Bring God back into public life: financier

Excluding religion leaves us vulnerable, Prayer Breakfast told

Jennifer Green, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Friday, June 02, 2006

Canadian leaders ought to be ashamed that they demur from mentioning Christ in what is, after all, a predominantly Christian country, says Tom Caldwell, a prominent investment strategist.

"Spiritual vacuums don't exist. We all believe in something. The question is, what are we going to believe?" Mr. Caldwell told the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Parliament Hill yesterday.

When government erases all mention of God, it leaves space for more dubious faith in money, fame, even otherwise worthy goals like self-sufficiency, he said.

Later, in an interview, Mr. Caldwell that the public memorials for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Swissair Flight 111 were disgraceful because clergy were specifically asked not to mention Jesus at all. He called the Parliament Hill ceremony after Sept. 11 "pathetic."

If Muslims and Jews might be offended at invocations of Christ, "so what?" he asked. "Anyway, they usually aren't offended."

If anything, people of faith are usually more bothered when God is not mentioned at all. "My Jewish friends are the only ones who will wish me Merry Christmas."

Most people know Mr. Caldwell through the business pages, where, by any measure he is one of Canada's most successful men. Most recently, he made his clients a $100-million profit by snapping up seats on the New York Stock Exchange. He is a member of the Order of Canada and New York's University Club, the Toronto Club, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

So how does he square such worldly success with his Catholic faith?

"It's the love of money that is wrong, not money itself."

He says he stays in business because he provides a service ensuring the fiscal well-being of clients and their pensions.

To the MPs, senators, various clergy, and other interest groups gathered at the breakfast in the West Block, he talked about his Christian faith and how it grew stronger in the darkest, least successful times of his life.

Growing up agnostic in a tumultuous family, his closest contact with religion was the Catholic church where he regularly pilfered the alms box so he could afford to go to the movies.

It wasn't until his professional and personal life fell apart in his 30s, that he became Christian. He later paid back the church -- with interest -- for the change he took.

The National Prayer Breakfast started 41 years ago as an outgrowth of the weekly prayer breakfast held for MPs and senators on the Hill. This year, it included a dinner on Wednesday, with speaker Chuck Strahl, a Conservative MP from Chilliwack, B.C.

He was diagnosed last year with cancer and told the crowd that faith had helped him get through he worst days.

Yesterday, Liberal leader Bill Graham, NDP leader Jack Layton, and Conservative House leader Rob Nicholson delivered Bible readings. Various senators and Carlos Miranda, dean of the diplomatic corps, also spoke or read prayers.

The Ottawa Citizen 2006

Tom Caldwell has served on the board of Alpha Canada