Some months ago I received a request from a long-time reader in British Columbia, Canada to evaluate a new political party which has been formed there, the Christian Heritage Party of Canada. Due to the press of other matters and also due to the fact that I needed more information, as well as time for study of the matter, I could not keep my promise to write about this subject until now. And I did indeed want to keep my promise before I lay down the editorial reins of our magazine at the end of this volume-year.
Most of our readers are probably like me: they do not know much about our neighbor to the north, Canada, and probably pay little attention to it, unless they happen to visit there or unless occasionally Canada gets into the news in its relation to the United States. Probably they know even less about the political system and the political situation in Canada. I may mention a few items in this connection which also stand related more or less to the subject we are discussing. In the first place, in distinction from the political system which we know in the U.S., Canada has what is called a parliamentary system, both on a national level and in its several provinces. In the second place, while I have no statistics at hand, Canada’s population is far smaller than that of the United States. At the same time, there was a very large Dutch post-war immigration into Canada, with the result that proportionally, while the percentage of Dutch Canadians is still relatively small, it is undoubtedly considerably larger than in the U.S., and in some areas even able to be influential at the ballot box. In fact, my correspondent writes in one of his letters to me: “We now have in Canada federally a situation where the three existing parties, Liberal, Conservative, and N.D.P. (socialist) are percentage wise very close; therefore the balance of power could be held by the C.H.P.” In this same connection he writes: “None of the existing parties can be supported by a Christian, as they are all Anti-Christian. It may be that it pleases God Almighty to bless our feeble efforts to His honor and to the blessing of Canada in returning us to the Christian values that Canada possessed at its start as a country.” In the third place, it is well known that in the Netherlands the Reformed people in many instances formed their own political parties and to some extent still have them. I am reminded in this connection especially of Abraham Kuyper’s Anti-Revolutionary Party and of the influence it once had in the Netherlands. I have an idea that at least to some extent the formation of a Christian political party in Canada is to be traced back to the Dutch heritage of some of the immigrants to Canada. In the U.S. no attempt at formation of a viable Christian political party, as far as I know, has ever succeeded.
So much by way of introduction.
My correspondent asks me to evaluate the Christian Heritage Party of Canada. He gives these reasons for his request: “1) I am one of the members of the riding [district? HCI) executive of Fraser Valley East of this party, because I see it as my duty to support the Christian witness in government. However, other Christians disagree with me on this point and argue that all governments and politics are necessarily evil. Therefore a Christian is to stay clear of them. I like to know your valued opinion. 2) This party is, as all Christian actions here on earth, far from perfect. It is still in its beginning, and the membership has the right to introduce changes and amendments to the existing policies. Therefore your opinion based on Scripture would be a great asset to us. 3) And could you in good faith support such a party, and would you recommend it to your Canadian friends?”
A couple more items of information were furnished me in a second letter. My Canadian correspondent writes that “our party membership in Christian Reformed circles is not great; we are only attracting the more conservative Christian Reformed people. The same can be said for the Canadian Reformed Churches. These two churches as a whole are not with us, contrary to the Netherlands Reformed Churches and the Free Reformed Churches, where most of our Reformed support comes from.” No membership figures were furnished me, and no mention was made of non-Reformed membership.
As far as study materials are concerned, I received two booklets published by the Christian Heritage Party; and these together furnish a rather complete picture. The first is a 56-page booklet containing the Constitution of the CHP. On its cover is the text of Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” The second is a booklet of 74 pages and is entitled, Policy And Program, with the sub-title, “A Blueprint For Restoration” and with the same text quoted. I studied both rather carefully, made notations, and found numerous points at which I either disagreed or had serious questions which would require clarification. If, however, I would offer critique on all these points, I would probably end with another, equally long, booklet. I will confine my critique, therefore, to a few main points.
First of all, and in general, I do not agree with my correspondent’s critics, who argue that all governments and politics are necessarily evil, and that therefore a Christian is to stay clear of them. This, it seems to me, smacks of Anabaptism, of world flight rather than world-fight. And that is not Reformed. The Christian certainly may, whether through an organized group or as an individual, express himself in the area of government and politics. He may vote. He may express his opinion to his congressman or senator or member of parliament or county or city commissioner, etc. And if he so desires, he may also organize politically; and he may run for office. These things are not in themselves wrong.
In the second place, the important point to remember is that it is the calling of the child of God to act Christianly, also in the area of politics and citizenship. And for the Reformed Christian, this implies certainly that he must act on the basis of and in harmony with Reformed principles. He must not simply be pragmatic and utilitarian, but must live and act out of principle. That is not easy and simple in the complex world in which we live, but very difficult and problematical. As a practical matter, when it comes to voting, for example, it often means that he must choose whoever is the lesser of two evils and must make his choice on the basis of the question which man (or men) will be best as far as toleration of the church and of God’s people in their life and walk in the midst of the world are concerned. For example, I do not like to vote for a man with strong socialist tendencies or for a man who is a big friend of worldly unions. Besides, if you act politically according to Reformed principles (speaking now of group action), you must not expect to gain power and influence. You must expect to be small and of no account. The place of God’s people in the midst of the world is small and narrow; and as we move toward the end of all things, we must expect that place to become smaller and narrower, until finally there will be no standing room left for the child of God.
In the third place, and in connection with the above, I believe that the basis of the Christian Heritage Party is too broad. The “Party Principles” appear in Article I of the Constitution, and it is required that every member supports these principles. Here they are:
Party principles are based on these Biblical ethics and are unalterable:
a) We believe there is one Creator God, eternally existent in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
b) We believe the Holy Bible to be the inspired, inerrant written Word of God and the final authority above all man’s laws and government.
c) We believe civil government to be under the authority of God.
d) We believe the purpose of civil government is to ensure freedom and justice for a nation’s citizens by upholding law and order in accordance with Biblical principles.
e) We believe that decision-making processes by civil government must not in any way contravene these Biblical ethics.
Now I have questions even about these statements. Why, for example, does point “a” speak of the “Lordship” of Jesus Christ, not of His “Kingship”? Is this possibly to accommodate possible members who deny that Christ is King, except over the Jews? Secondly, what is the Biblical basis of the mention of “freedom” in point “d”? Scripture speaks of submission and subjection and obedience to kings and governors and to the higher powers. And I know, of course, that “freedom” is the watchword of democracy. But what is meant by this “freedom,” and what is its Biblical basis? Is there a suggestion here that democracy is the Biblically endorsed form of government in distinction, say, from absolute monarchy?
But put aside the above questions.
It is plain to me that there is nothing distinctively Reformed about these principles. They are at best a bare-bones Biblical basis, acceptable to any true fundamentalist or evangelical. There is no reference to Reformed principles. There is no reference, for example, to Article 36 of the Belgic Confession of Faith. I fear that these principles are deliberately broad, though Biblical, in order to attract party members on a broadly evangelical basis. And this is, of course, for the sake of numbers. A political party, in order to have power, must have numbers. Politics in democratic systems, after all, is a matter of the half-plus-one, the majority. And I have no objection to numbers as such. My objection is to numbers at the expense of principles.
I could go on. I do not believe that Canada was once a Christian nation (except, perhaps, in a nominal sense), as is suggested in CHP’s literature. I do not believe that Canada has a “Christian heritage” as a nation. I do not believe that “economic prosperity is a blessing of the Lord” as such; blessing is not in things. I do not believe that Psalm 33:12 can validly be applied to the nations of the world today. In the Old Testament it was true of Israel, the theocratic kingdom; and in the New Testament it can be applied only to the kingdom of heaven and to the people of God.
These are just a few of my thoughts on this subject.
Perhaps my correspondent will be disappointed because of my comments. But he asked for my evaluation, and he stated that he valued my opinion. And I have given it frankly.
My concluding advice is: if you want to form a Christian political party, make it uncompromisingly Reformed. But then do not expect it to be popular.