Election 2015: End of life and justice issues are key for Christian groups

political-leadersinsideHaving trouble deciding which way to vote? Many Christian groups have worked hard to provide guidance. They all agree that it’s good to vote, and are at pains to remain nonpartisan. Beyond that, they emphasize different issues, though there is considerable common ground.

Threat of assisted suicide

Catholics and evangelicals would like to see euthanasia and assisted suicide become a major issue in the election campaign. In February, the Supreme Court of Canada’s decided that Canadian adults suffering from “a grievous and irremediable medical condition” have a right to end their life with a doctor’s help, and that Parliament has one year to change its law.

The Catholic Bishops of Canada issued a strongly worded statement September 18, in the wake of their annual Plenary Assembly. It read, in part:

We are in the midst of a federal election campaign. The candidates’ silence on the question of assisted suicide astonishes us. This question is fundamental for our society and its future. Have we relinquished the ability to debate the profound questions of life that touch us all?

Are our politicians that terrified by the risk of awkwardly phrased responses, getting “off message” or the ups and downs of public opinion polls? We urge all the citizens of our country to raise this question of life and death at meetings with candidates, to stimulate a true debate worthy of our great country. . . .

In a recent article, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) president Bruce Clemenger, made a similar point:

A critical issue, among the many now being debated, is how our political parties plan to respond to the Supreme Court decision to allow assisted suicide in some circumstances.

This shift is profound, since our law previously affirmed the 6th commandment (“you should not kill”). Historically both Parliament and the courts have promoted the sanctity of human life and protected the vulnerable by keeping assisted suicide illegal, even when compassionate grounds were invoked.

Catholics and evangelicals certainly do not limit their guidance to ‘life’ issues.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a 2015 Federal Election Guide, which “focuses on respect for life and the dignity of the human person, social justice, the family, world peace and the environment.” And as a member of the Canadian Council of Churches, they support its Federal Election Resource.

In its new Election Kit, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada puts a major emphasis on prayer and on understanding the role of churches in the election process. But it also addresses a wide range of issues: caring for creation, family integrity, global poverty reduction, Indigenous peoples, palliative care, poverty and homelessness, prostitution, refugees, religious freedom, reproductive and genetic technologies and respect for life.

Other denominations and advocacy groups have not given equal attention to end of life issues, but they do also highlight matters of justice and the value of life.

Justice issues

The Anglican Church of Canada has produced a useful document called Compassion, Justice and Reason: An Anglican Approach for Election 2015.

It focuses on three broad areas:

* Bridging Divides (homelessness and affordable housing; child poverty; intergenerational inequities)
* Restoring Right Relations (steps on the journey of reconciliation; caring for creation; a new dialogue on restorative justice; a new dialogue on diversity, inclusion and interfaith cooperation)
* Promoting Peace and Stability (welcoming the stranger: refugees; investing in a fragile world through international assistance; partnerships for peace in the Middle East)

In an Open Letter to Canadian Political Leaders (included in the elections document), Anglican Primate Fred J. Hiltz, said, in part:

In shaping your party platforms and election slogans, may your ears and your hearts be open to the call of Canadians for compassion, justice, and reason. . . . While these issues are not at the centre of political debate in the current campaign, that does not diminish their importance in living up to the values that we hold as Canadians.

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) has been tireless over the years in addressing public policy issues from a Christian point of view.

Its 2105 Election Bulletin: Exercising Faith Citizenship first offers some useful suggestions on what measures would create ‘A Better Democracy for All Citizens’ (limiting the use of omnibus bills, ensuring that policy-making is based on solid evidence, holding truly fair elections, ensuring that charities are not unfairly accused of ‘political activity’).

The CPJ guide deals with three main areas:

* Ending Poverty in Canada (A National Anti-Poverty Plan, affordable quality childcare, good jobs, housing for all)
* Climate Justice is Public Justice (federal leadership and a credible Climate Change Action Plan are required)
* A New Approach to Refugees (Syrian refugee crisis, consultation with refugee sponsors, protecting refugee claimants)

During a September 18 CBC Radio interview, Karri Munn-Venn of Citizens For Public Justice said not enough attention is being paid during the election campaign to issues facing poor Canadians.

CPJ also offers a useful link to 11 other Ecumenical Election Resources, including the EFC, the Canadian Council of Bishops and the Canadian Council of Churches. (Though not to the Association for Reformed Political Action, ARPA, a more conservative group, also with Dutch Reformed roots, which is focusing on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and prostitution – and a LifeTOUR at 20 stops across the country – before the election.)

The Federal Election Resource of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) covers much of the same ground as do the Anglican and the CPJ guides (not surprising, both are members), but also includes guidance on such diverse issues as the Arms Trade Treaty, the international initiative to ban nuclear weapons and support for small-scale farmers.

The CCC election resource has a brief section on Physician Assisted Death, noting that “it is among the most significant ethical questions facing our country.” But that’s about all they can say, because denominational members are divided on how to respond to the issue; the report links to a 1996 CCC statement on euthanasia and palliative care which details the various responses.

We Have a Voice

One other resource worth consulting is We Have a Voice, a booklet subtitled ‘Equipping to Effect Change in the Public Square’ by Rob Parker of the National House of Prayer in Ottawa.

Parker describes his purpose in writing the booklet:

This is written from a non-partisan perspective and seeks to bring a biblical perspective on voting and some important issues that Christians need to be reminded of in Canada. Now is not the time for the Canadian Church to be asleep; we need to be involved.

He addresses issues such as: Should I Only Vote for a Christian Candidate?, Character Does Matter and One-Issue Voting. However, despite being focused on the upcoming election, he is also thinking of the big picture, and the need for prayer.

Two chapters, Life Matters 1 & 2, cover abortion and assisted suicide. Recognizing that “transformed individuals transform culture,” he said:

This is exactly what happened with William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect of believers who first realized that they had to address society before they could address the government to end slavery. . . . The corruption of slavery was beaten, but it took many dedicated Christians and a commitment of 46 years in all to see a society experience transformation, and for the abolition of slavery to become law.

1 comment for “Election 2015: End of life and justice issues are key for Christian groups

  1. Louise Booth
    October 8, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    One more resource re the election is the United Church of Canada’s 2015 Federal Election Kit, downloadable at http://www.united-church.ca/getinvolved/takeaction/election. It’s a non-denominational guide to issues where our faith has something to say.

    The kit includes connections to the election for worship, study groups, and children and youth; background information on election issues; questions you can ask candidates; instructions for planning an all-candidates meeting; tips for using the media (including social media). There are about 15 issues included.

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