Back to Top

5 Week Election Spirituality Challenge

My generation has a lot going for it. We’re more willing to question the status quo than many in our parents’ generation. We have the hippies of the 60s and 70s still around to inspire and mentor us. We can and sometimes do choose to consume more ethically—fair trade, direct trade, hybrid, grass-fed, you name it. We’re more connected and have greater reach than any generation, anywhere, ever. Many of us are informed, conscience-driven, connected people.

But my generation isn’t so into voting. We look at the choices before us, the cynical attack ads, the poll-based policy decisions, the all-too-slick sound bites, the culture wars played out with the same tired lunge and parry every time…and we wonder if it’s worth hoping for change in the political arena. If you’re like me, sometimes you wonder whether it’s not better to just love the neighbours you find around you in practical ways, where it feels like you can make a difference, and leave the political warfare to others. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that people who prize authenticity and candor would find politics a touch nauseating.

Maybe you relate to this, no matter your age.

But I’m finding that if I’m serious about loving my neighbours, all roads lead to politics. When I spend time with my friends Juan and Maritza, vivacious Colombians who also happen to be refugees, and see how Canada’s cuts to refugee healthcare, negative narratives about refugees, and long application processing times affect them, I can’t ignore government policy. When I hear stories from friends with mental illnesses that keep them from working a regular job about how long it took to receive subsidized housing, I see the effect of government policy. When I volunteer at a Native centre and meet people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who are trying to become literate, in part because of the profound brokenness of the Indigenous education system in Canada, apathy towards government policy is no longer an option.

And yet I confess that cynicism and apathy still pull strongly. I confess too that I am addicted to quick results, and the long slow work of political action is not as nimble as my web browser. Typing a careful, respectful, well-researched email to my political representative doesn’t make for a good Instagram shot.

There’s a poem by Wendell Berry that has been recommended to me by friends over and over again, and always, it seems, at key moments in my life. Here’s an excerpt that’s been rolling through my head the last few days:

“Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.”

Plant sequoias. Work for something beyond yourself, with patience and trust that, as when you plant a seed, your little actions will be only the beginning of something much bigger than yourself.

Sound like prayer to you? Could the long, slow work of voting and political action be thought of as a spiritual discipline?

Voting, like much justice work and discipleship, doesn't usually produce quick outcomes and easy choices. (I don’t know about you, but a few prayers for patience have not exactly made me into Mother Theresa.) Contacting my MP candidates about their policies that affect marginalized people won’t change media or party narratives in a day, a week, or a month. But maybe a rhythm of faithful action is an act of resistance against cynicism and apathy and maybe, if my MP hears often enough that marginalized people matter to her constituents, the stories of other little Syrians like Alan Kurdi won’t end on a beach in Turkey. Maybe Indigenous kids in Canada will get a shot at a quality education. Maybe young girls will no longer be pimped out and cast aside. I’ve seen the Spirit blowing through Canada and the world as those tragic images of Alan came out—and it is that same Spirit, who can make the stoniest of hearts pump red, that I seek in prayer and that I trust to take my little mustard seed and make it into something that can shelter marginalized people.

So for the next five weeks, I’m going to try a little experiment: once a week, I will write an email to my MP candidates on a political issue that affects marginalized people, using this election resource from the Centre for Public Dialogue as a guide. The background information at the pages below will also help me to pray about the issue. Would you join me?

Week of September 7: Refugees

September 14: Physician-assisted death

September 21: Indigenous education reform

September 28: Aid for family farmers

October 5: Commercial sexual exploitation (human trafficking)

If you're not sure how to contact your MP candidates, don't worry. It's easier than it sounds! You can use the talking points we've put together for the issues above to write a respectful, personalized letter or email, and here are a couple webpages to help you find the contact information of the MP candidates in your riding:

If there’s another issue that grabs your heart that isn’t covered here, swap it in! Let’s resist cynicism and apathy and choose to be passionate citizens, for the sake of our neighbours.

Maybe these seeds we’re planting will be tended by One greater than ourselves. 

[Image: Flickr user Kevin Ott]


The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.