In a recent interview on CBC Radio, Senator Nicole Eaton said, “I don’t think that churches should take political stands. I think they should be more about helping people and giving people succour.”
During the interview, Eaton chose to single out The United Church of Canada as one she thought was involved in “political work.”
The federal government is hammering home the rule that as a charitable institution we are not allowed to spend more than 10 per cent of our money advocating about how we live in loving community – because how we live together is a political conversation.
As Vancouver Sun columnist Andrew Coyne wrote recently, “Why should any charity be permitted to spend any money on advocacy of any kind?”
Perhaps, as a church we might respond because, “the spirit of the Lord is upon us. He has anointed us to bring good news to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, …” (Luke 4:18)
Proclaiming release is advocacy, letting the oppressed go free is love embodied. It is political and it is love. Being political is what Jesus was crucified for.
It was this advocating love for the poor, in the Christian tradition that motivated Tommy Douglas, a Baptist preacher, to champion universal health care with such passion. Similarly, faith motivated Nellie McClung in the struggle to win women the right to vote in Canada.
Ultimately, public policy is about values and working for the common good. The voices of all Canadians should be welcomed. When a government representative suggests that the voices of churches should be silent, that should be a concern for us all.
Rev. Juanita Austin
First United Church, Salmon Arm