Standing up for the city

If my memory serves me correctly, the last time I did something like this I was in grade six.  I had come home from school after listening to a lesson on the virtues of recycling, only to realize that the town in which I lived did not offer any sort of recycling program.  So I called the mayor’s office and left a message requesting a chat with the mayor.  To his credit, he called me back.  I asked him why our town didn’t recycle.  He explained that there were a few recycling options available.  I told him that I thought we needed curbside recycling.  He told me he’d look into it.  And then our two minute conversation ended.

A couple of years later our town had curbside recycling.  I’m pretty sure it was all because of me.  (See my bio regarding sarcasm.)

That was my first and last active involvement in municipal politics…until now.

I’m not sure why, but the discussion concerning the potential of a downtown casino in Hamilton has captured my attention and heart. (For more info click here.)  I recently penned a letter to City Council on behalf of my ministerial association expressing our opposition to the potential casino.  Although only living here since February ’12, this is my city.  I love this city.  I believe in the future of this city.  And most importantly, I believe that the Spirit is blowing the winds of Gospel renewal through our streets.

So it comes as no surprise to me that as the winds of Gospel renewal blow, so too blow the winds of darkness.

Now I’m not really a big “devil behind every bush” kind of guy.  I don’t spend a lot of time talking about “spiritual warfare.”  But I can’t deny what I felt last night.

Last night I attended a town hall meeting concerning the downtown casino, and I must tell you, I felt a weight — a burden — of darkness in that room.  The best word to describe that darkness: greed.  The room had many shining lights — people advocating for “the least of these” and the vulnerable.  But the presence of greed was powerful, explicit, and predatory.  It manifested itself in one primary way: deaf ears to the inevitable plight of the many marginalized people in our downtown core if a casino is to be built.  It didn’t seem to matter how well-spoken the anti-casino panelists or speakers were, how well-researched the data was, or how real the threat of social burdens and brokenness were, the pro-downtown casino advocates were blinded by the draw of dollars.  “We’re a business; we need to make money,” said the representative from Ontario Lottery & Gaming, seemingly disinterested in how the money was made.  And the “lurking in the weeds” and schmoozing of interested pro-casino business groups from within the city wasn’t only noticeable, but it was quite telling of the money, greed, and power behind the scenes.

So for me, as it pertains to this discussion, the question is, where is the church?  My hope is that we’ll see her standing beside the voiceless, the marginalized, and the oppressed — that we’ll see her standing up FOR the city, FOR humanity.  I want to see an educated and intellectual church fighting with tactics of love, grace, and kindness.  But not at all shying away from adamantly speaking against any sort of predatory greed that might hurt the people who can least afford to be hurt.  Casinos are here.  Like it or not, they’re a part of our provincial fiscal future.  But the church must stand for our cities and demand that casinos be built in a responsible and wise way.  So I will do my part to stand against the current proposal.  I hope to see many more join me.  And maybe this story will end the same as my grade six recycling story.

As always, any feedback is appreciated.



4 responses to “Standing up for the city

  1. Go get them, Aaron! There are too many, way too many, in the church that do not care enough to step out there for the voiceless and vulnerable in Canada. We are so quick to jump on the bandwagon to help those oversees being exploited, but just as quick to walk away from our own. Seem to remember a wise man saying we should remove the log from our eyes……. time for the church to be a visible and educated voice striving to be light in the darkness of our cities. Lead the way!

  2. Proud of you son. Keep at it. God will use your passion for good.

  3. Great thoughts and challenge!

  4. I would also suggest to municipal legislators that this OLG representative presents a conflict-of-interest. The OLG is owned at arms length by the Ontario Government and any revenue made by the casino goes to them, which may result in increased transfer payments from the province to the city, so naturally its in the best interest of the city to approve a casino. Any corporate governance principles would clearly identify this as a conflict of interest because both governments stand to gain from setting up as many of its own casinos as it can at the expense of its residents. Owning casinos, slots, racetracks, liquor chains, and beer stores, is a very hypocritical position for the gov’t to put itself in. If you buy their argument that they are the only entity that is competent and ethical enough to run such operations as to save us from ourselves and keep minors out of trouble, then why do they invest millions in marketing, advertising, and promotion? Do they go to the trouble of disciplining and penalizing themselves should they break the rules? That’s why I believe Gov’t should not be in the business of being in business. I may have lost you on the gov’t + business argument, but the conflict of interest point may have some validity. Hope this helps. Keep up the good work.


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