June 24th, 2018

By the Way: Faith and public discourse

By Medicine Hat News on August 12, 2017.

This may seem like a topic that is just plain wrong for the middle of summer, but before we know it we will back into a fall routine that this year will be intersected with a municipal election. If you know me at all you know I am a political person. I believe in public discourse and more importantly I think that people of faith have an important perspective to bring to public service and policy. Paul calls Christians to be “in the world but not of the world” and Jesus tells us to render under to Caesar that which belongs to him and to God the things that are God’s.

There are two problems however that arise when people of faith enter into the arena of public discourse. The first is not being able to distance oneself from one’s own deepest convictions and hear the voice of others. Our faith is deeply ingrained and precious to us and when we bring ideas and beliefs that come from a place of faith it is hard for us to hear disagreement. In fact it is hard for us to believe there could be disagreement. This can devolve into a sense of entitlement that public institutions should listen to us, they should bend to our will, and dismiss every voice but ours. After all we have the “truth.” As people of faith we need to understand that not everyone else is; and that their humanism or atheism, has just as much right to be heard in the public arena as our voices. In the same way people of faiths other than own have perspective to bring and these voices need to be heard as well.

This brings me to my next concern and that is claiming to speak with a “Christian” voice. There are a variety of Christian voices — some that come from an evangelical place or a more conservative perspective. There also voices from the progressive side of the Christian ledger and these are charismatic and valid. The Christian faith has a variety of perspectives. Anyone of these claiming to know exactly what God wants and what definitive truth is well, I would be very wary of them.

I would like to think that regardless of where we are on the theological spectrum we all would express our thanks and our gratitude for our public institution and how they honour the needs and diversity of all citizens regardless of religion, country of origin, gender, or orientation. So I want to express my thanks to our mayor and our city council for making Medicine Hat a great place for my family to live and grow. I and many others appreciate your efforts. I also want to say to the school board of SD 76, your thoughtful, deliberative, and inclusive approach to policy and planning serves us all well and ensures that our kids have schools that honour who they are and environments that put learning first.

There may be some out there considering running for mayor, council, or the school board. Please remember that these jobs are not about what you think, they are about our common good, common dreams and balancing the need of the entire community. If you are up to this challenge I look forward to seeing the ideas you bring, I may not agree with them all but just as we thank our current mayor, council and school trustees we thank you in advance for your candidacy and commitment to endeavour to make our city better!

Rev. Dave Pollard is minister at Fifth Avenue Memorial United Church.

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