Jesus’ Politics Challenge Our Aversion to Risk

With an Alberta provincial election on the horizon, the Chinook Winds Regional Council’s Executive has seriously pondered the implications of how our Christian faith calls us to respond to the social and economic issues of our times. From their conversations, the Politics of Jesus series was born.

Chinook Winds Region’s Indigenous Minister Rev. Tony Snow writes on the scriptural basis for dissent and how we are often averse to taking needed social justice stands that ultimately benefit everyone.

When Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers in Matthew 21, he was engaged in an overtly political act; an act critical of the manner and place of non-religious activity in a house of worship, an act critical of the ways in which the temple was being used.

The Politics of Jesus: Alberta Election 2023

When disciples and followers of Jesus called him “King” and “Son of Man”, and when “King of the Jews” was inscribed above his crucified body, this was a political act – a challenge to state order and the status quo that observed the dominion of the Roman empire.

When we think of the political (and moral) stances of the church proper, we often reflect upon its absence and silence in the political arena on matters of public policy or legislation that impact people unequally. We rarely hear moral outrage from the pulpit for those who cannot defend themselves in our system, from front-line workers to migrant workers to the newcomer fleeing their war-torn country. The struggle to recognize what is right and just in our society collides with the struggle to recognize basic humanity and human needs that are before our society continuously, whether that is potable water on reserve or increasing numbers at soup kitchen lines in our inner city. In Matthew 26, Jesus makes reference to the poor, and in doing so recalls Deuteronomy 15:11 which states: “The poor will never cease to be in the land.” Here the instruction is that increased caring and empathy will help to humanize others and create systems of care that will alleviate suffering. It is not an exasperation for the poor whose condition we ourselves have set, but a call to do otherwise.

As we contend with issues of who gets recognized, who gets heard and who belongs, we are asked to assess our own position, whether we are a long-time settler or a beneficiary of an unequal system. In our current situation, it may come to the point of giving up some comforts (including the surety of getting a job; the trappings of immediate gratification in a consumer culture designed to feed those who have disposable income for trips or vehicles or homes; the ability to stay in a job or position long term if they tow the status quo and do not question how we manage our social and environmental impacts). How we move ahead reflects how we navigate the space between equality and self-preservation.

And this leads us to is a question of risk. Political risk.

In many corners of Canadian society, we are very risk averse. Risk aversion leads to a tacit approval of the injustices occurring because they do not impact us. Yet. The aversion also allows us to operate under the radar to continue benefiting from the way things are and remain silent on issues that matter. When things do impact us, we struggle to have issues addressed: a livable wage, a clean environment, and security of person.

In some ways, many Canadians have reached the Promised Land for themselves, but we fail to see that benefit shared equally. Some struggle to make ends meet. Some struggle to pay rent. Some struggle to afford food. Some struggle to pay for expenses because of underemployment, discrimination or lack of skills. And while these issues may be acknowledged in the abstract, they are life-or-death issues for those living under these conditions. They require not merely our empathy, but our voices, our support and our presence.

This includes the work of reconciliation.

Tony Snow
Rev. Tony Snow is Chinook Winds Indigenous Minister and is a member of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation.

Since 2008 we have made commitments to address reconciliation: from the signing of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement to our work supporting the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Calls to Action. Our communities of faith have worked to address social justice issues, land acknowledgements and the records of gravesites and school registers for those who are preparing court actions and settlements. We have also sought ways to support healing for those impacted by the Residential Schools.

But what is the work of reconciliation and right relationship for the United Church moving forward? Are we finding new ways of repairing our past with Indigenous neighbours? Are we supporting initiatives to make people whole in their faith and spirituality in the communities we have inhabited historically? Does this call for more active participation in the political realm?

At Eastertide, we confront the issue of death and resurrection liturgically. Can we look to our faith in ways that nurture our collective spirit to move into action?

Download a PDF of the full article, Jesus Politics’ Challenge Our Aversion to Risk.