horace pattersonHer Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.  That kind of says it all.  Canada has a tradition of “opposition” but it’s done by ones loyal to the larger issue not contrary.   Sounds contradictory but it’s our Canadian identity.

I try to help churches.  Sometimes in churches we perceive people as contrary to our opinion as not only oppositional, but as enemies.  That could be true.  But in the Canadian tradition we ought to see people with contrary opinions to ours as part of the process of sharpening ideas for sake of better ideas.  It can feel like winners and losers especially if the person across from us becomes attackful and triumphant.  But the process is the process.  We are trying to find better ideas.

In church debates the stakes escalate.  We can invoke God’s name into the debate and that simply takes it out of the realm of civility into the stratosphere of eternity.  It’s unfortunate when it does because God is often in the middle of the debate not above or beside.  He’s there because He’s always there but His presence is found in gentility, insight, understanding and love.  When emotions overrule spirit, it can get ugly.  I know–I have been caught in the vortex far too often.  Sometimes I have to step back myself and deeply search my heart to figure out “where is God in the midst of this?”

When decisions are made by individuals for themselves, then there is liberty to make those decisions.  There has to be.  Individuals must be free to make decisions for themselves.  But when decisions are being made for collectives/groups, then there must be process and discussion and debate.  When one group makes unilateral decisions for other groups without appropriate conferral and participation, we run the risk of misunderstanding at best and tyranny at the worst.  Is everyone always happy with the group decisions?  Not usually.  But at least an effort was made to invite the process.

At the end of series of a play off hockey round, the winning team celebrates with sticks held high.  But they then turn to the defeated team and skate the length of the players shaking hands and congratulating them for fine play.  It’s not a perfect example but it shows the idea that after a decision has been made there is still one more task–restore the unity of the game.

What happens when not everyone plays according to the same rules?  Well, it can get ugly can’t it.

Canadian leadership isn’t just about winning.  It’s about something bigger.