Embarrassments in the campaign—but so what?

 

In one of the classic scenes from the classic movie “Casablanca,” French police captain Louis Renault kowtows to Nazi pressure and closes his friend’s nightclub on the most hypocritical of pretexts. He professes to be shocked—shocked!—to learn that there is gambling going on therein…and a moment later happily receives his evening’s winnings from an employee.

Canada’s political parties are likewise currently running about in tremendous shock. They’re shocked to find that the costume-loving prime minister, who badly misjudged sartorial expectations during a state visit to India, has quite a record of showing up in insensitive costumes at talent shows and parties.

They’re shocked to find that the Conservative Party has included candidates, even a leader, whose publicly expressed views about certain matters of sexuality are, well, conservative.

They’re shocked to find that the People’s Party of Canada, a grassroots organization arising largely because many Canadians feel marginalized by the other parties and by the media, have included supporters who hold views that, at best, can be called . . .  marginal.

And they’re shocked to find that the leader of the Green Party publicly professes admiration for Jesus Christ, only to be shocked again when she then trips over herself trying to make clear that her personal views are her personal views and must not in any way be construed to  indicate anything significant about her party or her leadership of it. Right. Got it.

That leaves only the leader of the NDP, who hasn’t had much of interest to say so far in this campaign but must be having the time of his life being shocked by everything going on around him…or being worried that his turn is coming next.

Christians, however, ought to be among the Canadians least shocked by any of this. Christian theology makes it plain that the best of us are capable of pretty significant sin, as well as stupidity, and that we cannot expect the best of us to run for high office. Power attracts all sorts of people, so we can expect all sorts of behaviour. And that’s what we’re getting these days—if not here, then south of the border and across the ocean as well.

Instead of congratulating ourselves, then, on our ethical superiority and joining in this farcical orgy of ephemeral outrage, Christians would do well to stay calm and carry on…

…in refusing to participate in the hypocrisy of criticizing motes in other parties’ eyes before removing the beams from our own;

…in refusing to make a bigger deal of things than they are, while insisting that the truly important issues get proper attention; and

…in recognizing that everyone makes mistakes, including bad ones, and that our collective focus must be on discerning what is the likely and desired future, not dwelling on the embarrassing past.

Sure, it’s diverting to mock the mighty, or even the semi-mighty. But indigenous people’s concerns, impending climate change, pipelines and renewable energy sources, religious rights of minorities, abortion and euthanasia, minimum wages and adequate welfare, overburdened health and education regimes, homelessness, child poverty, student debt, and more each matter far, far more than whether each party has its bozos (they do) and each leader has his or her clumsy moments (they have).

Christian wisdom expects flaws and failure. Now let’s get over our shock, fun as it is, and get down to the real business of the election. Or the wrong people will collect the winnings.

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John G. Stackhouse, Jr., PhD, serves as the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick. A graduate of Queen’s University, Wheaton Graduate School, and the University of Chicago, he was formerly Professor of Religion at the University of Manitoba and held the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver. He has given interviews to ABC, NBC, CBC, CTV, and Global TV as well as to CBC Radio from coast to coast. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, The Atlantic, Time, and Maclean’s. Author of over 800 articles, book chapters, and reviews, his tenth book has been released this year: “Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World” (Oxford University Press).