Jean Chretien was a scandalous prime minister. Adscam (the sponsorship scandal) has abundantly bore that out. He was everything Brian Mulroney was – and worse. Is Paul Martin any better? He’s less brazen, but in my estimation, he is a party man – a Liberal, and that’s enough. Yes, it is a case of guilt by association, and with good cause. Neither the Liberal Party of Canada nor Paul Martin has offered anything substantial to prove that they are cleaning up their act. That makes him and them look like dirty crooks.
But that is not my primary concern. What is of real concern is the hypocrisy of the Canadian voting public. When the scandals first broke, the media raised such a ruckus that I thought they had suddenly grown a conscience. But it was not just the media. Everywhere I turned, I heard Canadians express their indignation at Paul Martin. Canadians had finally had it. The “level of corruption is egregious,” said one. (That one is funny … as if some levels of corruption are acceptable.) Another stated in a radio call-in show: “It just stinks to high heaven.”
I do believe that Adscam is scandalous, but what I find so disingenuous is that suddenly, so many have developed a moral compass. Really, why are Canadians getting upset when Liberals act like Liberals, especially when so many Canadians voted for them? But more to the point, why are we surprised that politicians, who have no moral foundation, nor a prior commitment to absolute truth, justice and righteousness, are using their power and influence to advance their own personal agendas with taxpayer money?
I thought that Canadians were adamant about not mixing “politics and morality.” Canadians usually don’t state it quite like this, but that has been the end result of divorcing religion from politics. When we take religion out of politics, especially Christian faith, inevitably we take morality and ethics out, too. Without a visible moral foundation in politics, we shouldn’t be surprised when men and women act corruptly.
That’s why I find it ironic that people have suddenly abandoned a relativistic view of morality for an absolute application of, “Thou shalt not steal.” On this score, no one is more partial and more selective about morality than the fiscal conservatives. Stephen Harper and the newly founded Conservative Party of Canada have told social conservatives that life and family issues are off the table. He has even dismissed one member of the former Alliance Party of Canada for holding the “irresponsible and unacceptable” moral opinion that homosexuality is unhealthy and connected to pedophilia. Yet, when the Liberals stole taxpayer money, abused their authority and covered it up, Harper’s moral indignation meter jumped off the scale. Now, don’t get me wrong. Harper should be angry about this corruption, but why be so selective?
Look, its real simple. If life and family issues are off the table, then why not fiscal issues, too? If the unborn human is expendable, why can’t taxpayer money be expendable? If marriage isn’t a sacred union solely between one man and one woman, and can be changed to suit the fancy of any group, why can’t an advertising agency extort huge sums of money from taxpayers, with the help of some insiders? If social conservative issues are off the table because they represent a moral perspective that isn’t popular with some, what makes money issues any more moral? I’m almost certain we could find Canadians who think stealing is a virtue.
Fiscal conservatives who are morally indignant with the Liberals remind me of the Pharisees who were outraged that Christ’s disciples broke the rules of the elders and ate with unwashed hands. Jesus’s response was brilliant: “Why do you break the commands of God for the sake of your own traditions?” In a contemporary context, that’s kind of like saying, “Why do you fiscal conservatives care about Adscam, when babies are being murdered, sexual perversity is promoted in public schools and the institution of the family is under assault? I thought you guys rejected mixing morality with politics?”
As long as we Canadians, and especially those of us who claim to be conservative, continue to be inconsistent, selective, and pragmatic with morality, nothing will change. Morality can’t apply to one area of the political ledger and not to the other, because then there can be no morality. Unless there is a holistic application of morality in the political arena, Canada will continue to degenerate into a banana republic. And unless we insist on becoming consistent ourselves, we should not be surprised if our politicians are no different. The real scandal isn’t Adscam (as bad as that is). The real scandal is that we want ethics applied on the fiscal side of politics only, but not on the social side.Rev. Tristan Emmanuel is pastor of Living Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Vineland, Ont., author of Christophobia: The Real Reason Behind Hate Crime Legislation and director of the EPC.