The Promise of Change and the False Hope of Politics

Today—May 2, 2011—is Election Day in Canada. For those who are keeping track (or interested), it’s our fourth federal election since 2004.

Over the last several years, since I grew up and started paying taxes, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with politics.

A big part of it has to do with Canada being strapped with minority governments for the last several years. Now, for those who don’t know, a minority government exists when the party that gains the most seats still has less than the combined total of the various opposition parties. So, as you can imagine, when you’ve got four “big” parties plus independents, it’s not easy to get a majority (though certainly not impossible). The upshot of this is the opposition can be an aid in keeping sketchiness to a minimum among the ruling party. The downside is that the opposition can also come together and prevent any good plans the ruling party might have.

(They can also form a coalition and take over the government. See, who says Canadian politics are boring?)

Nw, here’s where the love-hate thing comes into play…

What I Love About Politics

I love seeing people—especially young people—take an interest in politics. This needs to happen. When I was growing up, my mother gave me the following piece of advice: If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about what the government does. Stated positively, exercising your right to vote gives you a voice into shaping how you are represented on a municipal, provincial and federal level. It is extremely important to exercise this right that we have been afforded, particularly since millions of people around the world do not have the ability to do this thing that we take for granted.

What I Hate About Politics

I hate seeing people—especially young people—get caught up in the demonizing of political leaders that comes with campaigning. Sadly at this point, I just expect a whole whack of mud slinging from the party leaders. I don’t like it, but I expect it. But that doesn’t mean that we have to engage in it.

Through this campaign, I’ve seen people trying to encourage university students to vote this year by creating attack sites devoted to trashing the sitting Prime Minister. I’ve seen young idealists talking about the rights of the working class, but seeming to have no idea what those rights are. I’ve seen people across the board make assumptions about every party’s plans without even reading them. Heck, I saw one young guy (who is either ridiculously stupid or mentally unhinged) write that if you’re a “right-winger,” you need to be murdered in the streets.

I don’t care where you land on the political spectrum—whether you’re a hair over to the right of center, left, really left, or you’re upset that trees don’t have the right to vote—but the folks you don’t agree with are no more (and no less) evil than you are. And it is profoundly unwise to fall prey to demonizing those with whom you disagree.

Yet we all do it, don’t we?

I would suggest two reasons why:

1. We want real change. I think they want the political climate to change in Canada and to begin to see the government get some legitimate work done instead of having to vote every other year because someone decided to have a hissy fit. They want to see real, positive change in the nation, although we don’t agree on what that means. And with every election, there’s the hope that the promise of change might actually come true (maybe).

2. We have bought into the false hope that politics offers. Our hope in the promise of change, unfortunately, leads us into a whole other set of problems. We begin to buy into the hype. We want so bad for “our” party, “our” guy to be the hero—to come in wearing the white hat and riding his white horse and promising to clean up this town. And if they get in, we will rejoice (until they start to break their promises). If they don’t, we will bemoan the state of the nation and declare that the end is nigh (at least until next year’s election).

In the end, we find ourselves with a really crappy false god that’s guaranteed to let us down. Badly.

Why? Because our “god” is a person, one who is just as big a mess as any of us. Tonight, no matter who wins, whether we see a Conservative party majority, another minority government followed by a coalition, or something else, we will be disappointed by their service to the nation at some point.

They will go back on their word. They will start doing things that cheese us off. They’ll spend your tax dollars foolishly.

And you will be frustrated.

That’s the false hope of politics, though. It offers what it can’t deliver. It’s men trying, whether they realize it or not, to serve in a role that belongs to God alone.

It’s Jesus alone who will bring about the change that we’re longing for, not any political leader. He is sufficient where all others are insufficient. He offers hope, true hope, where even the best politician can only offer a pale imitation.

I hope that as we go to the polls today and watch the results and the parties begin preparing for the next (year’s) election, we remember it.

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  • G D Andres

    I generally agree with your assessment of the way we do politics. You say ” And you will be frustrated”. Not me. Why? Because we live in a fallen world and the results can be expected. Fallen man no matter how concienesous does not have the answers.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      True; perhaps I should have said “and you will be frustrated at times.” I know in my case, no matter how aware I am of the fallenness of man, I still find myself getting a bit irked at the stupid things we do.

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