They’re the source of heated arguments at the dinner table, the water cooler and other places - politics, pipelines and social media trends. So why — if these issues are so contentious — would we discuss them at church?
I have one rule when I hang out with my Edmonton friends: no hockey at the dinner table.
I’m not sure how my disdain for the Oilers developed, I suspect it was the time I spent in northern Alberta - the pre-Connor McDavid years when Edmonton fans had some sense of accomplishment despite the team’s 11 year absence from the playoffs. As a proud jersey wearing Winnipeg native my common rebuttal was, “The Jets just landed, what’s your excuse?”
So maybe hockey and my hometown are my soft spots, for others President Donald Trump, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the momentum of the online #MeToo campaign is what sparks debates and arguments that get so heated they’re banned from social and work settings. So you could understand why I would question why McDougall United Church wanted to tackle the issues of environmental responsibility, medically assisted dying, artificial intelligence and other modern ethical dilemmas. Because if McDougall was my dinner table, I might proclaim, “you know the rules.” Rev. Joanne Anquist offered a different perspective.
“In the United Church in particular, it’s really important that we be engaged in the world, with what’s relevant and what’s happening,” she said. “If our faith is just about singing nice hymns, contemplating life and making it better for ourselves — then we’re not actually following the way of Jesus. We’re just a nice social club.”
Rev. Joanne is hoping to engage members in current events through “Modern Ethical Dilemma,” a weekly discussion series and sermon that will tackle questions such as: is social media building greater connections or are we losing touch? What is the limit to genetic engineering? For her, faith needs to have wheels. It can’t be lost in the attitude of 2000 years ago and it needs to have a voice on issues that are often grey. But if it’s a religious lens we’re looking through, does that mean we’re all putting on rose coloured glasses?
“Jesus was called the one who suffered, the suffering Christ. He spoke truth to power, he called out authorities when they were being oppressive and he got hit for it. He was crucified for being a rebel-rouser. So we can’t have rose coloured glasses because we know that people are sacrificed in the name of progress and power all the time. They are crucified and we are called to be on the side of the people who are marginalized and oppressed,” said Rev. Joanne.
This call to action she speaks of seems to be a bit of a stretch compared to some of the faith based reaction I’ve seen to current events. This is not a generalization of any group, but I’ll give you one familiar example: “thoughts and prayers.” After hundreds so white nationalist rallied in Charlottesville last August, an event which included the death of a counter protester, I shared a United Church of Canada story entitled “It’s time to Re-commit to racial justice and equity.” One of the responses was “Prayer, we need to gather in Prayer, petition to the Lord, He is Faithful […].”
Rev. Joanne disputes the so-called “self-help Christianity” the kind where people only go to church to feel good about themselves. She believes sitting on the sidelines is not the example that a suffering Christ had laid out and it’s the wrong approach to faith.
“Your call as a Christian is to create The Kingdom on earth, so it gets political, it’s about people’s lives. The conversation steers towards what’s the compassionate thing to do about say, minimum wage. The conversation becomes one of do we ask the poorest in our culture to pay the price for prosperity of the richer? Those are questions Jesus would have asked so it’s an ethical dilemma,” she said.
Modern Ethical Dilemma is a discussion and sermon series starting with an introductory sermon on Feb. 18, 2018.
What are ethics and why are they important?
Sermon: Sunday, Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. Sanctuary
Artificial Intelligence & Robotics
Discussion: Wednesday Feb. 21. 7 p.m. Hospitality Hall.
Sermon: Sunday, Feb. 25. 10 a.m.
(Rev. Joanne Anquist).
Discussion: Wednesday Feb. 28. 7 p.m. Hospitality Hall.
Sermon: March 4, 10 a.m. (Pam Rocker,
Director of Family & Spiritual Development).
Discussion: Wednesday March 7. 7 p.m. Hospitality Hall.
Sermon: Sunday March 11, 10 a.m. (Rev. Joanne Anquist.)
Discussion: Wednesday March 14. 7 p.m. Hospitality Hall.
Sermon Sunday March 18. 10 a.m. (Rev. Joanne Anquist).
Discussion: Wednesday March 21. 7 p.m. Hospitality Hall.
Sermon: Sunday March 25. 10 a.m. (Tony Snow, Coordinator Community Care).