Many of us in Canada do not remember the “Quiet Revolution” in Quebec. It was a time of rapid social and cultural change which radically reduced the size and the influence of the Catholic church in that province. Several factors played an important role in the diminishing the church.
The provincial government of Maurice Duplessis governed Quebec from 1936-39, and then again from 1944 until he died in office in 1959. He became known as “Le Chef” or simply “the boss.” Following his death, the province went very quickly into the “quiet revolution,” moving from an almost partnership of church and state to a secular social democracy.
Whether rightly or wrongly, the Duplessis government was associated with corruption, patronage politics, a strong anti-union stance and much more. But particularly damning was the connection between Catholicism and the Duplessis regime. Duplessis promoted Catholic institutions over secular ones, promoted the importance of family and continued to use his power in such a way that favoured the clergy. When the Duplessis era came to an end, Quebecers wanted a change. And since the church and state had become inseparable, Quebecers turned in anger from the church and never returned again.
It might be argued that what I have presented is overly simplistic, but the church’s strong support of the Duplessis government can’t be overstated. Indeed, my point is not to argue for or against a government now long gone, but to argue that whenever the church stops being the church and becomes an arm of the state, we are but a hairbreadth away from defeat.
The situation in Europe is not all that different. Europe is now the only continent on earth where the Christian faith is not growing. In no small way, much of the strong anti-Christian feeling on that continent centers around the church’s abuse of power, and her willingness to use political power to suppress all dissent.
How different is that from the early church. There we find a movement which has no political power. Jesus’ words “My Kingdom is not of this world” must surely have reverberated to persecuted yet joyful followers of One who would rule in a different manner. The story of the triumph of the Christian faith is the story of a band of Jesus’ followers armed with the power of the gospel, not the state.
I write this blog because of an increasing awareness that we all have that would center Christian votes behind one party, believing that they represent the best hopes of securing our rights and freedoms. While Christians do well to look for ways to be salt and light in a world of decay and darkness, we do well to remember that politics and elections are not the hope of the gospel or of Christ’s church.