Stephen Lewis is one of those people who, if we had to live off of words, would subsist on a diet comprised mainly of adjectives and adverbs. His speech is attractive, but it's prone to produce a bit of flab, and can sometimes makes one feel a bit windy.
Which makes it all the more important to look for a bit of healthy roughage in his speeches. Amidst all the laudatory cream of that eulogy, this stood out for me:
Jack simply radiated an authenticity and honesty and a commitment to his ideals that we know realize we've been thirsting for. He was so civil, so open, so accessible that he made politics seem so natural and good as breathing. There was no guile. That's why everybody who knew Jack recognized that the public man and the private man were synonymous [emphasis added].
If I recall correctly (I was listening to the eulogy in the car at the time) this statement was met with rapturous applause.
That a citizen of Canada should be applauded for living an integrated life is rare in a country whose dominant philosophy is liberalism. Liberalism, at least as articulated in North America, often asks citizens to keep their deepest commitments veiled and away from public life. But it appears that what Canadians find most appealing are seamless lives, where our deepest commitments can be expressed with confidence in public.
Robert Joustra wrote last week about the importance of having words like hope and love in our political dialogue. He highlighted that they are not, in fact, political virtues, but religious virtues. He also highlighted the fact that the entrance of such words into our political dialogue provides rich ground for debate on just what it is our public life is about. What is our life together in Canada for?
Perhaps, like Stephen Lewis, you can look at the life of Jack Layton and suggest that his integrated life was so attractive because it was committed to a manifesto of social democracy guided by generosity. Perhaps, like me, you find that vision to be attractive at first glance yet, like the words of Stephen Lewis, ultimately more froth than substance.
In either case, it would appear that Canadian public discourse is opening itself up, however slightly. While at this stage, there might be room only for integrated lives that draw their inspiration from principles which don't really push the bounds of social acceptability—social democracy, for instance—it appears that integrated living is going mainstream, even if Christian integrated living remains at the margins.
Which leads me to ask: what might a Christian response to this trend be? Perhaps Marilynne Robinson's advice is the place to start:
If you feel that Catholicism or Christianity or religion is not represented, by detractors or defenders, in ways that honor its profundity and beauty, live out its profundity and beauty. To do this is more telling than any argument.