Somewhere around two weeks ago, Canadian and Mennonite politics collided when Mennonite politician Jane Philpott resigned from her cabinet position. And Mennonites around the country stood up and cheered.
Even The Canadian Mennonite, not known for its coverage of late-breaking national news, paused from its regular programming of pre-Lenten spiritual exhortations to hop on Twitter for a moment of celebration.
This is not because, like opposition parties, Mennonites around the country were gleeful at watching trouble in the Liberal cabinet. Well, maybe a few were but we mostly disapprove of schadenfreude and only allow ourselves satisfaction if someone else’s misery actually directly resulted from their gloating over our misery. And even then, we can only express such glee through passive aggressive prayer requests.
Nor is it because we have a particular fascination with the SNC Lavalin affair. I’d say that approximately none of the Mennonites who voted in the last federal election did so because the independence of the Attorney General was an issue burning hotly in our souls.
But, we love a good principled resignation. We may not be alone in that but I think we have a special affinity with quitters for a cause. You could say it goes right back to our beginnings in the sixteenth century and all the good Anabaptist folk who quit baptizing their babies and attending Mass.
And it didn’t stop there. Our whole history could be written as one of peoples who quit. We quit our allegiance to states that wanted us to kill for them and we quit our allegiance to each other when our fellow Mennos forgot the proper way to baptize. Or dress. Or educate their children. Or, well, pretty much anything. The point is we have long known that there comes a time when one needs to take a stand and turn your back on the people beside you.
It’s just what we do.
I, myself, have quit countless Church committee positions and always on a point of deeply-held principle. I can’t remember what those principles were at the moment but I know for a fact that they were all important. Yes, even when I tendered my resignation from the post of Church Coffee Hour Coordinator. Maybe especially that time.
And so it is no surprise that Mennonite Jane Philpott would choose to quit the federal cabinet on a matter of principle when the opportunity arose. It’s actually surprising that it took so long.
When Mennonites have debated participation in state affairs, those of us like Jane, who belong to mainstream denominations, often consider participation both fine and good if the politician can make positive change while avoiding participation in those parts of government that participate in violence. Like executioner. We haven’t had to struggle with that question for awhile in Canada but we pretty much all agree that a Mennonite should not take on the job of state executioner.
Jane Philpott wasn’t called upon to be state executioner. Or anything equivalent to the Minister of War. But still. If I’d had to guess as to an issue that would cause a Mennonite to resign from cabinet, it would have been one that shone light on Canada’s role in world-wide violence or injustice. Like the armoured vehicles we’re still selling to Saudi Arabia. That one. That would the issue. If there’s one thing that should be rankling those Mennonite core values right now, it’s that.
But Philpott didn’t quit over that glaring case of war mongering and instead slammed the door behind her over the independence of the judiciary – something, it must be admitted, Mennonites have never really cared about a whole lot. Our traditional view of how politics works is this: if you need something changed, send a delegation to the Tsar (or Prime Minister) to change it. Whether it’s a matter for the court of law or a matter for the legislature. Our conception of government is pretty much predicated on no independence of anything.
But times have changed and with them the possible causes for principled resignations.
I scoured Philpott’s letter in resignation for an understanding of which of her core values were at risk. Back in 2014, she cited her values as “generosity, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace and looking out for the interest of others.” And of the Mennonite heritage, she claims to have brought with her the values of “peace and social justice and caring for the earth.” Nothing whatsoever about an independent judiciary.
Never mind that.
The point is she quit. On a point of principle.
And as a Mennonite, I have no choice but to applaud her for this.
And as The Drunken Mennonite, I have no choice but to make her a cocktail. And toast her actions.
This cocktail is based on the Filibuster and features Canadian maple syrup and rye whiskey. I have no idea as to Jane Philpott’s cocktail preferences but I think a love of maple syrup is a requirement for any Canadian Member of Parliament.
- 1 1/2 Oz rye whiskey
- 1/2 Oz lemon juice
- 1/2 Oz Maple syrup
- 1 egg white
- 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
Throw all ingredients except the bitters into a cocktail shaker without any ice and then shake vigorously for about 30 shakes. Add ice and shake for another 20 shakes or so. Strain into a cocktail glass and add bitters.
Drink with the courage of your convictions.