Reflecting on the Alberta election and religious faith
Faith and Culture:
Somewhere between the time I left Alberta on April 14 and returned on Election Day April 23, somebody shot the horse out from underneath the hard-charging Wildrose party. Or perhaps, as one friend suggested, “the Wildrose shot the horse all by themselves.”
In any event, while catching up on the election news stories that circulated while I was away, I was interested to note that the religious views of at least some Wildrose candidates played a role in the campaign. Some have subsequently argued that such views ultimately also influenced the outcome of the election.
Given that I once wrote a doctoral dissertation on an aspect of Alberta’s religious history that touched on religion’s connection to provincial politics, I’ve been reflecting on what the recent election campaign and results have to tell us about the evolving face of religion in the public square in this province.
It is telling that in a province where the premier’s office was once occupied by two fundamentalist preachers (William Aberhart and Ernest Manning), two fundamentalist preachers seeking office with the Wildrose Party in 2012 took no small amount of heat for views they’ve articulated regarding morality and ethnicity. Neither candidate was elected. Not surprisingly, since the April 23 vote, I have heard some within the religious community lament what they perceive to be clear evidence of a growing secularism among Alberta’s electorate. In fact, a few people have gone so far as to tell me they considered the outcome of the election to be a distinctly anti-Christian vote.
My response is that strikes me as unnecessarily paranoid and oversimplified with respect to both the political process and the essence of the Christian gospel.
This election validated that political conservatism in both Canada and Alberta is no longer as unified a community as it once was.
Most Canadians who have voted Conservative the last few elections have done so out of loyalty to fiscal or economic conservatism as opposed to any affinity for social conservatism. In fact, you could build a strong case that one thing Stephen Harper eventually figured out was that some of the more radical elements of the social conservatism represented by the old Reform Party wing of what is now the Conservative Party of Canada had to be jettisoned before the Conservatives could ever expect to obtain the kind of majority government they now have in Ottawa.
Difficult as it may be for an older generation of Albertans to accept, the results of the recent Alberta election can be construed as an inevitable outcome of a more nuanced worldview that has come to this province via the 100,000 new Albertans who are moving here every year.
But it’s also a reflection of the reality that some of us who were born and raised in Alberta entirely reject the notion that the essence of the message of Jesus Christ is adequately or accurately summarized by the agenda of the social conservative lobby.
Tim Callaway is pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org