This week’s entry is written by Steve Plenert, peace program coordinator for MCC Manitoba.
Well, that was interesting, wasn’t it?
The just-completed election season leaves us with a dramatically shifted political landscape – at least as far as power in Ottawa is concerned. Canadians exercised the franchise in significant numbers and now we have a new crop of people to represent us in Parliament and “run” our country.
Like lots of election junkies, I followed the campaign with much interest, I engaged candidates to a certain extent, and I watched the election results roll in with a good deal of excitement.
I was very happy to see that the percentage of people who voted rose significantly this election. Some Indigenous communities actually ran out of ballots (for a while) because so many more people voted in this election than in previous ones. Young adult friends on Facebook took an active role in promoting voting and many of them pasted that “I voted” notice over their photo on election day. This was great to see.
Voting — based on a careful choice of candidate and party platform – is a good start, but it is still a pretty minimal thing to do for your country. It is a pretty minimal thing to do for social change. How many of us were actually more excited about joining the “results party” than in joining a political party or even reading party platform documents? How many of us know how the candidate selection process works within the party structure? How many of us have joined political parties in order to shape their policy agenda? From what I can see it looks like people who identify as Anabaptist or Christian at some level or other are supposed to vote, but are we to take it a step further and engage in the rough and tumble of party politics as well? I know some who have gone “all in” and I have to confess to having dipped a toe into this puddle myself.
I believe that following the way of Jesus means working for change in the world. Political change, economic change social change – all in order to see justice roll down and witness signs of God’s Kingdom. I am quite certain that voting is not enough. I am pretty sure that advocacy work is a good idea. And I admire those who engage in politics at deeper levels, even as I cringe at the slimy political residue that it leaves on them. But then I look at the institutions that I’m a part of (like church and others) and I hear the words of Jesus echoing, “Let the one without slime be the first to judge the residue clinging to another”.
I voted and I’m glad I did and I’m so glad that so many others did too. I engage in some advocacy and I’m so glad that others do it even better than I do. I engage in some political engagement and I admire those who dive in deeper. I do some church leadership stuff and I pray that God will have mercy on the bumbling decisions I help shape for my little congregation.
If we want change we must engage. Voting is fun and easy but it’s the minimum. Or perhaps the starting point. Voting, advocacy, engagement, church politics and more are all windows to glimpse God at work in the world. They are ways that we can witness to God’s Reign, come down from heaven onto our earth.
God have mercy on us as we dip our toes, step boldly or dive fully into the challenging waters of political engagement.