Reformed Christians have a long and rich history of involvement in politics. The names of G. Groen van Prinsterer, Abraham Kuyper and Hendrikus Colijn are not unknown to us. Many will know the names of Dutch political parties such as the Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP) and the Reformed Political Alliance (GPV—Gereformeerd Politiek Verbond).
The latter party, begun in 1948, was established by members of our (i.e., Canadian Reformed) sister churches (Reformed Churches, Liberated) in the Netherlands. The GPV is a confessional party. It wants to base its political work on scripture and the Reformed confessions.
Our Reformed brothers have been able to let their political voice be heard in the Netherlands. At present, the GPV has two representatives in the upper house of the Dutch parliament, two in the lower house, 16 members in the various provincial legislatures, 162 municipal councillors, three mayors, and one representative in the European parliament (J. Boersema, Political-Economic Activity to the Honour of God, Premier: 1999, p. 15f).
The Dutch brotherhood can be effective in politics because of several favourable circumstances we do not enjoy. In the Netherlands, the seats in the legislatures are assigned to the various political parties in proportion to how many votes each party garnered. This system is called, Representation by Population, or Proportional Representation. Simply put, if a party acquires 10 % of the votes, it is assigned 10 % of the seats.
In Canada we use the First Past the Post (FPTP) system which means that whichever candidate in each riding amasses the most votes is sent to the legislature. FPTP systems are found in the United Kingdom and those countries historically influenced by Britain: Canada, Australia, India, and other "Westminster" democracies. Which system is better is well beyond the ken of a pastor. We can, however, observe that the FPTP system would render it virtually impossible for an outspokenly Reformed person to gain a seat in a provincial or federal legislature. That aside, with thanks we can say that more than just a few Reformed brothers and sisters have won seats as local aldermen, and some even as mayors. We wish them God's continued blessing.
The other circumstances that favour the Dutch brotherhood is that they are about ten times our numbers concentrated in a country with half the population of Canada and not much bigger than Vancouver Island or Maryland.
Even though factors are not too favourable for Reformed people to do politics in Canada on a large scale, yet we have a political calling. And one wants to be involved. In the late 1980s, we took out a membership in the Christian Heritage Party (CHP). After all, Mr. Ed Vanwoudenberg, one of our own, was the leader. We were very optimistic when the CHP ran a strong candidate in our riding, Ottawa South, against Maureen McTeer, wife of Gay Pride Parade Marshall Joe Clark. (The reigning Liberal candidate won.) Eventually we let our membership lapse.
We became somewhat optimistic a decade later when Stockwell Day, an evangelical Christian, became the leader of the Canadian Alliance (CA) party. Ray Pennings, a member of a Free Reformed Church, ran in the riding in which we now live, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot. He gave the reigning Liberal a good run. (The Liberal candidate won.)
Since then, Mr. Day, leader of the opposition, has been torn to shreds by the media and many in his own party. As one who takes the Word of God seriously, he has been scorned and cold-shouldered. The left-leaning media and the political elite have found repellent Mr. Day's belief that God created the world about 6,000 years ago. They loathe him for his espousal of biblical morality. They treat him as a pariah dubbing him an "extremist" and "fundamentalist." The media's hatred for conservative Protestant Christians is matched only by its abhorrence of smokers. Bay Street loves fiscal conservatives but not social conservatives. The Canadian Alliance Party has played the Judas to Mr. Day. The Canadian Parliament filled with those who sound like crackling thorns under the pot (Eccl 7:6), is not worthy (Heb 11:38) of someone like Stockwell Day. He is too good for Canadian politics, at least its corrupt federal brand. We stand amazed that he is running again for his own job after being hounded from office.
What can we do? We can continue to work in the system and support the CHP or the CA. We wish anyone who still wants to work with the CA well; however, after seeing how the knives came out and brutalized Mr. Day, and how the CA seems to be intent upon crawling into bed with Gay Pride Parade Marshall Joe Clark's party, many have lost interest in the CA.
We wish anyone who still wants to work with the CHP well; however, one might conclude the CHP is striving for a bridge too far. The FPTP method of electing representatives will continue to shut out believers of any doctrinal stripe who dare to speak what they believe. It is true that we are called to be faithful, not successful; however, we also need to be good stewards of our limited resources.
Recently, the ARPA movement has been revived. In the 1970s and 80s, there were quite a few vibrant Associations for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) working out of our congregations. They all but died out. Now Mr. Peter Veenendaal of Carman, Manitoba, is visiting the churches speaking about our political calling and encouraging the renaissance of the ARPA movement. We cheer him on.
We might as well realize that Canada is, essentially, a one-party state. The Liberal Party has ruled for 70 out of the past 100 years. Since Canada is a liberal society where the goal posts are constantly shifting and nothing is fixed by, e.g., the Word of God, the ever evolving Liberal Party will surely be the party of choice for the foreseeable future. The Liberal Party is the best incarnation of the Canadian psyche.
The ARPA movement has much to commend it. An ARPA can be a small organization with a big mouth in the community. It can help Reformed people win seats on town councils. It can organize all candidates meetings. It can study local, provincial or federal issues, formulate positions, educate people, write letters, and encourage people how and what to address to elected representatives. Likely, through involvement in a vibrant ARPA one can do more than by attempting to work "in the system." Arguably, it is the better use of the resources we have at our disposal as we strive to do politics.