OPINION: Our MP and city councillor are both right – and wrong

A recent spat between the local MP and a sitting member of city council is the latest example of why politics and religion don’t mix.

Rookie councillor Nathan Colquhoun went on the offensive against Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, calling the Parliamentarian “an embarrassment to Sarnia and Christianity.”

His big beef is with her stance on Israeli-Palestinian relations – especially Gladu’s hard-nosed support for the Jewish state and “God’s chosen people.”

The spat began years ago when Colquhoun urged the MP, unsuccessfully, to support the so-called BDS movement, which opposes Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people by targeting Israeli products.

Gladu shot back at Colquhoun, saying the attack on her religion was a breech of Sarnia’s code of conduct and an issue for the city’s integrity commissioner.

Colquhoun, a former Free Methodist pastor and co-founder of the downtown Sarnia church theStory, accused Gladu of allowing her religious views to influence her political decision-making.

But as Colquhoun was lobbing insults from behind his keyboard, he revealed that his left-leaning views are shaped by his own very personal take on Christianity.

His frequent Facebook and blog posts show a former minister and business owner skilled at finding parallels between socially progressive ideas and the teachings of Jesus, who, one could argue, was a good socialist in his time.

But across the aisle, Gladu is doing the same thing, allowing her strong Christian background to shape her positions, whether that’s backing Israel regardless of what it does to Palestinians, sharing misinformation about refugees, or exhibiting an attitude toward cannabis that’s right out of the 1950s.

But the reality is, when it comes to the Christian faith they’re both right – and wrong.

As someone who occupied the pews of a small Pentecostal church through my childhood and teens, I’m of the opinion that many people use religion to reinforce what they already believe.

Gladu and Colquhoun have read the same Bible, each grew up in Southern Ontario, and attended church much of their lives. Yet their interpretation of the same religious texts differs wildly.

When elected leaders use their authority as an extension of religious beliefs it should give all voters pause. Any idea can be reinforced by cherry-picked passages of scripture.

To Colquhoun, Palestinians are victims of a regional powerhouse ruthlessly exerting its might and crushing all attempts at resistance.

To Gladu, Israelis are residents of a persecuted nation with every right to defend their homeland from terrorist attacks in a region plagued by conflict.

All Canadians have a charter-protected right to worship whatever they wish. But as voters, we need leaders who base decisions on fact-based reality, not on cobbled-together dogma from the pulpit.

Gladu and Colquhoun, who can’t agree on Christianity, need to realize they represent all of their constituents, regardless of faith, or the lack thereof.