The political side of loving our neighbour
Christians are engaging in public justice, researching and advocating just policies.
This September the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR) will open in Winnipeg. On its website, the CMHR invites us to “engage in discussion and commit to taking action against hate and oppression.” Such an invitation should sound familiar to people of faith.
The greatest commandment for Christians is to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves. While it can be tricky to discern who our neighbour is and what it means to love them, Christians believe that every person is created in the image of God and every inch of our world belongs to God. If we take this seriously, our “neighbourhood” stretches far beyond where the sidewalk ends.
So what do we do when we have thousands—no billions—of neighbours? What does it mean to love the vastness of our earth? There are limitless ways to do this.
One way we can love our neighbours, care for creation, and work for the common good is through political means. Public justice, then, is the political dimension of loving our neighbours. This involves researching, discussing, and advocating for just policies that allow everyone to live in dignity and participate fully in society.
Christians can exercise the call to love our neighbours by using our citizenship as a tool for justice. This starts with learning to discern when government actions contribute to greater justice and when they serve distorted goals. In response, citizens and residents can use democracy to help shape governance in a way that contributes to public justice.
This fall, Christians will be actively engaged in a number of public justice issues. In September, churches will press world leaders to address climate change as they meet in New York for the UN Climate Summit Some will lead workshops and write letters. Others will walk, bike, and take the bus to church. Christians are becoming engaged because they know that climate change is having irreversible, devastating effects on the created world and vulnerable people across the globe. They see political action on climate change as a way to both love our neighbour and care for God’s creation.
On October 17, food bank volunteers, anti-poverty advocates, and people of faith will mark the International Day for the Eradication of Povertythrough calling for a federal anti-poverty plan. The Dignity for All Campaign is organizing demonstrations (dubbed Chew on This!) on this dayfrom a fundamental belief that food banks were never meant to be the solution to hunger in Canada and that the Canadian government has a key role in developing a plan of action. They will be taking the lunch lines to the streets in more than 15 cities across Canada.
Seeking public justice is no simple task. Love is not just a warm and cozy concept. It is not just feeling sorry for someone or believing that it’s important to care. Love is gritty. Love requires intelligence, creativity, and hard work. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13).
When “the strangers” are just as much our neighbour as those with whom we share our walls or fences, the way we think about engaging in our world may shift. Perhaps we will begin to see the political side of loving our neighbour in a whole new light.
Janelle Vandergrift is a Policy Analyst with Citizens for Public Justice in Ottawa, ON.
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