The tension of a growing city.

The city where I live, Saskatoon, is growing at a pretty fast pace. There has never been so many buildings under construction here as it is right now. My friend that works with the power supply of the city is on his knees in work. The city wants more people here but not necessarily more costs… There is a big difference in commuting times and line ups compared to when I moved here. There is all kinds of restaurants and kitchens opening up with international cuisine (in the prairies, can you believe it!) Some investigations predicts that the population will increase from 240.000 – 500.000 within 15 years. The exploration of new natural resources and the development of new methods to get those resources (uranium, oil, metals and potassium) creates well paid jobs and attracts well educated people. Money talks (if you did not know it before..) House prices are through the roof, some bachelor suits are offered up for the bargain of a 1000 dollars (ouch! but they are somewhat furnished…)Price is increasing, interest is low, here we go! To sum it up, all the indicators of fast growing city and economy is currently increasing, fast. But that is great right! Increased economy means more tax revenue. Increased population means increased knowledge. Lets build higher, aiming for the sky! Lets dig deeper, increasing our riches!

Not so fast. During our last SEMF meeting (Saskatoon Evangelical Ministries Fellowship) we had 7 politicians visiting and presenting themselves. Each one of them sat at a table, having lunch with us and we had some good conversation. I asked the politician at our table what she thought about the fast growth in Saskatoon. Her response was that we must make sure that nobody gets “left behind”. I can appreciate that. People do get left behind in a fast growing economy. The reasons however, vary. The politicians also said that they appreciate the work the churches are doing “close to reality”. They said that they thought that leaders in the church saw much of what was really going on with people who are being “left behind”. Through the different ministries and programs the church offers, the church meets and encounter the weak, lonely and suffering. After the meeting I think both church leaders and politicians felt a bit encouraged. Just by spending some time getting to know each other, there was greater appreciation and understanding between “the church and the state”. No agendas, just getting to know each other better.

I never believed that you can impose state religion and still have personal freedom. I never believed that the Church and the State can be one on this side of judgment. I believe that true Christianity always offers freedom of religion to the individual. I actually would claim that it was christianity that came up with the idea. But I believe that christian values can be incarnated in a political setting because christian theology holds personal freedom in very high regard. Christianity is at its core not about law enforcement. It is not about total freedom either (we all know that we are limited, both by time and space). No, Christianity is about both. It is accepting a “rule of law” by free choice. It is about embracing a bit of bondage to be able to remain free. Christianity, when it works, always consider the ones that are “left behind” by this world not because it is “the right thing to do according to the law” but because it is a natural consequence of a Christ like life. People are being left behind by both political systems. They are being left behind by the liberals (freedom) because some people can’t handle freedom. They are being left behind by the conservatives (Law) because some people can not adhere to the law. And this becomes very apparent in the crock pot of a fast paced economy. The cracks are displayed when we build fast. A long with a growing economy comes increased trafficking and prostitution. Increased crime rates and drug import. Increased addictions and abuse.

The politician at my table confessed that there is basically no cooperation between the political parties. The opposition to the governing party is supposed to be just this, opposing everything that the ruling party thinks and does. Identity within the party is determined and sustained by manner of hostility and opposition towards the other. Personally I believe that Freedom (Liberality) and Law (Conservative) needs to rely on each other to be able to present a sustainable solution for an ever-growing economy and world. Going to the extreme in either direction will only leave more people behind. In a way the political system (liberalism, socialism – conservatism, capitalism) and the church (Protestantism, individualism, west – orthodoxy, community, east) faces the same problem. Living things, like a city or a church must strive for balance. They must draw strength from the Center. They must also have the freedom to reject the Center and push for the extremes (even though this is not healthy). Love and growth requires freedom. Love and growth requires law. Why did we seperate the two?

How do you treat the “other”. Do you leave them “behind”?

Fr. Jakob

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