Faith has place in politics

By  Julie Bell, Catholic Register Special
  • November 13, 2008
{mosimage}WINNIPEG - Any anthology of Christian writing in Canada cannot help but examine the intersection of faith and politics. In Northern Lights, readers can examine this through the eyes of someone who has lived it for almost three decades.

After almost 30 years as a member of Parliament, United Church Minister Bill Blaikie has taken on a different campaign — to encourage Christians to talk to each other, and the world, about who they are.
Blaikie spoke this month in Winnipeg during the launch of Northern Lights; An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Writing in Canada. He is one of 46 writers who contributed to the book.

“I think there’s an attitude that is to be admired, which is that we live in a pluralist multicultural society. So, let’s not be too upfront or forthcoming about faith. Let’s all be sensitive. We need to be that. But we also need to find a way to be ourselves. And that’s where Northern Lights comes in, in the sense that Christians in Canada, they need to tell their stories.”

{sa 0470155264}Blaikie has lived his faith, and his politics, in full public view for almost 30 years. In 1978 he was ordained a United Church minister. A year later he was the NDP MP in a Winnipeg riding.

“I never felt like, well now I’m an MP I’ll put a different hat on than when I am a minister. In a way, I refused to choose. To choose, or to say that you had to choose, was to deny the integration that you were trying to affirm.”

But over the years, Blaikie witnessed the erosion of respect for people of faith in politics. He remembers what the public and the media said about Christian politicians.

“(They said) they’re judgmental, they’re authoritarian. In ’99 when (Alliance Leader) Stockwell Day came along, it was oh no, he’s a Christian. And he will try to impose his views on people.”

Blaikie attributes the change to the increasing influence of the Moral Majority in the United States. He writes about this in Northern Lights.

In “Finding a Prophetic Perspective,” he says: “It has become increasingly important to me in recent years to challenge the monopoly, or copyright, that elements of the so-called Christian Right have on the image of Christianity in the public domain. Christians or other religious people involved in progressive politics need to be more up front and less timid about where they are coming from.”

Blaikie says there are glimpses of this kind of shift happening. In 2006, the NDP formed a Faith and Justice caucus. The first meeting was packed with people who wanted to talk openly about the influence of faith in their political lives.

He says Northern Lights is further proof of that momentum.

Blaikie, who has just moved into the Faculty of Theology at the University of Winnipeg, says he was pleased to contribute.

“When I read it, I had less of a sense of being alone. I felt like I was part of a larger community, people who are taking the Gospel seriously. There’s a sense of dignity, a depth of Christianity,” he said.

(Bell is a freelance writer in Winnipeg.)

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