Oh, Canada!

by Rev. Ellie Barrington - July 1, 2012 A reflection on 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

The lectionary for this morning offers us a passage from Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth. It’s usually addressed to congregations to encourage more financial generosity for the mission work of the church. Now I won’t mind it if you hear it as a reminder to keep up your financial pledge to Trinity this summer. But in light of today being Canada Day, I hear this passage as a call to us as a country. As a call to Canadians – rather than Corinthians –  to be more generous and more genuine and just, by contributing to the world-wide Kingdom mission – in accordance with the abundance of this land of ours.

Reading of 2 Corinthians 8:7-15    Gayle or Pete Conley

I want to just sing and celebrate on Canada Day. To swell with pride and pleasure in the richness and goodness of life in this country, and cosy up to the comforts of our traditions. To exalt in all that Creation offers us here, from coast to coast to coast. I like to think about my country with gratitude, as a gift to the world…always.

But there is an unsettling voice contradicting my chorus of nationalist enthusiasm these days. It’s the voice of my own ‘Canadien Errant’, my ‘wandering Canadian’ son Liam. He’s been abroad for five years, in England, and now in Mexico. He is a passionate justice advocate and community builder, who works within a world-wide web. Sitting on distant shores, he sees Canada from an internet and internationalist perspective, and he sings a very different, sad song about his homeland these days. He wrote a blog a while ago, titled ‘Oh No, Canada!’

In our epistle, we heard St. Paul exhort the Corinthians to seek a fair balance between “your present abundance and their need…so that the one who had much did not have too much and the one who had little did not have too little.” So Liam, along with many world-wise young voices, calls Canada to account for not fairly sharing our abundance of opportunity – with our own aboriginal peoples here, with immigrants from have-not lands, or with the developing nations that need us to follow through with more generous and more genuine development aid.

It is perhaps a shock to those of us who are of the WW II generation and the Expo 67 generation, that young Canadians out in the wider world see Canada quite differently than we do. They don’t flaunt their maple leafs abroad like we did. In Europe today, our youth are often embarrassed to be Canadians, because by comparison with most Western democracies, Canada has become a meaner country.

St Paul wrote: “I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others.” Liam observes that ‘Canada still feels righteous because we compare our country to the U.S. We have health care…’ But on so many United Nations scales and values, the US is the worst of the Western democracies. Being better than the Americans doesn’t make us good!

Our young people, whose experience of their Canada began in the 1970’s and whose national awareness is framed by a wider global perspective, are not proud of how Canada balances our relative wealth – within the country or in the wider world.

During their lifetime this country has gone from sending peacekeepers into the world, to fighting a hopeless oil war in Afghanistan. From protecting forests by creating National Parks, to clear cutting on native lands in exchange for short- term tar sands jobs and profits. From embracing multiculturalism to denying our refugees health care coverage. From supporting progressive development in the most desperate regions of the world, especially Africa, to reducing our foreign aid dollars and redirecting them to the countries that offer us the best trade opportunities.

Ouch! Ohhhh, Canada.

Of course I counter my son’s dark view with all the ways in which Canada excells in the world, from our well regulated banking industry to OHIP to ..well, the beauty of this place!…but I can’t deny his points. He’s a thorough researcher!

I believe that Canadians are still earnest world citizens and eager to be good. We want to follow through on the generous international undertakings of our heritage and our welcoming internationalist liberal traditions. But perhaps we are, as a nation, rather politically naive, or out of date? Do we need to get better informed about today’s world? Maybe we need to listen to our young prophets’ songs of protest and sadness. When it comes to our political decision-making, we need to really test our genuineness as compassionate Canadians. Will we hear St Paul’s challenge – or Stephen Lewis’ – and collectively decide in the now of today’s world, what gift is genuinely acceptable – from Canada.

Paul said, “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you…but there is a question of fair balance.” Jesus was all about that…fair economic balance. So Canada can and must be a just world economy – once again.

I Saw The Rich Ones   MV#127


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