The line haunts me still, 40 years later, as Canadians go to the polls today to elect a federal government.
The book was The New Left and Christian Radicalism by Art Gish. I bought it because my political thought in those days was more left leaning than right. (These days I would probably be classified more right than left. My opinions haven’t changed – the definitions have.) I still have the book, somewhere, though I haven’t opened it in decades.
What I remember most vividly is Gish’s discussion of the 1964 U.S. Presidential election contest between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. He suggested that many Christians voted for Johnson as the lesser of two evils. The problem with that, he went on, was that in such situations you are still choosing evil. That has stuck with me ever since.
We humans quantify our laws, our concepts of good and evil. The punishment for murder is greater than the one for shoplifting. Theologically though evil is evil – there are no gradations, each is offensive to a perfect God.
I have been involved in political life for 40 years, more or less, and Gish’s words have stuck with me. How, in an imperfect system can Christians offer themselves as salt and light? How can we work to change the options from evil to good?
There are three major parties in this Canadian election with a chance to form government. All have them have strengths and weaknesses, good and bad policies. Choosing is difficult. Especially for Christians. None of the parties seem overly appealing.
The leader of one party is accused of saying that evangelical Christians are “un-Canadian.” While he didn’t use that exact word, he did give that impression and neither did he respond to the accusation. Nor did he reject the anti-Christian views held by one of his closest associates. The leader of another party will not allow his Members of Parliament to vote their consciences on a moral issue such as abortion. (I am curious to see how the Christians in his caucus handle that.) Yet another party leader, an evangelical Christian (a rarity in Canadian politics) is considered to be a puppet of the Christian right by some and not Christian enough in integrating his faith and his politics by others. You choose.
So today Canadians go to the polls and for many it will be like 1964 in the US. They will hold their noses and vote for whoever thy think is the lesser evil. For better or worse, Canadians will wake up Tuesday morning with the government they deserve.
It is always so much easier to vote against something. It is a lot tougher to put forward a positive alternative. Perhaps next time that will happen.
That being said, I encourage you, if you are Canadian, to get out and vote today. There are many fine candidates in all parties who are motivated by public service and who would be an asset in the next parliament. I hope some of them win – and with your support they may just do so