By Rev. Dr OhWang Kwon
I recently attended the candidate forum for the Stettler / Drumheller riding and listened to each party’s campaign. I feel that the Alberta 2023 Provincial Election is drawing the attention of all Albertans. As a Christian, I am interested in how to make the Kingdom of God come true on earth. It may be politics that makes the realization of the reign of God possible by achieving justice which would be the approximation of agape, God’s love. In particular, in this election, Albertans are looking for ways to revive economies, provide better health care, promote affordability, and revitalize agriculture, especially in rural Alberta.
My concern is that rapid economic and social bipolarization, caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, wars, global tensions, high inflation, and so on, may affect civic engagement, increase political cynicism, shake social stability and finally destroy democratic communities. This situation reminds me of John Dewey, who argued for the establishment of the Great Community in the 1920s. He pointed out that rapidly changing cultures, new technologies, and capitalism based on old liberalism brought about the collapse of American communities. In the Great Community, citizens would freely make social experiments by participating in social and political issues and communicating with each other harmoniously and locally. His idea of democracy as a way of life could be taught in a school which would turn out good, active and informed citizens. His arguments were harshly criticized by Reinhold Niebuhr, the founder of Christian realism. To Niebuhr, Dewey’s ideas seemed naïve, utopian and unrealistic. Pointing out the selfishness of individuals and groups, Niebuhr supported democracy from his realistic viewpoint. He said, “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”
As Niebuhr says, we are living in a world where democracy is necessary. Still, individuals and groups may be tempted to become greedy and pursue their own interests excessively even by manipulating mass media, spreading fake news on YouTube, justifying their selfish motives with plausible claims, and finally destroying the common good.
As both Niebuhr and Dewey pointed out, I also agree that in a Great Community, which hopefully will be built in Alberta, citizens will be able to make democracy possible. This community will be the earthly realization of the Kingdom of God, which was embodied in the event of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to the world and carried out the mission by living with the marginalized in his time. He resisted and defeated evil and death by sacrificing himself, embodying God’s love, and rising again from the dead! In history, there has been tension between earthly reigns and the reign of God. As Jesus did, I hope that Christians as heavenly citizens intentionally put their spiritual will to the realization of God’s rule into practice by voting with prayer in solidarity of the poor and marginalized in pursuit of love, justice and peace.
May God bless Alberta! For further information, see John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems (Athens, OH: Swallow Press, 1991 ), 143-184.
 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and Children of Darkness (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944), xi.
 To know more about the concept of solidarity of others, See Anselm Kyongsuk Min, The Solidarity of Others in a Divided World: A Postmodern Theology after Postmodernism (New York: T&T Clark International, 2004), 138-143.
Rev. Dr. OhWang Kwon is minister at Stettler, Big Valley and Erskine Pastoral Charges in Alberta and a member of the Chinook Winds Region’s Executive.
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Leading up to the 2023 Alberta provincial election, United Church leaders, including the Chinook Winds Regional Executive, are writing a series on Jesus’ Politics, current issues and our faithful response. This is the fifth in a series of seven articles. Read more HERE