There is more than a little puzzlement, anxiety, even fear across the land. How could once solid Conservative Party of Ontario elect Doug Ford, brother of the former mayor of Toronto the late Rob Ford, as its leader to take them into the upcoming provincial election? For many the election of rabid populists only happens in the US and other countries not quite as civilized as we are. After all didn’t the federal Conservative Party soundly defeat Kelly Leitch in favour of the more traditionally sounding Andrew Scheer?
I am not going to pretend to understand the political dynamics or the minds of certain voters. What stands out for me, although I do not support their line of thinking or their brutalist solutions, is the appeal they make to marginalized, disaffected and frightened people. Politicians, it seems, are discovering the vote gathering potential of the too large body of wounded and broken people, and some are willing to exploit that potential to the hilt if it will get them elected.
There is a message here and not just to the government and politicians. The Christian church had its beginnings by connecting with and ministering to the hurt and marginalized of the ancient world. The church stood against the massive enterprise of the Roman Empire, an enterprise with little or no interest in people beyond their ability to produce wealth for the elite in Rome. Look at how many stories about Jesus (the ones we love to hear, maybe?) are about his connecting with troubled people and inviting them into a life giving relationship, into a realm grounded in right relations with others, where people were cared for and valued as children of God rather than for their value to government or corporation.
Because we have become disconnected with our historic roots we have become disconnected from our neighbours and our communities and we have become irrelevant to many. When we don’t know where people are suffering how can we know how to minister to them. When the church does engage in ministry with marginalized people we can move mountains and transform lives – look at the wonderful work that has been done through refugee sponsorship, or providing homes for the homeless! What I am saying is that there are people living in our neighbourhoods that are isolated and alone in their struggles that we are not aware of and we have forgotten how to find them.
The church is and must be a place of comfort and healing. Too often we are content with just being comfortable, and that is very discouraging.
What lifts you up when you are discouraged? I would love to hear some stories of the impact of the church on your life, or how the church can connect with people we are not comfortable with and rather not notice. Feel free to argue with me as I don’t pretend to have all the answers or even some of the answers. I am mainly interested in how we can journey together as God’s children.