Recent developments in the blogosphere and in the real world suggest to me that the Ontario Liberals may be afraid of losing the by-election in the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park — Gerard Kennedy’s old riding — to the NDP challenger. That seems the most likely explanation to the sort of Gotcha smear tactics being applied to a United Church minister.
The controversy surrounds the NDP candidate Cheri DiNovo, a woman with a checkered past. She freely admits this. She used to be a drug dealer, a street kid smuggling LSD into the country using hollowed-out Bibles. But she’s not, anymore. She reformed some time ago, became a Minister in the United Church, and now reaches out to at-risk youth with the fervour of Paul after the road to Damascus. As an NDP candidate, she’s the latest example of that rare bird: a religious leftie, in the mold of former CCF/NDP leader Tommy Douglas and NDP MP Dan Heap. She’s running in a provincial riding the NDP won at the federal level. Late in the McGuinty term, the NDP are clearly hoping for a pick-up.
The Liberal blogger Canadian Cerebus says that he is initially impressed by DiNovo’s credentials, but he grows concerned when he reads one of the woman’s sermons and her other writing. In his words:
A little digging uncovers that less than a year ago, on October 15, 2005, she gave a sermon (later published) in which she basically told kids how to smuggle drugs. At least that’s my take. As a Cerberus usual, I’ll post her actual words so you can judge for yourself.
I think I did a really good job and I spoke for quite awhile and I said, “Okay, your turn, questions?” There was this silence and then one kid put his hand up and asked, “What drugs did you sell?” And I answered, “LSD that I imported in hollowed out Bibles (the first introduction I had to the Bible) and back then it was the good stuff, not the kind of crap you kids do.”…
I know it’s important for a leader of young people to “speak the lingo” and “get down” with the kiddies, but is it not more than a little disquieting for an elected representative to be telling young children how to hide drugs in a Bible and referring colloquially to the drugs she used to deal as — the good stuff — ?
OK, maybe not the worst stuff one could find on someone. She’s trying to connect with the kids.
Kind of him to admit that. But why bring it up in the first place? Because Canadian Cerebus is trying to build a case against Cheri DiNovo. And, unfortunately, it turns into a smear.
But then this: in that same sermon, she said:
The rest of my talk consisted of what inclusive Christianity was, about this Church and about what inclusive theology should look like and also what really is in the Bible as contrasted with what they might have heard was in the Bible.
Again, good healthy religious talk. But what is she really talking about?
In her book, Qu(e)erying Evangelism: Growing a Community From the Outside In, we get some idea of what she might mean by this.
Should we then ordain pedophiles and axe murderers? Anyone and everyone who seeks baptism, inclusion in the church, should receive it if the request comes from God.
I hate when people quote out of context…
Then please don’t.
Cerebus goes on to note the real and serious issue of sex abuse and pedophila within the Catholic Church and other churches. Which is fair comment. However, he has taken six sentences, three of which are unconnected to the other three, and has allowed others to jump on them, claiming that Cheri DiNovo supports pedophilia and drug smuggling.
I seem to recall a dirty campaign tactic by the Stephen Harper campaign in 2004 when he claimed that the Liberals and the NDP’s supported child pornography. It cost him the 2004 election, in my opinion, because his campaign was taking points out of context, and using them to attack the Liberals and the NDP with an extra-hot poker. The voters saw that, and they did not appreciate the Harper campaign’s dishonesty. The same is true here, especially now that the comments were forwarded to the press, and frankly the Liberals deserve to lose this election badly because of it.
Cerebus suggests that, by speaking frankly of her own experiences in drug smuggling, DiNovo is encouraging children to do the same; but even he admits that this is not her intent. Instead, DiNovo is actively showing at-risk children the perils of living on the street and, more importantly, that as far as someone can fall, it is possible to climb out of that hole and live a Godly life. By telling them of her journey, she is supplying them with a role model to avoid that journey. And those who are likely to fall into drug smuggling anyway are more than likely to figure out her tactics without her “assistance”.
As for his complaints about DiNovo’s statements on pedophiles and axe murderers — which he admits he has taken out of context — he is doing more than just taking things out of context. He is twisting a key tenant of Christian philosophy and making it out to be something that it’s not.
Are Christians supposed to forgive pedophiles and axe murderers? Yes — if the criminals repent. Jesus forgave everyone who repented, even a life-long criminal who repented moments before his death, but when he gave forgiveness, his response was (and this is the important point) “go, and sin no more”.
Jesus preached forgiveness, and if we are to live up to Jesus’ ideals, then anybody who repented of their sins, and who did not fall back on them, was redeemed in the eyes of God, and should be redeemed in the eyes of people. The fact that we often don’t accept that redemption, due understandably to the number of people we’ve encountered who have repented in word only and fallen back into sin, is still a failing according to the scripture.
Legally, even though we’re technically supposed to believe in innocence before guilt, we do not trust individuals who have committed these heinous crimes, even if they say that we have repented of them, and that is society’s right, which the Church fully accepts. Even if a murderer honestly repents immediately following the act, it is the Church’s expectation that he accept the full consequences of his actions. And that means life imprisonment. And that means being legally barred from any work situation where pedophiles (however reformed they may be) are brought in contact with children. But in the eyes of God, any pedophile — or any sinner — that repents, and lives up to that repentance, even in the hour of his death, is freed from eternal damnation, whether we like it or not. Some Christian theologians believe that even Judas was redeemed, beyond the grave.
This is just an example of the hard choices resulting from difference between Jesus’ ideals, and the imperfect lives we live. You have a problem with that? Go tell Jesus that he supports pedophilia. I dare you.
Further developments, including an e-mail sent to the press by a minister’s staffer working on government time, alerting the press to these statements taken out of context, suggest that this is more than just one blogger’s honest question of matters of faith. It suggests an organized campaign of dirty politics. It shows a lack of class. It shows desperation. It even shows, however inadvertently, a lack of respect for the Christian faith.
The voters of Parkdale-High Park deserve better than these dirty tactics by the Liberals. The people across the province of Ontario deserve better. The Liberals deserve to lose this by-election, badly.