Christians in the Crisis: Toward Responsible Citizenship
J.R.C. Perkin is past-president of Acadia University and the author of
Reflections and Insights.
Gerald Vandezande is Public Affairs Director of Citizens for Public Justice. This book is the result of a sabbatical leave that enabled him to reflect on some of the urgent problems confronting today’s world, a world in which “an alarming number of people are tired of living... they are weary of fighting for survival.” The stated objective of the book is to attempt “to outline a Christian view of social, economic and political responsibility that will enable us to respond to the crisis of our times with hope and vision.”
The first chapter provides an appeal for a comprehensive understanding of Christianity, not spiritualizing it to the point of isolation from the world, nor politicizing it to the point of obscuring its spiritual essence, but basing it on an inner conviction that finds its expression in worship and corporate action aimed at reconciliation and renewal.
Through a brief presentation of contemporary world problems, Vandezande effectively shatters any remaining concepts of inevitable progress toward perfection and identifies the root of most economic crises as being the pursuit of “maximum material wealth.” The West’s fascination with growth largely ensures that one-fifth of mankind will be deprived of even basic necessities.
Among the factors that would bring about a radically different economic order are recognition of the unity of human life throughout the world, a sense of stewardship of the created order, and an acknowledgment of the different tasks different people are called on to perform.
In order to bring about changes in existing economic structures and objectives, a new administrative organizational pattern is needed. In addition to boards of directors, Vandezande advocates the establishment of “enterprise councils,” made up of members of management teams and the work community. One important result of such an arrangement would be that technology would become and remain the servant, not the master, of the people; this would have direct impact upon the unemployment situation. This section leads into a careful discussion and appreciation of the 1983 statement by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Ethical Reflections on the Economic Crisis.”
After a chapter devoted to the waste and dangers spawned by the arms race, Vandezande turns to the domestic political scene, where, he maintains, it is less important who leads than what leads. Certainly the needs of people in Canada and abroad are well documented in mountains of reports and files; what is often lacking is the political will to address the problems. In order to encourage this, Vandezande suggests the formation of a Christian, ecumenical, independent citizens’ movement, dedicated to the promotion of public justice.
In the last chapter of the book there is a series of questions followed by their answers, provided by 13 Canadian leaders from the ecclesiastical, educational, and political spheres.
The book is well documented throughout, non-dogmatic in tone and elegant in style. It would make an excellent study manual for any group seriously interested in knowing what it means to be a responsible Christian in the contemporary world.