by Richard Long,
One person that has weathered the life of a politician and is a good guide to those considering the life, is the former leader of the Reform Party – Preston Manning. His reflections should give us some important insights into praying for Parliamentarians who are seeking to live a life both of faith and of politics. Here’s what he said earlier this year at the University of Prince Edward Island…
Canada’s political scene does not favour expressions of faith, Manning says
It is not acceptable for politicians to make their spiritual beliefs known in the federal political arena, says a former leader of the Opposition in Parliament.
Preston Manning made the comment while speaking in front of a packed crowd Monday in the Alex H. MacKinnon Auditorium of UPEI’s McDougall Hall. His topic was the expression of faith in public office.
The lecture was part of the UPEI Centre for Christianity and Culture’s free public lecture series.
As one of Canada’s most recognizable political figures, Manning is well known for spearheading the cause of democratic and political reform, and in the process creating two political parties, the Reform Party of Canada and the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance.
Manning drew from his personal experience in Canada’s federal political scene and said the emphasis is on politicians to stick to the message and not discuss their personal spiritual beliefs.
“In the House of Commons, it is generally considered taboo to speak about your own spiritual beliefs or those of your constituents,” Manning said.
As a response, politicians follow the guideline and keep their beliefs private and away from their political lives, Manning said.
“What (politicians) do in practice is keep faith and politics in two separate watertight compartments.”
There are a number of reasons for this, including pressure from party whips and officials for politicians to stay on message, the idea to appeal to the separation of church and state and to remain neutral in a multicultural society like Canada, Manning said.
“We simply don’t know how to handle expression of faith in the political arena,” he said.
However, considering Canada’s democratic society, this will likely not be the case forever, Manning said.
“In the long run, it is not possible to keep faith and politics in separate watertight compartments, not in a free and democratic society.”
The responsibility to make this change does not fall on those who feel the need to restrict faith discussions in political settings, Manning said.
“The initiative for legitimating the discussion of faith in the political arena has to come from those of us who believe and have faith.”