I listen to it on NPR pretty often and the title always struck a chord with me. Both of the hosts approach the American context with a touch of humor and more than a heaping helping of irony and sarcasm.
At our recent presbytery meeting, we talked about the possibility of how in solidarity, we might support the Idle No More movement. It could be a contentious decision – in the eyes of many, it’s at the very least, a political one. In the end, we left it up to each person to reach that conclusion on their own.
Over the past number of weeks, we’ve watched the very real sacrifice and living drama of Chief Spence’s hunger strike unfold. Whether you agree with tactics of social disobedience or not, I don’t think anyone can doubt the depth of the pain and despair in the heart of many First Nations in this country. This goes beyond any form of “stunt”, which is the way many Canadians are dismissing it on talk radio.
When we perceive a social phenomenon in our time as “it’s all politics”, we reduce it to simply currying power for the benefit of one group or another. When we sink to that level, we lose all meaning and possibility for genuine social change because we simply whitewash everything with cynicism and anger.
Are there issues of mismanagement on First Nation Reserves? Probably. If the Nova Scotia government, one among many provincial governments to have spending scandals, is susceptible to corruption, than what’s unusual about that?
The same is easily said for the track record of Federal Governments, regardless of political stripe. We don’t turn around and conclude – ah ha! Don’t pay your taxes for social programs and benefits, it’s all politics! There are fundamental issues that should concern us, both of a spiritual, political, and social nature that we cannot cast aside.
No matter what side of the coin you take on this issue, it’s not all politics for us in the United Church of Canada. If we think faith and politics cannot intersect, than how can you or I square our faith with Mark’s Jesus, who after his baptism and testing in the wilderness, pronounces to both the least and the greatest: The kingdom of God has come near! Repent and believe the good news!
As Christians, we have to be more savvy than the current media narrative portraying this issue as EITHER First Nations mismanaging funds and holding the government hostage, OR the Harper government being inherently unjust and utterly lacking any sense of social justice and compassion.
Both narratives, as far as I can see them, are just politics.
This is why I believe Idle nor More should mean more to us in the United Church:
Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age.
(A Statistical Profile on the Health of First Nations in Canada for the Year 2000, Health Canada, 2003)
First Nations youth commit suicide about five to six times more often than non-Aboriginal youth.
The suicide rate for First Nations males is 126 per 100,000 compared to 24 per 100,000 for non-Aboriginal males.
For First Nations females, the suicide rate is 35 per 100,000 compared to only 5 per 100,000 for non-Aboriginal females. (Canadian Institute of Child Health, 2000)