19 August 2003

Neo-cons, neo-calvs, &c.

In a roundtable discussion amongst Gideon Strauss, Brian Dijkema, James Brink and myself, the issue of co-operation with non-neo-calvs (or perhaps "neo-calves," to use a bovine metaphor) arises.

Starting a christian democratic party is not a way of separating oneself from "the world" and maintaining an artificial purity. If one starts a political party and then waits for the rest of the world to join it, nothing will ever get done. I myself believe that, in the event PR is adopted, beginning a distinctively neo-calvinist party will probably not be all that helpful. Instead I think we should be prepared to join, where possible, with other like-minded Christians, such as conservative Catholics, evangelicals and confessional protestants -- and even neo-cons and christian socialists -- in the interest of seeing justice done in the political arena.

It is, of course, always something of a dilemma to know how far to broaden one's base of co-operation. If it is too small, then one risks marginalization and irrelevancy. If it is too broad, one risks dilution of one's principles and inaction. There is no handy rule of thumb to avoid these two dangers. My own sense is that it is best to start with the principles and then look for commonalities with these other groups.

Yet no matter how large or small our own group, we will have to be prepared to co-operate with other, less likeminded parties on issues of common concern. We may have to content ourselves with having a share in the making of public policy rather than waiting to convert everyone so we can implement our full agenda. This is simply what politics is all about.

A dozen years or so ago, the Mulroney government proposed abortion legislation that fell short of full protection of the unborn but was a considerable improvement on the legal vacuum created by the Supreme Court's 1988 decision, Morgenthaler v. the Queen. Many Christians made a tactical error in opposing legislation that didn't go far enough in protecting human life. Unable to admit that something is better than nothing, their opposition helped to kill the bill on a rare free vote in the Senate. Purity of principles is no substitute for political savvy and an intuitive sense of what lies within the realm of possibility.

Once more, the adoption of PR will not usher in the kingdom of God. It will simply open the field for other viewpoints, whose followers will then be free to make both good and bad choices on public policy issues. The battle will only have begun.

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