I don't believe in politics. What I mean by that is I don't believe that all there is to this life is in this world, and that the only way to make the world a better place is by political activism. Government can't save people at the end of the day; and for me I believe this is where God comes in. However the same God I believe in also establishes government with authority for the people's benefit (Romans 13:1-7). But whether government exercises that authority to benefit the people is another matter. This is where the ball is back in the courts of the people. Having said that I've always been interested in politics, but it's hard for me to pin down where exactly my political allegiances are. I think that there are good ideas from the left and the right, and that it serves no one well to be politically dogmatic.
What's inspired me to write about this comes from the frustration I'm feeling over the limits to our public services. Our family has been in crisis mode for some time now, as we have been trying to access resources for our daughter who has special needs. Again I won't go into details about what we're going through, but in a nutshell my beef is this: we live in the richest province in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, and yet we invest so little in programs that help the vulnerable. To wait for 8 hours in the hospital ER only to be sent away because they can't help you is unacceptable. To work in the non-profit sector and have your wage increase come at the expense of program dollars for the people you serve is unacceptable. To live on the street and be on a waiting list for housing is unacceptable.
The argument that we in Canada (Alberta in particular) spend too much on public services and are overtaxed is, in my view, complete nonsense. While it's been said government spending per capita in Alberta is higher than any other province, the truth is we spend less per person here than in Quebec. In fact when you look at the level of government spending compared to GDP in Alberta, we rank last compared to other provinces. So essentially, we do government on the cheap. In Denmark, where my family came from, citizens are taxed at around 50% of their income, they pay roughly 25% on sales tax and get this - a 200% environmental tax on your car. Ouch. Yes, they have higher wages in Denmark and Danes do enjoy a high standard of living. Utopia is expensive, and I am not looking for utopia here in Alberta. But I am looking for more fairness.
Now before you start screaming, "Socialist, socialist!" I again want to say that I don't believe government is the be all and end all. Hard work, careful spending (both in government and our homes) and personal responsibility are things that everyone should strive for. But there are limits to what individuals and communities can do. The days of penny wise and pound foolishness must come to an end. It makes no sense to spend a dollar to save a dime; if governments have to spend now to save later, so be it. If the province needs to raise taxes so it can break its addiction to oil revenues, so be it. Because hard working Albertans who are doing the best they can with what little they have deserve better. Our children deserve better. The disabled, the elderly, the homeless deserve better. The people deserve better.
You deserve better.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Pete Greig, author of God on Mute, wrote that most of us live in our own Holy Saturday, the day between the tragedy and the miracle. For those who don't get the reference, it's the day between Jesus' crucifixion on Friday and His resurrection on Sunday. It's a time of waiting and wondering; we know God is good, but we don't understand why we're facing whatever crisis we're in. We're waiting for the miracle, for God to show up and do something amazing. Well, our family has been living in a month long Saturday. We are going through probably the worst crisis with Jess since the time when we adopted her over three years ago. I won't spell out the details here, but what we're going through is pretty serious. Things are settling a bit, Jess is getting the supports she needs and hopefully after some time we can move forward and get back to a somewhat normal life. But we know it won't be the normal we were used to, and it's going to be an even greater challenge to be the parents Jess needs us to be.
When things started to bubble and boil at the beginning of the month I sensed God speak to me in James 1:2-4 about trouble being an opportunity for joy. My first reaction was, "Uh oh, what are you bringing our way God?" And then when we were smack in the middle of the storm my question to God was, "Where's the joy in all this?" But as we were hit full on with the trial our family was facing, the joy came. Now don't get me wrong, the problems didn't go away; there wasn't a single moment we endured that was pleasant. But joy did come along with the pain. The first thing I recognized was the sense of peace I was experiencing, even though my mind was filled with concern for my daughter's welfare. There was this curious mixture of worry along with this intuitive sense that everything was fine. I had no rational explanation for this peace, but it was, as the scriptures said, a peace that passes understanding. Things were going to be OK, even though I didn't know for a fact that they were.
The second expression of joy came in the tremendous outpouring of love and support we received. As we shared what was happening with our church and our families, people were mobilized to show their care and concern. Beyond the many inquiries about how we were doing we were told that we were being prayed for, and were prayed for right when we needed it. I'm not being overly dramatic when I say that there was an element of danger in our storm, but each time danger came God also came, and there was a safe outcome each time. And it's my belief that Jess was kept safe through prayer. But beyond the prayers of our friends and family there came encouragement along with tangible expressions of love. We were literally fed with love and offers to help us in the practical needs that arose during our crisis. We were surrounded by those whose lives had in the past been touched by our adoption journey. We were in over our heads, but we were not alone. As result of this support there came healing for my wife, who for quite some time felt disconnected with our church, and was able to let go of some hurts she felt towards church.
And then there was a joy in seeing how our journey through the storm was creating a witness to so many people who were involved. Doctors, child development workers and policemen (yes, you read that right) all said they had never seen a situation like ours where a couple was willing to stick it out and minister to the needs of someone like our daughter. I'm seriously not putting myself up on a pedestal here, because Angel & I don't see ourselves as special people - we just see ourselves as people blessed with grace from above, which God gives in our times of need. God's unmerited favor is available to everyone by faith in Jesus' life, death and resurrection. It's the hope of abundant life both now and when we die that keeps us going though all this. And because this crisis has pushed me towards God, in a time of great need, I've found that my faith in God is renewed. I sense a closeness to God and a certainty about Him that was very much absent a year ago. In fact I'm sure that if I was going through this a year ago, during my crisis of faith, my faith would not have survived.
We're not out of the woods yet, but we do see light at the tunnel's end. It's a light of hope that comes from the risen Christ, whom we celebrate this Easter Sunday. We live in two realities in this life; the reality of pain and suffering, and the reality of God's involvement in our every day lives. We are, as Jesus said, of good cheer even though we are experiencing trouble, because Jesus has overcome the world. And it's because our trouble has been an opportunity for joy.