“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Karl Marx thus ruminated on the great, and greatly destructive, Napoléon Bonaparte being succeeded by the comically less competent Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte half a century later.
Canada now faces its Donald Trump moment, and Canadian Christians would do well to learn from our neighbours to the south. Doug Ford has been elected the leader of Ontario’s conservative party and will soon run against a widely despised liberal woman to govern the world’s 17th-largest economy.
Yes, this is Doug Ford, older brother, enabler, and defender of former Toronto mayor and out-of-control drug addict Rob Ford, the politician who globally tarnished that city’s long-cultivated image of being “world class.” This is Doug Ford, whose sanitized Wikipedia page still bears traces of a wide range of questionable utterances, threats, promises, and actions.
This is Doug Ford—and here the parallels with Donald Trump grow more ominous—who describes himself as a man of the people and a defender of the marginalized who, like Trump, inherited a multimillion-dollar business from his dad and has spent his entire life in…Toronto. This is Doug Ford, who recently and sensationally submitted to being anointed, literally, by a controversial megachurch pastor and pledges to uphold the values of social conservatives.
I haven’t lived in Ontario for more than thirty years, but Ontario, like Toronto, deeply affects the rest of Canada. So I, and all Canadians, have a stake in this election. I bear no love for Kathleen Wynne, her policies, or her record and, like many Canadians, have been hoping for a change of regime. But now: what a choice.
So here’s the plea to my fellow Christians as the election approaches, the temperature rises, the charges and counter-charges multiply, and the fur flies: If you truly believe that Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives are the best (= least bad) choice available and that electing him and them will offer the most improvement for Ontario, for Canada, and especially for the poor and suffering in our land, then by all means vote that way.
But please don’t pretend, like Donald Trump’s Christian apologists, that Doug Ford is someone he isn’t. Don’t take one step down the path of making excuses for Ford’s missteps. Don’t sacrifice your integrity as servants of the gospel to serve a political campaign.
Likewise, of course, those who believe they must vote for Premier Wynne must resist the temptation to whitewash her record. NDP and Green supporters bear the same burden. “Truth is the first casualty of war,” and no more evidently so than in political contests.
The American press reverberates daily with fresh outrage about the blithe evangelical support for this decidedly un-evangelical president. Unimaginable damage has been done, and is still being done, to the reputation of the many evangelicals who voted for Trump with clear recognition of his shortcomings and a prayer to God for a better choice next time, let alone the many others who didn’t vote for Trump at all.
How much better if the easy polarities of “good versus evil” had been avoided by Christians who know better, whose Bible teaches that we are all created in God’s image and we are all deeply compromised by sin. We know that this world, and especially in Canadian politics, rarely gives us the choice between unalloyed good and pure evil. So let’s not talk as if we know otherwise.
The reputation of the gospel, and of ourselves as its spokespeople, cannot be sacrificed on the altar of any subordinate cause, however right or urgent it might appear to be.
One can win the election and yet badly lose the war.