion of increased civic engagement and a more positive public life, has done exit interviews of politicians from every party and found three things. First,many MPs described their journeys to public life as accidental. Second, most did not see themselves as political insiders. Lastly, there was no one path towards politics – MPs had backgrounds as diverse as law, academics, labour, even religious leadership.

So, it’s an interesting thing. Getting involved or staying uninvolved. Is all of life a little bit accidental? And yet stories matter. Your story matters. My story matters.

My studies in Social Work show me that there is a lot of pain in people’s stories. We’re not that unique, really. We all hurt people. We all get hurt. We all love. Whether its natural disasters, wars or economic downturns, or if it is sunshine, revivals and positive cash flows, we experience these things in connection with others. Much of this is accidental and surprising.

One thing we can do is choose our posture as we walk this road together. Whether we choose “to politic or not to politic,” hopefully we can demonstrate that stories matter. Hopefully, we can choose to act in ways that lessen the pain of others. Hopefully, we can posture ourselves to bear witness to life rather death. May this prayer encourage us:

I Cannot Do This Alone (a prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you;
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me….
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before men.
Lord whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.

Amen.

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