Thursday, August 25, 2011

Musings arising from Jack

Over the last several days our news media has focused a lot on Jack Layton. His death has triggered an incredible outpouring of stories, personal and political accolades, and a wide variety of responses to Layton's death from people across our nation. The media coverage has fascinated me.

I personally do not agree with Jack Layton's political position, but I do admire his passion for social justice. He certainly acted tirelessly to promote the call of social justice and championed many causes.  (Again, I do not agree with some of the causes he supported). The honours showered on him clearly reflect the esteem in which he is held by both his supporters and his opponents.

But as I take this all in a number of thoughts and questions occur to me.

I remember my reaction when Layton told the voters in Canada that he was 'running for the office of Prime Minister' during the last two elections. Every time I saw that commercial I thought, "This man is delusional!" Two nights ago I saw a piece on the late night news where a reporter showed us Jack Layton's parting comments in his last High School Yearbook. The statement read, "I'm leaving to become Prime Minister."

That certainly shed a fresh light on the man's pursuit of his vision and his sense of purpose. At least it did for me. Jack Layton's life presents a crystalline image of what the application of passion, persistence, and perseverance can look like and achieve.

The tone of the accolades that continue to pour out for Jack Layton remind me a little of some of the responses I heard and read about the depiction of Mahatma Ghandi in the movie Ghandi in 1982. On more than one occasion I heard people say that Ghandi was presented as almost Christ-like. (I even heard that from the pulpit one Sunday morning). Some of the stuff I'm hearing about Jack Layton seems to paint him with sainthood. I was particularly struck by one woman interviewed on a city street who boldly stated that, "Heaven is a better place now because Jack (Layton) is there."

That's quite a statement! A statement that launched my mind  in all sorts of directions with an influx of thoughts and questions; more than I can express here. My head is still spinning two days later.

My initial reaction was, "Does she really believe that?"

Does she completely understand the meaning and magnitude of the words she uttered? Does she believe heaven is a real place or did she just use it as a metaphor to express her high regard for Layton? Does she believe in an afterlife? If she believes in the existence of heaven does she also believe in the existence of hell? Some people believe in one but not the other. Does she believe in God? In Christ? Does she really believe that heaven can be improved by the arrival of one human being? Can heaven be improved by the arrival of any human being? Where did she get this idea from? Does she think that Layton was a Christ follower who has now received his reward or does she believe every good person  will end up in heaven regardless of his/her spiritual beliefs or non-belief?

Did Jack Layton have a faith in God and Christ? Was that the driving force for his passionate pursuit of social justice? Was the love that Layton talked and wrote about Christ's love? What is his legacy?

As I dig through the many words written and spoken about Jack Layton, I have yet to come across any mention or suggestion that he had a personal belief in a higher power, or an overarching divine being, or in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit of the Christian faith. Does that mean that I think he was an non-believer? No, it just means that I have been  unable to find any statement that indicates that Jack Layton was a man of faith in God.

If Jack Layton was a man of faith, his legacy is a glowing example of Christian love and pursuit of social justice. If Jack Layton was not of the Christian faith, his life puts many Christians to shame. His life puts me to shame. Jack Layton set the bar for love and social justice high. I don't measure up to that bar. I don't come close!

So what do I do about this? Do I want to do anything about not measuring up to this bar? This is another challenge I'll add to my list of changes to work on. The list keeps growing.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. 
Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1: 16-18

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” 
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, 
you will be saved.
Romans 10: 8-10

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  
No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14: 6

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