The Role of Faith in Public Life

For some people—including myself—the recent conflict between our government and some people of faith over the anti-bullying legislation was very troubling. It was a classic case of a lose-lose conflict, in my view brought about by accident, and made worse by a lack of understanding by both sides.

As you can probably infer from my resume, I’ve been a person of faith for most of my life—as an altar boy, as a student at Mennonite Brethren Bible College, as a member of the same church congregation for more than 30 years. But it was only in the last ten years, working as a prof and now as the Director of the Buller Centre for Business at Providence University College & Seminary, that I’ve learnt how to be comfortable talking about my faith publicly.

I know it’s been common for people of faith in public life in Canada not to talk about their beliefs. By all accounts, Pierre Trudeau, Paul Martin, and Preston Manning (to name only a few) were people of deep and serious faith. And yet they virtually never talked about that faith publicly. I respect their decisions but, in my view, it’s time for another approach.

Keeping silent about our faith has meant that, quite often, public policy can have a blind spot when it it comes to beliefs. And then, when an issue erupts, the language we use is often clumsy, harsh and judgmental.