Posts Tagged ‘CCF’


Faith, Leadership and Public Life

If you were to drop Woodsworth’s Bible it is said to have opened to Luke 10 (Good  Samaritan)….Drop Aberhart’s open to John 3 (Personal Salvation). p.287-288

Some say religion/spirituality and politics should not mix. It is an extreme view. I hold that one’s religious/spiritual beliefs should not be imposed on another due to legislative-political power, but if one truly holds core values within the spiritual realm you cannot set them aside if you are called to pursue a political vocation. It was a question raised in the debates in 2006 when I ran, as a Third Order Franciscan, and answering honestly that my religion would not be left out for it is intrinsically part of me and informs my social conscience, yet that does not mean I cannot and would not represent those within the multi-cultural riding I lived if elected.

It is a challenge, and in Preston Manning’s 2017 book, Faith, Leadership and Public Life: Leadership Lessons from Moses to Jesus that Manning touches upon. Mr. Manning has a strong Evangelical faith that has shaped his political career, and it is a generational call as his father, Ernest, was an Alberta MLA, Premier, and Senator, What is aptly shown in the words and journey of Preston is that faith is not one sided. He writes of the spectrum of Christians (and one can extrapolate to all peoples) that have entered public life. J.S. Woodsworth and Tommy Douglas with the CCF (on the left) and his father, and William Aberhart with Social Credit (on the right), but the same belief structure governing it; if not a different perspective on emphasis.

The book walks through lessons from the life of Jesus of Nazareth; Moses; David; and what Manning terms the Exiles (Jeremiah, Daniel, Esther, Joseph, Ezra and Nehemiah). I may not always have agreed with his perspective– i.e. the Conservative Party Merger; or that David was an adulteror (readers know I list the Bathsheba incident as rape). But there is wisdom in Manning’s writings that if one can step outside the rhetoric of entrenched ideology they can see what is being laid out.

A path of conscience. Yes, Mr. Manning is more socially conservative than I (though some days the wife points out the NDP can be more socially conservative than I); but he lays out for spiritual leadership an authentic path. One that walks much like the mystics and monastics of our ancestors in developing a Spiritual Rule (laid out in my book, Pilgrimage to the Heart of the Sacred): Daily Spiritual practice and examin.

He also writes of humility and humbleness in leadership. Why are we leading? He gives two examples as he shows the intertwining of his faith and politics:

At the end of the day, perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from Moses is that true leadership isn’t about the leader. It’s about serving someone and something greater. (p.179)

and

“It’s like trying to drive a car down the road while looking in the rear-view mirror. The most likely result will be a crash– and that will be your legacy.”

-Ernest Manning

We do what we do as leaders, not because of our legacy, or the esteem/power that comes, but because we are called to serve those we lead and do something to make this world better. The book also carries wisdom on a leader whose hardest battles will not be the attacks from outside, but when one inside your organization/church/party attacks you for who you are. Also areas touching on how to whether storms, look into yourself and remain healthy:

Particularly relevant to anyone in a pressure-packed occupation is the fact that most of us very much need a safe and cathartic outlet for our emotions, especially our fear and anxieties. Otherwise we unhealthily suppress them or vent them at the wrong time, in the wrong way and in the wrong place. (p.223).

A trusted support network. Some that are professionals (counsellors, spiritual directors, coaches, mentors) and a strong personal network. The term network may seem business or techno-centric. When I was working life recovery for those leaving youth corrections they used “Circles of Support” with the balance on the life map being more personal than professional. It means family and friends that are supportive and encouraging more than those that tear you down (and I believe we all know folks like that).

Between the Rule of Life; knowing one’s vocation; having the support; and being a support it may be possible to live as a healthy leader. Manning touches upon the need within religious framework to re-assert the need for reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians; care for creation and charity as other key points.

Manning’s third book was a good read. It challenged in some areas; reaffirmed in others. At some instances I outright disagreed, but there is tied in personal anecdotes with his lay theology. The main question that should arise as one reads through the chapters:

What are the take aways for my journey?

How do I commune with the Holy (what is your spiritual practice)?

 

 

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mustard seed

  1. And Jesus spoke a parable; he said, The kingdom of the Christ is like a little seed that one put in the ground;
    39. It grew and after many years became a mighty tree, and many people rested in its shade, and birds built nests and reared their young among its leafy boughs.

Aquarian Gospel 140:38-39

You can read the rest of chapter 140 that leads up to this parable, but it is safe to say the journey we have been on in this social gospel series has reached a zenith or a climax for the literary about. The rising action in this short length of Jesus-story has achieved to this parable just in case the preceding 140 chapters were not clear enough on the world that is possible.

That is what this is about. A little idea, a little dream, one little thing planted within the Holy Mystery—within us—and watch it bloom. Want to know something else that happens out of the original blessing we are created and called into/out of???

The tree that provides for all, welcomes all exactly where they are and who they are. It provides not just a space for existence but belonging, growth and thriving into who they are and are meant to be and become.

How?

The space to rest is the beginning.

For when you can pause enough in the rat race of survival. One can then have time to dream a dream. Baptist Pastor,  CCF Premier of Saskatchewan, and Greatest Canadian Tommy Douglas would remind us “dream no little dreams” for any dream in the fertile soil of the love (cosmic dust) we are bound through…creates new reality, new life and like the tree that springs from the smallest tree— H-O-M-E.

What a wonderful outcome of our original blessing when creation was given to us to explore.

So what is your little seed?

What soil will you plant it in?


woodsworth

J.S. Woodsworth was a Methodist minister, who was a labour and human rights activist, pacifist, during the general strike in Winnipeg would be beaten by authorities and imprisoned. He would lead the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation during the hey day when they almost reached popularity enough to form government if not for machinations by the two mainline parties working the first media campaign.

He wrote Canadian Social Gospel theology out of his time as the superintendent of the Winnipeg Mission, the gateway to Canada for new comers where mats were provided, health care, employment training, education, and then tracts of free land on the prairies.

Over his lifetime his theological beliefs would transform from Christian to Social Gospel to finally surrendering his ordination, as he became a universalist that moved close to if not truly becoming a Pantheist. Though judging by reading the liturgies he would craft for his Labour Church would show much more of a Panentheist, understanding the inter-connectedness of all of creation within the Holy Mystery.

He comes to mind as we simply touch upon some readings from the Aquarian Gospel for your own reflection on answering Woodsworth’s question above.

Am I that Neighbour?

Where does the following stories resonate in your own life?

How are you called to be a neighbour?

Aquarian Gospel:

Chapter 132

Chapter 133

Chapter 134

Chapter 136

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

-Gospel of Saint Matthew 22:34-40 (English Standard Version).

Loving God and neighbour, starts with loving yourself as the connected very blessed being you are created to be.

Out of this love that connects your core within and throughout the Holy Mystery, is that which connects you with your neighbour.

So as you step into your daily life, reflecting, praying and meditating on the 4 chapters above…now what is your action steps?

Are you that neighbour being called out in Holy Love?


A non-Western-centric view of the spread of Christianity shows the tree branching out from the roots in the Middle East (Judaism), into a trunk that is Orthodox, to branches of many different flavours (i.e. Coptic, Mormon, Jehovah Witness to name but a few), from the Roman Catholic branch breaks out Protestantism, and then subdivides from there (Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, and on we go, then those break down more into the more esoteric-metaphysics movements such as New Thought, Christian Science to the spiritual-aesthetic ala Unitarian-Universalist).

As well off R.C.’s comes the religious life.

That is the beginning of the tree of Christendom. Yet there is two prevalent branches that happened in the Western World that is a thrown into the mix as overarching branches, especially in the microcosm that is North America, and more specifically the Untied States of America and Canada, that has back benched some shaping of national identity: Prosperity and Social gospels.

Now these may look at first blush as new movements starting late 19th-early 20th century.  BUT they are not, they actually can be found in the very root system of the tree. A cursory contextual-anthropological reading of the Hebrew Bible books of Judges-Prophets shows both systems at play.

  • Prosperity Gospel- Those who are in tune with God, and are blessed will thrive and grow in riches.
  • Social Gospel- A community centered movement to care for all of God’s children (widow, orphans, aliens, etc.) in a just world.

What would usually happen is that the blessed nation would get off track in the social gospel end, embracing the prosperity above all, thus creating the cycle of deserving/undeserving of blessing, and a judge or prophet would interject to get them back on track. The wisdom books tried to show the cycles of life detached from this ideal of prosperity being blessed, with the best example being the use of the Satan character to challenge the devout Job to show that bad things happen to good people, and it is what happens in the midst and how the community responds that matters. Are we a Job or his friends that scatter?

It is this dichotomy that can be seen within the religious movements that have shaped social policy in both Canada and the USA.  The official writing of the social gospel came from a writer in New York named Rauschenbush.  In later 20th century in America the movement would latch onto the idea of Red Letter Christians, in Latin America it would become Liberation Theology, still other dubbed theology of the margins would also crop up that would fall into the broad category of Social Gospel.

The Religious Right though would take the strong road of prosperity, and one just needs to look at how the social system of the U.S.A. has been developed, and barriers created to see that outcome. Especially in the battle for something as simple as universal health care, and acceptance of refugees. It underlies the drive of the meta-story of America of coming in to independently achieve the American dream.

In Canada, the Social Gospel really took root in church basements sprouting out labour movements, suffragists, and tied strongly into socialism which brought about politically Progressive Party, Labour Party, eventually convalescing into the CCF federally whose ideas so shook the status quo that it forced the two major parties to shift their focus onto just society, and yes labour rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights and universal health care.  It underlies the Canadian story of working together in a mosaic to create a home for the world.  Highlighted by such stalwarts as J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, William Aberhart, Pierre Trudeau, the Famous Five and many others who should be named openly…and I would say continues with many most notably, Elizabeth May.

An aside of experience, is during the rise of the social gospel movement, the movement created a “Christian Flag” to rally behind in protests showing the lie the oppressive forces of the day chasing prosperity no matter the human cost stating it was “Christian” and “ordained by God”. The movement shook the establishment and walked with all to craft a different story.

Years ago in Arizona I was witness to a very fundamentalist church saying a pledge to the Christian flag. It was driven as a pledge with the underlying beliefs that they were to out breed the other religions. It was said as a pledge to support shooting the illegals crossing the boarder as the Gospel of Christ proclaimed. The rallying cry was used for exclusion to ensure their own prosperity would continue. I almost did not get out alive pointing out the history of this artifact and what it was meant for, the fact I was an “ill-informed” Canadian in their mind is probably what saved my life.

That is a small story that shows what happens in the extremes of forgetting who our neighbour is and what it means to love our neighbour and ourselves as we love our God. A very linked triangle that shows all pieces need to be in place for healthy self and society from a faith perspective.

The question in the dichotomous and dogmatic world we live in is one right or wrong? That is dependent upon one’s point of view. Yet is it worth being prosperous, if it means leaving behind many in poverty and pain where they need to decide on simple matters like food/heat or rent? Setting a broken limb of a child or homelessness?

There is shift’s happening, and yes, the prosperity mind set is taking root in the world, but should it? What is the counter? What changes if all move forward healthy and prosperous? What if, as has become a movement in our schools we move from ME to WE not just locally, but hold to our roots and truly live it?

You see, this is the underlying narratives within our nations, though not founded on “Christian principles” as many want us to believe, the stories crafted the narratives of expectations of the people. Now we are in a time when the narratives have allowed hate in some circles to over shadow love in the pursuit of money…

So, what choice will you make for yourself, your family, your community?

If you state you are of faith, what will you choose, prosperity or social gospel?

Individualism or community good?

To end, it is a question asked by Rev. James Shaver Woodsworth, when he was the superintendent of the Winnipeg Mission that was the open doors for the immigrants and refugees to populate the prairies. It shaped his view, his founding of the labour church, his stance against the money-making war machine, and eventually to surrendering his vocation. It is a simple question for you to answer:

Who is my Neighbour?