National Post (National Edition)

Bible quote in UCP tweet draws fire


EDMON TON • Wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” is common practice for Canadian politician­s on Dec. 25, but a holiday greeting from Alberta's United Conservati­ve Party received considerab­le criticism on social media over the weekend, including from clergy.

The two-word Twitter and Facebook post with a Christmas tree emoji includes an image of the nativity — with Jesus, Mary and Joseph — overlaid with a passage from the King James Bible, Isaiah 9:6. Social media users criticized the party both for sharing a religious text from the official party account, and for the content of the verse itself which uses the word “government.”

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlastin­g Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Anna Greenwood-Lee, a Calgary Anglican priest and a bishop-elect for a B.C. diocese, is among the critics. She said a Christmas greeting is one thing, but quoting scripture is inappropri­ate.

“When the party that runs the government is quoting that, to me that sounds a bit like they're saying they have divine sanction, that there's some sort of close relationsh­ip between them and the Son of God,” she said.

Greenwood-Lee said multiple other translatio­ns of the Hebrew scriptures use the English word “authority” or “dominion” in place of “government.”

Isaiah, like other Hebrew prophetic texts, also often calls the rulers of the day to account for how they treat the most vulnerable, she said.

If the party must share a verse on Christmas it should be from the Christian New Testament, Greenwood-Lee said.

“Why didn't you pick the Magnificat about lifting up the lowly?” she said, referring to a passage in the book of Luke.

“They picked one that seems to give their government some legitimacy, and that they picked one that has a long history of creating tension between Jews and Christians, to me, smacks of the fact that they haven't really thought this one through, or that they're trying to appeal with this passage to a very particular base but not to Albertans in general.”

Both social media accounts are run by the political party, separate from the provincial government. Premier Jason Kenney routinely marks holidays from multiple religions on his social media accounts.

The UCP caucus also tweeted a Christmas message: “On a cold winter's night full of darkness, a king was born. May you rejoice in the promise and love of Jesus Christ. From our family to yours, #MerryChris­tmas.”

The party declined an interview but responded in an unattribut­ed email saying it was simply a Christmas greeting.

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