There. That’s done. That seems to be the reaction of many after casting their votes in the Oct. 14 federal election.
We’ve performed our civic duty and now we are done with politics for a few months or years. We weighed party platforms and policies and we determined which fiscal menu best fitted our country’s needs before we cast our votes. It is not surprising that Anglicans vote across the political spectrum – Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic and Green.
But now that the election is over and we’ve packed away our partisan lawn signs and campaign buttons, we need to get to work to engage our local members of Parliament in regular dialogue. They are accountable to their constituents and they, perhaps surprisingly, listen intently to what we have to say. Members of Parliament crave a strong and vibrant local connection.
It is worthwhile pausing here for a moment. Our new crop of MPs heads off to Ottawa with a wide range of expectations, perhaps optimistically hoping to change the system.
They bring with them their own values and judgments about morality and faith and “doing the right thing.” There are numerous Anglican members of Parliament and they regularly meet with other Christians for times of prayer and worship. There are also Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and agnostic MPs. All bring their various perspectives to debates and discussions – whenever that is allowed.
Pew-sitting Anglicans have a significant role to play in the life of their local member of Parliament, regardless of that person’s faith perspective. We have a role to play because God calls us to love mercy, show justice and to walk humbly. We are not called to sit on our hands, waiting for others to love mercy, show justice and walk humbly. That is why we walk to eradicate poverty, why we sign petitions and send e-mails to government leaders.
The most significant role that “ordinary Anglicans” can play is to engage in one-on-one or group conversations with their local member of Parliament. Imagine if each of the 308 members of Parliament had a “Committee of Anglicans supporting Members of Parliament” (CAMP) in their constituency; a group of men and women, young and old, who supported them with prayer and who regularly met around a wide range of issues of national interest.
Did you get that? National interest. It would be self-serving and unacceptable to have a CAMP group push for a federal grant for a new roof for the church. One place to start these discussions might be a monthly breakfast meeting with your MP where you look at one of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV and AIDS and malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and global partnership for development.
Ask the MP what his/her views are on each of those goals, where their party stands on those goals, and what kinds of initiatives can take place locally to create an awareness of those issues.
The level of those discussions will depend on whether the MP is an opposition backbencher, a member of the governing party or a cabinet member. Cabinet members obviously have more clout and therefore a greater influence in creating government policy.
Parishes should hold at least one “town hall” hall meeting per year where the entire community is invited to meet either the local MP or a higher-profile cabinet minister to discuss a specific, timely issue. Anglicans are thoughtful enough and politically astute enough to avoid allowing those discussions to degenerate into proselytizing.
The federal election is over, but our obligation – as citizens and as Christians – did not end at the ballot box. Indeed, choosing our MP and the governing party was easy. The challenge is to provide prayerful and thoughtful support and encouragement to those members of parliament. We want to be known as “Anglicans in Action,” not “Anglicans Inaction.”