Inviting Your MLA to a Feast
The votes are tallied. The final results are in. British Columbia’s MLAs have officially been elected or re-elected. Now is the time to begin building relationships!
So how do I build relationships?
Building relationships requires work and patience. And, in some cases, a feast. (Intrigued? Keep reading.)
A number of years ago ARPA developed a 12-Step Action Plan to guide you in building a relationship of trust and respect with your local government official. This plan outlines one step for every month in the calendar year that you can take to foster that relationship, but you certainly can add some steps of your own or mix them around.
In the wake of a provincial election, it’s time to pull out the 12-Step Action Plan again. Many Reformed Christians in British Columbia awoke last week to a new provincial representative, likely under a new party banner. A rookie NDP MLA rather than a veteran Liberal MLA now represents the residents of Surrey-Cloverdale, Langley, Langley East, Abbotsford-Mission, Chilliwack, Chilliwack-Kent, and Vernon-Monashee. A fresh Liberal MLA now serves residents of South Abbotsford, and a new – albeit familiar – NDP MLA serves Stikine.
The first step is in relationship-building is to find out who your (new) MLA is, do a bit of research on them, and glean where they stand on the issues of today. Don’t just research their political life. Pay some attention to their former work history and family life. These are often crucial pieces of information that help you to develop a deeper relationship with your elected official.
The election of new MLAs, regardless of their party affiliation, can be tough. Christians had years (or even decades, in the case of Langley East residents) to get to know incumbent representatives. Hopefully, you had at least the seed of a relationship with your previous MLA. We could note their votes and speeches in the Legislature, hear their personal priorities through multiple election campaigns, and communicate with them frequently on salient issues.
The election of a new slate of MLAs – particularly in the Fraser Valley – has neutralized these years of familiarity. Now is the time to begin building relationships anew!
Why expend the time and effort to build these relationships?
Christians should foster relationships with their local officials for two reasons: it is a biblical model of political activism, and it works.
We all know the story of Esther. Despite her Jewish background, she became the queen of Persia after the Jewish exile. But the king’s right-hand man, Haman, plotted to eradicate all the Jews in the Persian empire – a plan that would not exempt the queen. It fell upon Esther to ask King Ahasuerus for the lives of her entire people. Think of Esther’s opportunity as the ancient-day equivalent of our modern freedom to write to, call, or meet with our MLAs. Unlike in Esther’s day, however, we can petition our elected officials without the risk of death!
When Esther was granted an audience with the king, what did she do? Did she immediately make her big ask? No. She asked, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared.” Before making a big policy request to the king, she took the time to invest in her relationship with her government official by inviting him to a lavish feast. (If you thought Esther already had a good relationship with the king by virtue of being the queen, remember that Persian kings at the time had an entire harem of women. And, as Esther herself had said, “I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”)
The king consented to come to the feast. And at that feast, the king again asked Esther what her request was. She responded, again, not with her central political request, but with a second invitation to a feast. The king accepted for a second time.
Only after their relationship had been deepened at two feasts did Esther make her move. When the king asked Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled,” Esther answered, “If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I am pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king.”
Esther put her relationship with her civil authorities first by inviting the king – twice! – to a feast. She laid out a policy request second. That is an approach that Christians can emulate.
So why wait? Maybe inviting your MLA to a feast isn’t the go-to twenty-first-century way to build a relationship. We also have some more conventional suggestions – emails, letters, phone calls, and especially face-to-face meetings – as a part of our 12-Step Action Plan. Regardless of whether you choose the Esther route or the conventional route, start building those relationships!
Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager for ARPA Canada