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Please see WARNING at the beginning of Section 6.2.
Currently, I'm a member of the Christian Heritage Party (CHP). I have proudly signed the CHP Pledge (view a copy here: "CHP Membership Application"). Moreover, I have no intention of renouncing my Pledge. Finally, this text represents my personal opinions only.
Political parties need members. One of the fundamental questions is: "Should there be any admission requirements to become a member of a political party, and if so, which ones?"
In my experience, most political parties in Canada have no real criteria. Every once in a while, some journalist registers his dog or his house plant as a member in good standing of a political party. (Note to non-Canadians: I'm serious!) But exaggeration in the other direction is also possible. In theory, a political party could have requirements that were too strict, for example that you'd need to be worth at least 250 000$, or that you were not a Jew, or that you were friends with "the Boss", etc.
This article will discuss membership requirements for political parties in general, and the CHP Pledge in particular.
I consider it self-evident that some admission requirements are necessary. Because of the very nature of social institutions, if anybody can become a member under any conditions, then that institution is doomed. If anybody with objectives that are contrary to those of the institution can become a member, then that person can neutralize or even destroy that institution. This is what is often referred to as "someone in the boat who rows in the wrong direction". This concept also applies to religious institutions. (See "Excommunication, that Gesture of Love!".)
The reasons to have admission requirements are the same reasons that justify some sort of public, written, enforceable contract. Admission requirements that have no "teeth" are basically worthless. There needs to be some sort of by-law in the political party's constitution which kicks out members who don't respect their commitment.
Given some admission requirements (and the legal means to enforce them) are necessary, what should they look like? I'll try to list a few characteristics of these requirements:
4.1) Legal. As a counter-example, some secret organizations require you to kill someone in order to become a member. Obviously, this is unacceptable!
4.2) Public. The requirements must be known by everybody, not just party members.
4.3) Verifiable. As a counter-example, you can't require a member to be "really, really nice". It needs to be something "binary": you either obviously fulfill that requirement, or you don't.
4.4) Clearly written. This is an important aspect of the verifiability of #4.3 above. If the requirements are vague, then for example a good member, who starts asking important questions about internal corruption in his party, could be kicked out, based on false accusations.
4.5) Politically relevant. For example, a political party in favor of political independance for its nation can require that its members reject federalism, and espouse secession. But, the examples given in #2 here above are not relevant to good politics.
4.6) Neither too loose nor too restrictive. In medical terms, a good test generates neither false-positives nor false-negatives. Translated in political terms, admission requirements should not prevent "good" people from becoming members, nor should it accept "bad" persons into the party.
Does the CHP Pledge respect these requirements? I would say the first four are OK, but the last two are problematic. Let's start first with criteria #4.5, about Political relevance.
The CHP Pledge basically rejects all non-Christians, including Muslims, Jews, even people who are convinced that God exists, without knowing yet that Jesus is God. On top of this, it uses a religious criteria to decide who is admissible to a political party. Such a criteria would seem totally relevant for a church, but not a political party!
I have at least two arguments in defense of the CHP Pledge. To explain my first argument, I need a metaphor from the Public Health sector. If you want to ensure clean drinking water to a city, you need to test that water for all viruses and all bacteria. What most people don't realize is that there is no such thing as "a test for all the nasty thingies in the water". There are tests for such and such a virus, and such and such a bacteria. Testing for all microbes would be prohibitively expensive. So a trick can be used. You find out which virus or bacteria is the most resistant to your water treatment, and you test for that one. If you can't find any living ones, then probably all the other less-resistant viruses and bacteria are also dead. In other words, you don't directly test for those microbes, but an indirect test can still work.
I think the CHP Pledge is somewhat like that metaphor. The CHP Pledge is at least partially religious in nature, but it also works in Politics! Personally, I've never come across a non-Christian who was also in favor of the CHP's policies on abortion, same-sex unions, the recognition of the Preamble of the Constitution on the supremacy of God, etc. I might not be able to explain exactly why a religious test also works in politics, but it does!
I'll make two more comments about this first argument in favor of the CHP Pledge. First of all, some people claim that pro-life, pro-family and pro-God policies are religious in nature. This is false. Check the reading lists for pro-choicers, pro-same sex union advocates, and people who claim God has no buisness in Politics.
Secondly, I don't claim a religious criteria about Christianity is the perfect way to select good members for a political party. So here is my pledge to you! If you can bring me somebody who accepts all essential political positions of the CHP, and who isn't a Christian, I'll publicly plead in favor of the admission of this person, by going right up to the Party Leader. I've also already publicly stated that I was in favor of a modification of the CHP Pledge. See Clause #6 in Does The CHP Want To Establish A Theocracy?
My second argument in defense of the CHP Pledge, concerning criteria #4.5 about Political relevance, is that historically, in actual fact, political parties that are not solidly rooted in Christ end up abandoning some basic moral truths. Remember, both the Conservative party and the Liberal party (the two biggest political parties in Canada) used to be pro-life and pro-family! Currently, none of them are. When the winds and the waves of moral corruption mount an attack on a political party, it seems that you either have Christ in your boat, or you sink [Lk 8:24]. Saying such things might be "politically incorrect" these days, but facts don't care about political correctness.
The second problematic criteria is #4.6, "Neither too loose nor too restrictive". The sad truth is that even an openly pro-abortion and pro-sodomy person like Paul Martin could have satisfied the letter of the CHP admissibility criteria! In my opinion, this is an argument to clarify the requirements to be pro-life, pro-family and pro-God, in order to be admitted to the CHP.
I don't really have a conclusion for this text, otherwise than to say that in general, political parties seem to have admission requirements which are not strict enough. This might be caused, among other factors, by the necessity to raise funds and to appear to have a lot of popular support.
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