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Friday, April 15, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Keeping It Controversial

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Matthew Block at the National Post says it’s a bad time to be religious in Canada.

Now of course he’s looking across the religious spectrum, not just at Christians, touching on everything from proposed government training and certification of imams on to the Quebec government’s plan to ban ostentatiously religious clothing through to the resistance to Trinity Western opening a law school.

Evidently it’s not just terrorism the Canadian government is concerned about, and it’s not just Canada where religious restrictions are either being considered or have already been rolled out.

Tom: I’m not a fan of the hyper-regulatory state, Immanuel Can. Do you see any silver lining here?

The Hyper-Regulatory State

Immanuel Can: Not really. There are a couple of problem sects in Canada, and they’ve certainly turned up the heat on everyone by their actions. But the government, committed as it is to the absurd but deeply-believed axiom that there are no meaningful differences among “religions”, has decided to clamp down on them all. I think this is so that they can get at the problem ones, yet do so without being seen to be discriminating. But, of course, this will doubtless turn out to be profoundly unjust as they will, so to speak, slay the innocent with the guilty.

Tom: Yes, I see what you’re saying. We have a rather ideological government, but I suspect this is more pragmatism than ideology. Since they anticipate having to deal with apoplectic Muslims who say it’s religious persecution to certify and train imams in the interests of national security, they’d like to have some political cover. And being able to say, “Look, we’re being even-handed: see, the Christians are squawking too” is very convenient, no matter how preposterous the notion that Canadian Christians are going to start stabbing and shooting people.

So the game is, as you say, to tar all “religions” with the same brush.

IC: Yes, it’s “In the name of fairness, we must be grossly unfair”, or “In the name of equality, we must discriminate against the righteous”. The secular liberal spirit prides itself on its justness, even while perpetrating injustice. It’s the nature of that beast. As the scriptures put it, “even the compassion of the wicked is cruel”.

Decriminalizing Euthanasia

Tom: Another aspect of this that Block brings out is the decriminalization of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. The fact is, wherever this has been allowed (primarily Europe), the number of cases continues to increase year-over-year. Now it’s a Canadian institution. I don’t foresee this going any differently in Canada than it has anywhere else in the world.

If people want to be gone, they will find ways to accomplish it. But the more significant problem here is that the State is now sanctioning it, and the consequence is that, as Block points out, doctors who swore to preserve life are now compelled to assist in taking it, in some cases against their consciences.

IC: Christian doctors, Christian teachers, Christian politicians, Christian law officers … there are a lot of jobs that will probably get a whole lot harder in the near future. The number and seriousness of the moral compromises required of Christians in these roles only stand to increase. Institutional — and personal — prejudice against them is multiplying.

Christians and Career Paths

Tom: You’ve just listed four career paths that for the serious Christian, I think, are going to be all but off limits in the near future, not because you can’t jump through the educational hoops, but because the moment you step into any of those fields, you’re going to find yourself confronted with potentially career-ending choices. And then you end up deciding whether you want to be a Christian or a doctor, and so on. If you want to be a Christian lawyer, you’d better be content to do estate planning, and even then only if it doesn’t bother you to plan the estates of gay couples.

IC: Yes. And even for Christians who are already in those professions, I think this is an important time for them to reflect. You know, it’s never a good strategy to put off deciding what you will and will not do until a crisis forces your decision, because in the haste and pressure of the moment, you’ll almost certainly make wrong choices. The time to decide is now.

Tom: Absolutely.

IC: So if you’re a doctor, what will you do when they require you to refer for an abortion? If you’re a teacher, what will you do when they ask you to agree with them about homosexuality being a lifestyle choice? If you’re a church elder, what will you do when the government threatens to withdraw your local church’s tax status … and so on. Think it through now, because you won’t have time then. That is, assuming you’re wanting to do the right thing ...

Tom: Oh, I think everybody WANTS to do the right thing … when it’s an abstraction. But you begin to tell the truly principled people from the tag-alongs when it starts to cost.

“Ostentatiously Religious Garb”

Now tell me, IC, the potential banning (so far it’s in Quebec only) of public servants from wearing ostentatiously religious garb, does that bother you as a Christian? Will you be doffing your clerical collar?

IC: Ha. I will, if you give up your gold cross-on-a-neckchain, and your “What Would Jesus Do” wristbands.

For Christians, there is really not a need for religious clothing, of course. It might actually be good for us to learn to “wear” our Christianity in our lives and on our lips, instead of on our t-shirts.

Tom: That might have been the “silver lining” I was hinting about at the beginning. But you’re right, there’s not even the beginning of a suggestion in the New Testament about appropriate “priestly garb” for the believer, except to advise us what not to wear. So any new federal policies along those lines will not be particularly onerous to Christians.

Reining in Religion as a Public Service

There’s another thing Block says here that I find interesting:
“The sentiment that government should take a firmer hand in reining in religion has been growing in Canada for some time, and it’s an ideology that is showing up across the political spectrum.”
Here he makes it sound as if there is there is broad-based support among Canadians for reining in ALL religions. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Rather, there is loud support from small numbers of rabble-rousers at either end of the political spectrum to rein in the hardliners at the other end. That’s my take.

IC: I wouldn’t quite say that. I think there’s two levels at which things are working. On level one, just about everybody right now knows what’s causing the desire for a clampdown on religion — Islam. But on the second level, neither the secular liberals who control our political discourse nor the secular liberal media are ready to indict one religion as more of a problem than any other … particularly Islam, because, well, we don’t all want to be “Islamophobes”, whatever that ridiculous coinage is supposed to mean.

You can see this in the fact that the article begins with the problem of radical Muslim clergy, but quickly spins the tale that all clergy of any stripe are some sort of equal problem. It’s the old, secular liberal fiction of “all religions” at work again.

Precedents and Progressives

Tom: Agreed. I’m not terribly worried about the current Canadian government actively setting out to oppress Christians. But we’ve already seen what such laws have done in the U.S. post-9/11: they set a precedent and open up the door for progressivist governments down the road to do so. Further, by changing the law to place more restrictions on individuals and religious groups, they give the most extreme leftist elements of society greater opportunity to use the legal system to advance their agenda at the expense of believers.

IC: Oh yes, you can be guaranteed that will happen. It’s always interesting to see that the secular liberals don’t really hate “religion” per se: they’ll disingenuously praise Mohammed, or go on and on about how wonderful various forms of animism are, especially for aboriginal folks, and they’ll praise Buddha to the skies as an open-minded liberal himself … but let the name of Christ be spoken, and they instantly grind their teeth in rage.

Coming After Everybody?

Tom: Based on the sorts of things Matthew Block is documenting Im tempted to think that, at least in the early going, changes to the way government deals with religions would appear destined to impact other religions as much or more than they will impact Christians.

But the cynic in me has observed that in the longer term, laws are generally most strictly enforced against those least willing or equipped to push back against them. Islam, I’m sure, will push back big time on the certification of imams. In the current political environment, that’s a non-starter and I expect it to be quietly dropped before long. But Christians are generally respectful of authority, and something tells me the long term consequence of more government involvement will disproportionately impact those of us who support the principle of civil obedience.

IC: Yes, I think that’s almost certainly the way this will play out. In the end, the government will not prevent Islamic terrorism or the indoctrination of new ISIL recruits, suicide bombers and the oppression of women in the West. But they will choke off every legitimate freedom that obedient and government-compliant Christians have, and thus begin to tyrannize the innocent. I think that right now, we’re going to have to decide at what point we Christians are simply going to extract ourselves from any involvement with government approval and just go on our own. The word of God tells us, “as much as it rests with you, be at peace with all men”, but it won’t always rest with us.

Scripture and Persecution

Tom: It’s hard to picture this today, but if it does come down to government harassment, there’s plenty scripture has to say about the good things persecution produces in the church and in individual believers. On the character front, James says that trials produce steadfastness and maturity. Peter says the “tested genuineness of your faith” is “more precious than gold”. I’m sure you can think of others.

IC: I always think of the disciples in front of the Jewish Council, who were the governing authorities of the day. It says “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for his name”. Now it’s easy to forget that they’d not just been forbidden to speak in the name of Christ, but also flogged. So paying the price is an honour, if we suffer truly for the name of Christ. But, of course, we’re also cautioned to make sure it genuinely IS for that name that we are suffering, not for some stupidity, evil or intransigence of our own.

Cultivating Genuine Faith

Tom: That’s certainly the best possible response to persecution, and it’s easy to talk about when we’re not personally facing it yet. But it’s evidence that our faith is genuine, isn’t it, when we’re called to suffer for the name of Christ. Those for whom church is nothing more significant than a weekly social event among other decent people are going to have to do some serious reevaluating.

IC: Ironically, the truth is that the world has been too kind to us lately. For too long we, as Christians, have found ways to be too acceptable, too reasonable and too normal. But just as fish naturally swim in water, so too the natural medium through which the Christian moves is hatred and injustice. “If the world hates you,” the Lord told us, “you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you”.

Tom: So when the world hates us, it should actually be reassuring.

IC: The world’s hatred is a testimony to our salvation. And our right reaction is not to fear it, but rejoice in it and remain unshaken, which is actually a testimony of judgment and destruction against the world itself.

So yes, it should come as a great relief to us Western churches that the world has finally started to hate us again. Let’s just make sure they hate us enough, and for the right reasons.

5 comments :

  1. Interesting, I heard that currently in the NY state assembly there is a euthanasia bill being discussed, under the table between some members, for the fiscal reasons of potentially saving tremendous amounts of money by reduction in elder care, medical and otherwise.

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  2. Already an option in "progressive" Canada, Q. Except Ontario doctors are finding it's not so optional for them.

    Or did you mean euthanasia of the non-voluntary sort? That would be a bit of a moral ground-breaker, even for New York.

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    1. No, I meant voluntary. See this.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/euthanasia/overview/volinvol.shtml

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    2. That's helpful, Q. Makes the distinction between voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary quite clear. The "horde of alien monsters" example seems a little unlikely, but thinking clearly about the issue is useful.

      I'm not keen at all on the government getting involved in voluntary euthanasia, but I'm even less keen about the other two. It's a slippery slope argument, but I wonder if accepting one sort of euthanasia doesn't predispose a society to accept the other sorts down the road.

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    3. There's no reason why it wouldn't. The logic that allows the first is not capable of putting up any meaningful wall between it and the second and third. Once life is not sacred, the gloves are off...and it's only a question of how soon, not whether they go the next step.

      If the rationale is cost-savings, how can you put a distinction between someone who is agreeable to becoming a cost-cutting measure and someone incapable of defending himself whose trustees are agreeable to him becoming a cost-cutting measure. And why should you forgo the cost-cutting in the case of someone whom you are convinced is just not seeing reason...

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