Monday, September 27, 2010

You and Me and The HST

1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior,  (1 Tim 2:1-3)

I've been thinking about an appropriate Christian response to the HST.  On the one hand, I understand the anger that exists because of the way this tax was introduced.  At least one MLA has dubbed it the 'Hated Sales Tax', which at the very least is probably a reasonable assessment.  That said, I'm also very troubled when I see/hear fellow believers expressing their hatred of the government because of this tax.  Perhaps I'm idealistic but it seems to me that the Church has a responsibility to rise to something higher than simply being swept along with the masses in their outrage.

I understand that no one, me included, likes or wants to pay more taxes.  That said, I'm also very aware that we have a clear mandate to pray for those who are in authority over us. I don't think it's possible to honestly pray for people you hold in contempt. I also don't think it's possible to speak negatively in strong terms against those you are genuinely praying for.  Something happens to us when we legitimately stand in the gap for other people and we are changed in the way we feel about them.

We need to learn to separate politics from politicians.  Politics is the art or science of governing.  Politicians are the people who serve within the system.  It's okay to disagree with a political decision or direction.  You can even vote against it or against the person who implemented it.  However, its not okay to make your disagreement personal in the sense that your heart is bitter and your comments become derogatory.

I think it's important for us to recognize the context in which Paul wrote 1 Tim.  The Jews were living under Roman occupation.  The Romans were hardly noted for their compassionate touch towards those they had conquered.  The people were oppressed.  Their taxes were shipped off to Rome to further the ambitions of the empire.  Those who opposed the government were put to death or had to hide in the wilderness.  It's within this context that Paul encourages Timothy (and us...) to pray for those who are in authority over us. 

My challenge to you today is simple.  We have a greater role than simply settling for the status quo of the masses.  We alone hold the mandate to pray for our government.  Let's get back to doing the one thing that matters most. Our entire province will benefit as a result.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Lord's Prayer Remains In Ontario

Not sure if you were aware of this, but the Ontario Legislature recently decided to continue the practice of beginning each day with the Lord's Prayer.  There was some thought to do away with the prayer completely and replace it with a moment of meditation and reflection.  The compromise in this particular case was to hold to the Lord's Prayer and add a moment of silence or a prayer from another faith.

While I am unable to provide the exact numbers, there was tremendous pressure from the public through both emails and signed petitions to see the prayer retained.  I'm certain that there was a significant amount of 'knee mail' behind the scenes that also contributed to this very positive outcome.

While we live in a secular culture I'm convinced that this decision can only be a good thing for the Province of Ontario and hopefully other provinces will follow suit to either retain or re-establish the practice of Legislators praying this significant prayer together. Perhaps the God of Heaven will indeed let His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven in response to the invitation of our leaders.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives Meeting

I attended the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatvies Meeting this afternoon.  It's the first time the committee has ever met.  I don't think anyone expected that the HST pushback would result in this.  I arrived early.. or at least what I thought was early...  I was told no passes would be handed out until 30 minutes prior.  I waited and at 12:30, I was the only one in line.

If I counted correctly, attendance was 18 members of the media, 10 members of the public, 3 observing MLA's and 10 Committee members.  There were too many security staff to count....

As you might appreciate, this was a difficult meeting for the government members and a winfall for the opposition.  For the most part everyone was polite and pleasant during the first part of the meeting.  After our first recess  things got a bit more 'testy' and after about 20 minutes there was another break.  (There were two recesses in about 75 minutes.. I wish they would have been that frequent when I was in school!)

The end result today was that the committee will meet again on Monday, Sept 13 and the Elections Officer will be present to answer questions from the committee regarding their options.

I've wrestled with trying to find an appropriate response to this dilemma from a ministry perspective.  We are non-partisan and so we don't take political sides in any debate.  I fully appreciate that no one wants a new tax and by all appearances, at least some people were in the know that the HST was a distinct possibility even while they were saying it wasn't.  At the same time, I am fully aware that the government has experienced a tremendous loss in revenue and needed to find a way to replace that quickly.  The bottom line is that we want the best of everything but don't want to pay for anything....

Politics aside, this is a tremendous challenging time for the individuals involved on a personal level.  Everyone on both sides of the issue needs tremendous wisdom and humility as they navigate through this dilemma.  It's easy to throw stones and pass judgement.  It's another to pray for those who tax you and ask God to help them walk in integrity and righteousness. 

Someone has to, it might as well start with you and me....

If you are interested in reading the Hansard transcripts from today's meeting.  Click here