by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Jim Loney’s “Litany of Resistance” sure has made the rounds. Back in May 2007, we used it to close our “Ghost Stories :: Local Pain, Local Hope” event. It moved on from there, was borrowed by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, eventually making its way into their book “Jesus for President.”
Numerous churches, coffee houses and auditoriums later, it became a main feature on their 2008 Jesus for President Tour. One year ago, when we hosted Shane in Ottawa, it seemed only appropriate to bring the litany home to Canada, and pray it together in the heart of our very own empire, within earshot of Parliament Hill.
We were church, that evening. Conservative and Progressive. Left and Right. Everyone in between. We were all there, wanting to go deeper. God’s family had packed into Dominion-Chalmers United Church, and after Shane’s inspiring talk, we prayed through that litany together. At one point, we used the following words:
For Our Casears and our Herods
For some in this political town, these words were hard to swallow, and the images were hard to stomach. Some abstained from reading these lines in unison with the rest. Others mumbled along. Still others responded with anger.
As the evening ended, one woman came and found me in the a/v booth where I was sitting. I could tell from the look in her eye that she meant business. She demanded to know if I had created the slides for the litany. In fact, I had. Seeing the anger in her eyes, I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know what particularly had angered her.
Whatever it was, I sensed that something had hit close to home. Many of the slides had been provocative – invoking the worst of human history and seeking forgiveness – warfare, residential schools, rape and exploitation and murder. None of these, however, had raised her ire.
What she said that night may have in fact been true. As I was creating the slides earlier that week, I wrestled with using these images, yet I stuck with them in the end.
It seemed to me then – as it does now in the midst of our current campaign fever – all too easy to cast the blame somewhere else. It’s all too easy to cast the blame on folks like Bush or Bin Laden, on Gaddafi or Chavez. These are the real offenders. They’re the ones sending this world to hell in a handbasket. Not our leaders. This is Canada!
But as Christians, as the church, as the body of Christ, we do not get off the hook so easily. We do not get to point a finger in somebody else’s direction. We’re not off the hook for the choices we make, for the people we exclude, for the products we sell.
We are certainly not off the hook for those members of our society we have carelessly shoved to the margins. We are not off the hook for the way we spend our money or the careless ways in which we live our lives. It’s all too easy to cast the blame somewhere else.
Certainly I don’t have a log in my own eye, do I?
That evening as many others filed noisily into the streets, I found myself in conversation with a woman in clear distress. I realized in that moment as I continued to walk with her through that visceral reaction, and deep wrestling, that we had done something right that evening. We had pointed the finger dangerously close to home. We had suggested that the problems this world faces require solutions that start right here. We are not exempt from the accusations of empire.
You know, this election, I’m not sure how much it matters whether I vote Conservative or Liberal, NDP, Bloc or Green. At least I’m not sure if such things matter if I don’t first pledge my allegiance to Jesus.
I’m not sure they matter if I don’t first pledge my allegiance to God’s upside-down, mustard-seed kingdom. I’m not sure they matter if my life is not continually being transformed by and conformed to the life of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps it’s in this light that I can say that it does matter who I vote for. Voting is made meaningless if we Christians fail to do so in the context of our faith, our relationship with God, and relationship to our neighbours.
This is about more than who to vote for. This is about how we live our lives. How do we demonstrate compassion? How do we enter into others’ sufferings? How do we take responsibility for this good creation with which God has entrusted us?
(How) do any of the candidates help accomplish these things? They certainly won’t accomplish them all. Which is perhaps okay. It gives Christ’s church something to work through in the meantime as we seek to embody God’s alternative kingdom, embrace God’s alternative economy, and pursue God’s way to lasting peace…the way of the cross.