On June 2, Ontarians go to the polls to choose the next provincial government. As Canadians, the right to vote is an integral part of our democratic process. As Christians, it also offers us an opportunity to bring our values to the question of what kind of earthly society we wish to create together ± a question that is inextricably linked with our faith.
We pray regularly in the Lord’s Prayer for God’s kingdom to come, and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. While we will not experience the fullness of God’s kingdom in our midst this side of Jesus’ return, we can put our prayers into practice by taking action and making choices that reflect God’s will for our life together. Loving our neighbours as ourselves; ensuring that all ± especially the most vulnerable ± are able to meet their needs and live with dignity; and stewarding the earth God entrusted to our care with integrity, are all aspects of God’s desire for our life on earth that are attested to throughout scripture and that form part of our baptismal covenant.
These are also matters on which the policy decisions taken by our elected representatives have an enormous impact. Our provincial parliament has jurisdiction over key issues such as employment standards, the rights of landlords and tenants, social assistance for those most in need, hospitals and long-term care facilities, childcare and education, natural resources, property development, and municipal affairs. These directly affect the lives of ourselves and our neighbours, not to mention the non-human creation.
Scripture has plenty to say about the obligations of God’s people regarding the ordering of human society. In the Torah, God establishes a society meant to give each member access to land and resources to sustain themselves, and provides measures for ensuring the periodic redistribution of wealth as a check on greed and exploitation. If these commandments were followed, they were meant to ensure that ™there will be no one in need among you,∫ although, recognizing the fallibility of humanity, God nonetheless commanded generosity towards those who slipped through the cracks (Deuteronomy 15:1-11). The prophets issue warnings against those who amass excessive property (Isaiah 5:8), who write unjust laws (Isaiah 10:1-2), those who exploit their workers (Isaiah 58.3) or the needy for profit (Amos 2:6-7). By contrast, they urge God’s people to seek justice, to speak up for those who are not heard and defend the rights of the vulnerable (Isaiah 1:17, Proverbs 31:8-9). Even the Israelites living in exile in Babylon are encouraged to ™seek the welfare of the city∫ where God has placed them, ™for in its welfare you will find your welfare.∫ In the New Testament, Jesus proclaims a message of good news for the poor, liberation of the oppressed and the fulfillment of the year of the Lord’s favour (Luke 4:18-20). Even in an imperial system without democratic rights, followers of Christ are to pay taxes willingly and pray for those in power (Matthew 22. 15-22; Roman 13:7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Thus, our decision to vote or not to vote, and our discernment about which of the parties or candidates to vote for, cannot be, for the Christian, solely about our personal preferences or self-interest. We must also remember those who are affected by the decisions of those in power, and make our decisions with them in mind.
Learn: Before election day, take the time to learn about the platforms of the various parties. Consider what the impact of these policies is likely to be on those who are most vulnerable, and on the natural environment that sustains us all. Share your concerns with candidates who come to call, as well as with friends, family members, neighbours and fellow parishioners. Non-profit organizations (including some churches) may host candidates’ meetings to give their neighbourhood a chance to hear from the local candidates running for office: attend these if you can. Check out our pre-election resource, with suggested questions for candidates, at www.toronto.anglican.ca/sjac.
Pray: Pray for God’s Spirit to guide you in making your own decision in the election. Pray for all the candidates who have put themselves forward, and pray for those to be elected, that they be given the wisdom and compassion to exercise their responsibilities for the good of all.
Vote: Whether in an advance poll or on election day, make sure to get out to vote! (Check the Elections Ontario website, www.elections.on.ca, to make sure you’re on the voter’s list, to find out where your local polling station is located, and to answer any other questions you may have about the logistics of casting your ballot.) Whether or not your preferred party or candidate is elected, by casting your vote, you have demonstrated your investment in the life and future of your province and community.
Stay engaged: As important as voting is, remember that democracy neither begins nor ends in the voting booth! Ongoing public engagement is both our right and our duty as engaged citizens. Send your newly elected (or re-elected) MPP a note congratulating them on their election, mentioning some of your key concerns, to establish a line of communication with them. Perhaps you can invite them to a meeting with others in your parish, or to visit one of your outreach ministries, so they can see at first-hand the needs of the community. Some resources to help you reach out to your elected officials are available on the diocese’s website at www.toronto.anglican.ca/diocesan-life/social-justice-advocacy/advocacy-resources.
Finally, continue to pray for the government and other elected representatives. Continue learning about the issues that arise, and how they affect our neighbours and our community. And continue to speak up and to act for the building up of our common life.