15 October 2008
Janet Ajzenstat weighs in on the life of the eminent constitutional scholar, Gérald Beaudoin, who died last month at age 79. Her reflections on his legacy confirm to me once again that basic constitutional reform is probably incompatible with mass participatory democracy. Given the near universal acceptance of the latter, at least in the west, my own suspicion is that the formation of new constitutional federations, or, more modestly, the reform of old ones, may now belong to the past. I cite our own Charlottetown Accord, as well as two failed attempts at establishing a European constitution, as evidence. I discovered last week, to my consternation, that Faith Alive's recently published Singing the New Testament has set my text, Christ Who Is in the Form of God, to Sir Charles Hubert Parry's rousing tune, JERUSALEM, to which it is spectacularly ill suited. By contrast, the Mennonites were kind enough to follow my advice and use Orlando Gibbon's SONG 34 for this text. Perhaps Calvin was too hard on the anabaptists after all. At the weekend family came up to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, bringing along a copy of my hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, at one time the major daily in the American middle west. Unfortunately, under its current owner, it has become so dumbed down that it now resembles USA Today (known affectionately as "McPaper"), carrying little news of substance and lots and lots of advertising. Even our own Hamilton Spectator is now superior to the Trib. Col. Robert McComick and Mike Royko must be turning in their graves. Though I've not yet seen it, I am reading good things about Fireproof, a low-budget film produced by a Baptist church, of all things. Prison Fellowship's Mark Earley quite likes it. Zenit interviews director Alex Kendrick on this unusual project. Another Conservative minority government? I will not feign surprise at this entirely expected result. Stephen Harper failed to win his hoped for majority, though he increased his party's share of seats in the Commons, as did the New Democrats and the Bloc québécois. Only the Liberals, Canada's "natural governing party," lost ground. As Stéphane Dion's days as party leader are numbered, he will likely earn the distinction of being the only Liberal leader in well over a century never to have become prime minister. This is not good news: Voter turnout drops to record low. How to rectify this? How about PR! Our American counterparts are bracing themselves for this evening's third presidential debate. During the second debate, both Obama and McCain sought to convince their fellow citizens to put them in office by raising expectations as to what each could do for their benefit. It was as if they were running for the position of elected dictator. Given that both are senators, one would expect them at least to mention that little complicating factor in their plans: the Congress of the United States. As a one-time aficionado of Sojourners (more than three decades ago), I remain puzzled at their embrace of two seemingly contradictory positions: (1) a prophetic call to Christians to remember that they belong to Christ first and foremost amidst the idolatries of our day, as exemplified in these posts: American First, Christian Second? and No Conviction; and (2) a pragmatic willingness to soften one's principles for the sake of mobilizing support for a particular political party, as seen here: A Step Forward on Abortion. Someone, perhaps Jim Wallis himself, needs to explain to the rest of us how they manage to pull together these two obviously divergent elements.
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