Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Mind if I smoke?" - a blast from the past

A complaint to the customer relations department at TransLink was intriguing in its timing. The woman was uptight about people smoking at bus stops, near bus bays -- basically anyplace where she happened to be standing while waiting for a bus or SkyTrain. She wanted us to do something about it.

The timing was intriguing, because I was also noticing how it's hard to step outside for a breath of fresh air. Step outside - fine ... breathe - fine ... fresh air? Well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Walking across the plaza at Metropolis at Metrotown is like running a slalom around pockets of cigarette smoke. Personally, I loathe cigarette smoke - as a 6-year-old, I started campaigning to get my parents to quit (eventually, they did) and keep my friends from starting. (Smoking was the Great Act Of Rebellion in the 60s, and a couple of my friends shocked us all by openly admitting they smoked ... and firing one up as soon as they got off the school grounds -- elementary school, no less! None of us was terribly impressed.)

I even campaigned to get a girl I was engaged to to quit smoking. Eventually she did -- for the wrong reason: she decided to quit "for Drew", and probably felt that I was putting undue pressure on her. Of course, I was: I hated the smell around her and hated the taste when we kissed (my mom actually said to me, "I can't believe you're marrying a smoker!"); and I was too immature to recognize which hills you should be prepared to die on and which you shouldn't. As part of her quit-smoking campaign, she substituted coffee for the "hand-mouth" reflex motion ... on top of the coffee she drank in the morning ... and then wondered why she was hyperventilating at 11 am. Needless to say, she cursed me ... and eventually (for a number of other reasons), we went separate ways.

Last year, a couple of friends and I were out for dinner, and while waiting for our table, decided to take a walk around outside. But there again, there was noplace to escape the cigarette smoke while outside, because of all the people who were firing up while waiting for their table, too.

In other words, our zeal to protect ourselves from one another has led to two unintended consequences: you can't get a breath of fresh air, and you don't get the opportunity to choose to be courteous.

(There's also a debate over whether forcing workers to go outside to smoke is leading to an increase in down-time because they're catching colds, but we'll let that pass.)

Now there's a concept for you! One person being courteous in asking if the other minds if they smoke, and the other person being courteous in responding from the heart.

I remember a visitor at my parents' house asking, "may I smoke?" And my mother saying, "by all means". She could easily have said, "I'd rather you didn't", and the visitor would (presumably) have accepted that response. Even though I can't stand cigarette smoke (and I used to work as a DJ in a downtown east side bar about 30 years ago, back when there were no smoking regulations and I'd come home with my clothes saturated in it), I generally say "go ahead": the person is polite enough to ask, and almost out of appreciation for that, I'm willing to accommodate (with some exceptions).

But legislation takes away that option of civility, and in fact, deepens the rift between smokers and non-smokers. If someone -- wittingly or unwittingly -- lights a cigarette in a "no smoking" area, the assumption is that he or she is an arrogant jerk with no sense of decorum. Friends get separated: "I'm going to pop out for a smoke", said to a non-smoker, generally means, "I gotta have a cigarette, and if you want to have my company, you have to step outside with 30 other smokers". Another social barrier between people that we really don't need.

The woman at the bus stop should have every right to say to those smoking around her, "please: could you smoke someplace else?" or "I'd rather you didn't smoke here" (or, like the character in the Neil Simon play, "can you smoke towards New Jersey? I can't see my cards!"), but legislation has made that impossible, because the smoker(s) would come back with, "yeah, well, where else am I gonna go for my smoke?" And then she launches into a tirade about the health effects of smoking and then he tells her to mind her own business and if she doesn't like it, she can move and he'll yell at her when the bus comes if he remembers ...

But our babysitter state has decided that it's more important to act "for our own good" than for us to learn to accommodate one another ... and in so doing, creates new problems it hadn't anticipated ... and new expectations that "There Oughta Be A Law!"

Legislating Niceness -- another good reason not to wear pink

I didn't wear pink on Feb. 27.

Feb. 27 was declared "pink shirt day", in an effort to stomp out bullying. Since you may not be aware of the connection, anti-bullying became a cause celebre recently, after a boy was beaten up at school, apparently for wearing a pink shirt. The topic has been in the news before, in the past decade, most tragically when a teenage boy leapt to his death from Pattullo Bridge, after reaching the end of his tether with the bullies at school.

One cannot help grieving for and with the parents of that child, and for those parents whose children go through it on a daily basis. But awareness days and legislated measures will never stop it.

Bullying is hateful and hurtful, but it's also a fact of life. I was bullied at school -- rather viciously, I thought. My parents tried to step in, but knew that that would only make things worse for me. They talked to the teachers, although there again, there are only so many things a teacher can do: any conversation is usually along the lines of the basketball player saying to the referee, "hey, ref, will you keep an eye on #24? He's grabbing my jersey every time I go by". The ref can nod and make a mental note, and that's about it.

Bullying is something we have to learn to live with. Enduring it makes one stronger, and able to deal with acts of bullying as we go through other areas of life. My experience in school was founded in a conscious choice I made to be "different", and it was probably the individualist, non-conformist, superior attitude that made other kids want to punch me out. I probably would have done the same. But here I am, 40+ years later, and I'm still alive and not afraid of what others might say about me. Finding the love of Christ has made me realize I'm not truly alone, and no matter how someone else might bully me (not that that happens anymore), I know who I am and whose I am ... and that's what counts.

Suppose we bring in anti-bullying legislation or schoolyard policies? All that does is make bullies more clever about how they do it. And all it does is make the victims less able to cope with it when they get to adulthood and run into the more subtle forms of bullying that adults engage in -- a spouse who's never pleased, a boss who seems to be constantly moving the goalposts on the jobsite; suddenly, there's no "nanny figure" to run to, no "playground duty teacher" to tell.

Bullying and other such nastiness can only be stopped by changes from within. People need to be convicted of the things they do that are wrong -- not told by some authority figure. Parents and others in a position to shape a child's outlook, need to exude an "open-door" mindset, so that a child can always feel there's a place where he or she can turn for sympathy and encouragement when the bullies strike. And there's no shirt colour that can accomplish that.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Carbon Tax and Peter's Fish

In discussing voodoo economics in the form of the BC government's carbon tax, the question arises, What's a Godly environmentalist supposed to do?

Begin by refusing to worry about it. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto the Lord that which is the Lord's.

In other words, begin by repenting before the Lord for whatever role you yourself played in not managing Creation properly. We're all responsible for that, and this whole mess has been caused by the fact that we haven't been good stewards of the earth He has given us to live in.

Then, we can seek Him for guidance on what He wants us to do and how He wants us to do it. Then go ahead and do it, trusting that He will provide the means.

When God tells you to do something, He doesn't tell you to afford it - He tells you to do it.

If, for example, we hear a call from God that involves driving from West Vancouver to Abbotsford, we can't let "gas costs too much (with or without the carbon tax)" to be an excuse. We need to say, "yes, Lord" and then trust Him to
  1. provide the resources
  2. provide the money to pay for the resources (including the carbon tax)
  3. mitigate any environmental damage that might be done -- after all, He's God, and He would never give us an assignment that involved destroying His Creation.

Don't let things like the carbon tax dissuade you from doing what the Lord has called you to do. The carbon tax can be an instrument of Satan to throw a roadblock in your way by making something "too expensive". Look at it as another way that God is forcing you to rely on Him and to seek His guidance. We should never use the resources He gave us foolishly, but we must know that those resources are there for us to do His work.

Here's another way to look at it. Remember when the disciples were asked whether Jesus paid taxes, and He sent Peter fishing?

Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take and give unto them for me and thee.

-- Matt. 17:27 (KJV)

Jesus tells Peter to go fishing; Peter was a fisherman. INTERPRETATION - don't worry about the tax money: go back to what you are anointed to do, and the tax money will be provided and then some. BUT ... don't just do the job in any way: do it in your most skillful way -- casting a hook vs. dropping a net overboard and grabbing whatever comes up -- and your need will be met.

And of course, this is all done under the direction of the Lord Himself.

Praise God, through Jesus we can hear that same direction ... and beat the enemy, with his behaviour-modification carbon tax, on his own turf.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Carbon Tax - Voodoo Economics in the 21st C.

In the budget announced this week in Victoria, the government of British Columbia brought in a measure that's been getting a lot of attention: the carbon tax. It's adding a couple of cents per litre (or gigajoule) of fossil fuel as of July 1, and while there's the usual mixed reaction -- some environmentalists think it's great ... other environmentalists say "it's a good first step but much more needs to be done" (a annoyingly recurring theme from that sector) ... taxpayer groups say it's another tax grab ... and ordinary working stiffs who have to drive to make their living are upset at seeing another increase in the cost of doing business over which they have no control.

But something that seems to have slipped through the cracks is ... THIS IS THE FIRST (that I can think of) TAX DESIGNED TO MODIFY BEHAVIOUR!

Yes, there have been the "sin taxes", but those were never proposed to force people to stop doing whatever it was they were doing -- not overtly, anyway. Cigarette and liquor taxes are purportedly to pay for the health care costs associated with smoking and drinking. Recycling fees are supposed to pay for the costs of recycling things like tires and batteries. The levy on blank CDs and tapes, while interesting in that it presumes that the purchaser intends to use them to break copyright laws, is not intended to get people to stop breaking copyright laws. But practically any time this "carbon tax" has been discussed, the talk has been that it will "get people out of their cars and onto public transit".

It is, in fact, a punitive tax with a negative-inference reward: be a good chap and stop driving your private vehicle or using so much energy, and you won't have to pay this nasty tax.

In other words ... behaviour modification. "Voodoo economics" -- literally.

In my book, A Very Convenient Truth, we discuss how Satan has gotten his hands into all aspects of the environmental issue, and that the whole thing has become a cornucopia of Satan's Hot Hits -- the various elements that are present, and which are Satan's playground. One of these is witchcraft, in the sense that that is the word that applies to any attempt to force someone to change their thinking.

Even if the cause appears honorable, witchcraft is still witchcraft. Change that is forced from the outside never truly takes hold. If the price of gasoline truly caused people to pursue alternatives, they would have stopped driving long ago. When I was at CFAX Radio in Victoria several years ago, we had an online poll, which asked "at what stage will the price of gasoline cause you to stop driving?" The majority said they'd be mad enough to stop driving when the price hit (are you sitting down?) 75 c/litre.

Well, 75 cents a litre is an impossible dream now, from the other side ... and people are still driving. A couple of pennies more for a "carbon tax"? I doubt it.

People will change their behaviour when they are truly convinced that it's the right thing to do. It's the same as with anything else in life: change must come on the inside. That's why God lays out the good and the bad, the blessing and the cursing, the life and the death, and leaves us to choose. He makes it abundantly clear which He wants us to chose ... and He makes it abundantly clear that the good/blessing/life choice is wonderful beyond our wildest expectations ... but He leaves the choice up to us. He knows we're rebellious by nature, and that if He imposes His Will on us, we'll never truly accept it: and that's what He really wants from us ... to truly accept His Will and His Love and His Blessings.

And, oh by the way ... if we do that, He will take care of the land -- and everything else.

(A Very Convenient Truth is now available at the Christian Book and Music Centre in Victoria, with more bookstores to come: or you can order it by contacting me through the "comments".)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Very Convenient Truth - Al finds his Bible

Al Gore, it appears, has discovered that much of the anti-environmentalist backlash that's out there has Christian roots. To that end, my friend Al Siebring over at NoApologies (is there really a mid-cap in that, or have I been working in the public sector too long?) sent me the following piece from the Wall Street Journal online edition:

Ignoring (if you can) the bits about ways the Baptist "Covenant" (I wonder how my cousin, the Southern Baptist pastor, feels about that?) has re-written doctrine (having torn the Anglicans apart, is Satan now trying to drop a cat among the Baptist pigeons?), an intriguing element arises from this new development.

The session was not open to the media. On the one hand, the WSJ writer (the "Taste" Editor? Isn't that like the character in "Doonesbury" who revealed that, when he was sent to Vietnam for Newsweek, he covered sports?) points out that this will keep Al's Biblical "take" on things away from his secular supporters, who might get the wrong impression and think he's a Christian. (That's a joke, son!)

But on the other hand, it keeps Christians from knowing exactly what Scripture Al used to back up his position and holding his arguments up to scrutiny. Left on its own, the view boils down to the following:
  • Al Gore is discussing environmental destruction
  • Al Gore is using the Bible
  • Al Gore obviously has God on his side

Why is that significant? Because in the Bible journey the Lord took me on for A Very Convenient Truth, you'll see a recurring theme: that global warming -- climate change, environmental destruction, whatever -- has nothing to do with GHGs or SUVs or CACs, and everything to do with GOD. Obsessing about the environment -- "Mother Earth" -- takes our focus off God, and we need to re-condition our thinking, so that we get back to obsessing about Him. He promises -- 2 Chr. 7:14 -- to heal the land if we heal our relationship with Him.

This isn't to say, of course, that we burn fuel wantonly and throw out everything without recycling. But it means that, as we draw closer to God, He will show us what we need to do and how we need to do it, and if He sets us on an assignment that might appear, on the surface, to be "environmentally unfriendly" (think Acts 10:14-15), He will bless our actions, so that they are not "common" -- in other words, so that they do not damage the environment.

Mind you, changing our ways to bring our walk back in line with God, and trusting that He will heal the land as a result is a major leap of faith ... and it also doesn't cost money. Billions and billions of dollars have already been invested in "green technologies", and it would be a shame, wouldn't it, if it turned out all that money was wasted because the solution actually lies not on earth but in Heaven?

Rush out now in a buying frenzy and pick up your copy of A Very Convenient Truth - real hope in the face of environmental fears. Send me your contact information via comment on this blog, or email me directly at (I use the simple send-check-or-MO-for-$20-and-I-send-book method of selling: far less chance of identity theft and such nastiness.)

God does not give up

Last night, the Lord took me to a piece of Scripture, proving the point of yesterday's entry: that He does not give up on people, no matter what they've done. He always leaves the door open for us to come back to Him.

In Judges 2, we read how the Israelites have disobeyed God, specifically by failing to drive out the nations that were living in the Promised Land. God is so grieved by this, He sends not a prophet, but an angel to tell them to smarten up. But after the death of Joshua, the Israelites fall away again, and God then raises up judges to keep watch over them ...

And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. (Judges 2:18 -- with underlining)

Matt. 8:16 ... and He ... healed all that were sick ....

Acts 5:16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

Don't you love Bible journeys? They remind you of the goodness of God and His glory and His desire for all of us to have every good thing. His intention is for people to be healed, no matter what they've done in the past, nor really what the state of their particular walk with Him might be at the time. (That's how He healed my back after 26 years, and it was a miracle that truly "got my attention" -- reflecting on Kenneth Copeland's remark that God doesn't do miracles to make you believe, He does miracles to get your attention -- I was still having my struggle with believing Him and His promise and whether I was worthy, and He settled the matter.)

This all reflects back to yesterday's post, built around the quote from Mayor Sam, in which he says that, for the same reason that getting out of his wheelchair is "not going to happen", drug addicts can never be clean.

Oh yes, they can -- because even though The World (or at least, the Mayor of Vancouver) has written these people off, God is just getting started.

The door is always open. We just have to push.

2 Chr. 7:14 If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Monday, February 11, 2008

How Green Is My Washing (The Very Convenient Truth)

One of the points that my new book, A Very Convenient Truth, raises is that Satan has his fingers all over the environmental issue. The confusion and division brought by the myriad issues is one of the most telling signs, and we got another reminder of that in a letter to the editor in this morning's Vancouver Sun.

Offsetting CO2 doesn't reduce the damage
The Vancouver Sun
Mon 11 Feb 2008 Page: A10

Re: Estimate of emissions by sources for the 2010 Winter Games, Jan. 25
I am so very disappointed by the involvement of the David Suzuki Foundation in helping to "greenwash" the 2010 Olympics. The foundation has done some excellent work over the years, but now seem to have forgotten its radical roots.

In endorsing a so-called zero emission Winter Games, by "offsetting" carbon dioxide emissions, the foundation is misleading the Games organizers and the general public into thinking we can buy our way out of eventual carbon rationing. Offsetting does not "neutralize each tonne of emissions" as the article claims, nor is it one of the "real solutions to global warming"; the CO2 is still released, the non-renewable fossil fuel is consumed, and the world and its people are still harmed.

With offsetting, moreover, there is no change in behaviour and the damage continues.
Elsewhere in the article is the phrase "but there are major emissions for the Games that can't be avoided." Nonsense.

The Olympics should be in the same place every four years: Greece would seem obvious for the Summer Games. Only the athletes, forgotten in the current capitalist feeding frenzy, would travel there, slowly by train or bus or boat. We would then watch them compete on television. That would have been an imaginative response from the Suzuki Foundation.

Stephen Hill
North Vancouver

There it is, friends: a schism in the environmental movement, as a long-respected organization, bearing the name of a long-respected expert in the field, comes under attack from other environmentalists (and Stephen Hill isn't the only one) for endorsing the CO2 emissions plan of the 2010 Olympic games. The merits of the positions taken by both sides are immaterial at this point: the fact is, there's disagreement in the ranks, and more people are questioning the concept of "carbon offsets".

My book suggests that carbon offsets are the modern-day equivalent of granting indulgences in the Middle Ages -- buying your way to redemption ... or, in a more extreme way, suggesting that an adulterer can claim to be sin-free because he didn't actually murder anybody. Offsets are a sleight of hand, and if you have respiratory problems and live downwind of a major polluting factory in the Kootenays, it doesn't matter how much the factory owners invest in a wind farm in Peace Country.
The term is "greenwashing", and it's the unfortunate consequence of injecting business, capitalism and the profit motive into environmentalism.

"... the main motivation behind governments embracing 'green' technologies has been that there is a growing business trend in that area. Personally, I doubt that business-oriented conservative politicians like California's Arnold Schwarzenegger and British Columbia's Gordon Campbell became 'Born Again Environmentalists' becasue of a grand epiphany. There is really no coincidence that their new policies have come at a time when new technologies like biodiesel motor fuel, hybrid engines and wind generation are proving to be profitable ...

"Governments and businesses only see green when there's green to be seen. Profit-motivated enterprise is not a bad thing, but let's not mistake that for altruism in solving a worldwide crisis. If we were to take away the profit motive and the possibility that the entrepreneurs involved today could be a politician's well-heeled supporters tomorrow, we'd be back to burning coal and dumping raw sewage into rivers."
-- p. 20-21

A Very Convenient Truth calls us to remember the promises of God in dealing with the environment, just as in every other aspect of life. There is, in fact, an "original sin", which has led to the current situation and for which we must repent; thank God, He promises that when we do repent, He will wipe the slate clean and allow us to re-commit to what the book refers to as The First Great Assignment.

Furthermore, as we draw closer to God, He promises to take care of such matters as the land we live on and the air we breathe (referred to in the book as "the punch line").

BLATANT PLUG ALERT: A Very Convenient Truth is being sold directly, using the good old fashioned you-send-the-check-or-money-order-I-send-the-book marketing method (you know there won't be an identity theft problem that way!). It costs $20, and you can order it either by posting a comment here or emailing

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Globe and Mail's latest poll asks readers whether Dr Henry Morgentaler should receive the Order of Canada. As of this writing (4:36 pm PST Feb. 10), the NO side had a commanding lead, 81% - 19%.

Of course, I smell the aroma of a manufactured story. 25 years in radio and TV taught me a number of things, one of which being the fact that polls are wondrous, ready-made stories. A good hot-button poll can make for a story that doesn't just have "legs", it has wheels with little rocket engines on them. You get the initial story ... then produce analysis of the story ... then reaction to the analysis -- if it's a political piece, contact the minister for one story ... then the opposition critic for that party's side ... and in this 21st Century, scan the blogs for reaction ... etc., etc.

(The most egregious example of this I've seen so far has been that sophomoronic petition on Facebook, demanding that SkyTrain run 24/7, so that drunks on Granville Street can get home when the bars close at 4 am. That made for a number of stories, none of which really addressed the real issue, which is that, if you have to keep drinking until 4 am closing, you don't need a SkyTrain -- you need a doctor. But I digress ...)

In radio and TV, a poll like this Morgentaler thing -- which is probably connected to the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada striking down our abortion laws -- would be called a "ratings grab". I don't know if newspapers measure readership ratings the way broadcasters do

Just think: all those babies killed ... all those women who've had a part of their being ripped out (I know a couple of women who've had abortions, and I believe they'd give anything to have that "choice" back) ... and some newspaper gets some cheap sales by creating a poll about it.

(For those not familiar with the name, Dr Henry Morgentaler made his name for performing abortions on women in defiance of the law, and championing the specious claim that it was "a matter of choice", and a "question of conscience to be decided between a woman and her doctor". To some, he's a hero. To others, well ... let's just say he has his reward on earth.)

I can see the Globe's editorial approach now. If a majority of participants support giving Morgentaler an Order of Canada, the paper runs stories that "progressive thinking" was alive and well in our home and native land, and that freedom is safe.

If a majority of participants oppose it, the paper decries the "well-organized campaign of the religious right, trying to strip women of their rights". There would also be an investigation of the polling system, because the voting was quite obviously stacked and padded by these rightwing nutbars.

It's a little like the CBC's reaction last year, when it ran a web poll asking young Canadians what their "wish list" for the country would be. "An end to abortion", I believe, came in first.

Perhaps now is a good time to remind you that the Globe and Mail is the paper that, a few years ago, offered a "$10,000 gay wedding" as a contest prize.

But this entry is not about Morgentaler or the abortion question or anything like that. It's about us Christians, and the question of who actually allowed things to get to the state they're in.

A recent news story about Morgentaler and how he got started in the abortion business told this heart-wrenching tale about a poor, frightened young woman who was pregnant and terrified and headed for a back-alley abortion. That was, apparently, the catalyst the moved Dr Morgentaler to begin the crusade.

Here's the question: why was the young woman frightened?

Why is any woman who's facing a pregnancy frightened about actually giving birth to the baby?

I'd make book that the majority of the time, it's because people close to her -- parents, friends, the church -- let her down, or the woman or girl perceived that they would.

"My dad will kill me."
"The father will kill me."
"The father disappeared."
"My friends will turn away from me."
"I'll be damned to hell."
"I can't afford it."
"This is a terrible place to raise a child in, anyway."

All of these should be considered lies promoted by Satan himself, easily refuted and cast into the lake of fire by people of faith -- a loving church, good counsel, strong faith. But the fact is, any one of those reasons may well be true, and the fault of that lies not with the girl, the back-alley butcher, or the opportunistic Dr Henry Morgentaler.

The fault lies with us.

As with the eternal battle between good and evil, Godliness and sin, Jesus calls us to focus not on the sin, but on the goodness of God. Anyone can fall: they need to know that Jesus is ready, willing, and the only one able to pick them up. Anyone can make a mistake: they need to know that only Jesus' Blood can wash that away.

Why haven't we created an atmosphere in which having the baby is the only possible option? Are we not guilty of substituting judgment and self-righteousness for love and truth? Women's rights movements were not always anti-male and pro-abortion: the great suffragettes and women's rights pioneers of the 19th and early 20th centuries were Christians and used Scripture to support their cause. Who has to wear the fact that abortionism was able to co-opt that movement in the 60s, so that abortion became a cause celebre for feminists, and killing an unborn baby a twisted sacrament?

Oh, we're good at righteous indignation, but when spokespeople trot out figures showing that the number of babies killed by abortion in Canada is greater than the number of people who died in the Holocaust, that only serves to turn off people who might have been sitting on the fence, about to come over to the pro-life side, and cause dismay among Jews who lost family members at Hitler's hands.

No, we need to take a hard look at how well we portray the rewards of righteousness and seeking God (Heb. 11:6 -- "He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him") versus the short-term pleasures of sin. You don't follow God's ways because not doing so is bad: you follow His ways because doing so is infinitely good.

Perhaps Henry Morgentaler should get the Order of Canada, although I'd never vote "yes" in the Globe poll, knowing it would be construed as support for what he stands for. I say that with the same rationale Time magazine used when it chose Adolf Hitler "Man of the Year" for 1938: it was designed to shake people up so they could see what was going on.

Even if abortion were banned in Canada tomorrow, with the death penalty for anyone who performs one, there would still be abortions. But if we Christians can bring love and comfort and reassurance to women facing an unplanned pregnancy, convincing them that letting the baby live is infinitely better than killing it, then we could have legalized abortion in Canada, with a clinic in every neighbourhood: wide-open, fully-taxpayer-funded ...

and empty.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

"But I will defend to the death ..."

Monday magazine this week has some followup to Keith Martin's private member's bill to re-write the "hate speech" legislation in our country. The mag notes that the good doctor's bill is garnering support from some people regarded as lunatic-fringe wingnuts -- including Paul Fromm, noted for his "white is right" views.

(Even though the article itself is quite balanced, the headline, "With friends like these ..." suggests that Martin's supporters are the sort who'd make a politician cringe at the thought of guilt-by-association. I have a lot of time for Keith Martin; I've also interviewed Paul Fromm, and formulated an opinion, which could be actionable, even if expressed in a blog.)

Freedom of speech is such a tricky issue, but as Voltaire reputedly said, "I do not agree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." What lines get drawn? How do we define "hatred"? Is it tone of voice? "Hot-button" words used in an article? Stereotyping? The Canadian government thought it had the thing sussed-out when they described a potentially aggrieved party as being an "identifiable group", but then look at how easily Svend Robinson got "sexual preference" defined as an "identifying characteristic". (I understand he also tried to get "petty jewel thieves" included as an "identifiable group", but let it pass ...)

My family has seen two sides of the freedom of speech thing. My mother, Dorothy Davies (, was busted in 1953 for directing a production of Tobacco Road in Vancouver. One person had registered a complaint that the play "offended public morality", and a magistrate ordered the play to be closed. Mom said, "forget it" (in substance), put the play on (the lineup went around the block at the old Avon Theatre on Hastings St), and was arrested. The press (this was before TV, kiddies) had a field day with the issue, and Mom and the cast members were acquitted.

The other side of the coin is my grandfather -- mom's dad -- who was known throughout Victoria as a brilliant orator and a great Man of God. But when I Google "Clem Davies" today -- weed out the references to a vicar in Australia and a town councillor in the UK -- I get a very ugly picture. His writings and broadcasts are regarded as seminal influences in the white supremacy movement today in the US. His name turned up in the same paragraph as Tim McVeigh, the guy who bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. A fringe church called "British Israel" regards grandfather as one of the "great men of Truth of the 20th Century": BI teaches that Angles, Saxons and Britons are among the Lost Tribes of Israel, and the ones with the true claim to being God's People -- not like those nasty Jews who've taken over the Promised Land.

But you see, these writings -- and the poisoned thinking that goes with them -- proliferate in spite of "hate speech" laws. Why? Because they don't get out into the mainstream. Truth is the only defence against hate, and people who are offended by someone's words or deeds need to be able to fire back with the truth, rather than simply hide behind the skirts of Mother Government. Hate-speech legislation doesn't eliminate hatred -- it simply drives it underground, where it flourishes and spreads like the subterranean fires that occasionally flare up in Burns Bog.

Isn't the object of the exercise to make sure that truth prevails -- not to protect people whose feelings are hurt? If one suspects a person is using lies, innuendo and false stereotyping to stir up hatred against an identifiable group, then truth, straight talk and "setting the record straight" should be the antidote. If someone comes along, claiming the Holocaust was a hoax (and I believe Holocaust-deniers were the initial target of Canada's hate-speech legislation), then they should be required to sit through all three hours of the documentary "Mein Kampf", which includes film footage of "the Final Solution" that was so vile, so stomach-turningly terrifying, that Josef Goebbels ordered it locked away, lest the German people see what was really going on and hold a pitchfork party at Berchtesgarten.

And the converse holds true: if an "identifiable group", claiming protection under hate-speech law, cannot defend itself with Truth, it should be hung out to dry. Why do you think promoters of a particular lifestyle want to be lumped in with people who might have a legitimate claim to being "identifiable", so that any talk of that lifestyle being a risk factor for an incurable disease or eternal damnation gets suppressed? Maybe they have no truth with which to support their position.

But they do have the right to express that position, and bizarrely (is that a word?), I would stand with members of that or any other group for their right to express it, no matter how offended I am by it. I would just expect the playing field to be level, so I'm allowed to state my case. There may come a time when, even in our "enlightened" country, Christianity may be so on the "outs" with Them that it's labelled as "hate speech". And if They come after my Bible and my freedom of speech, I don't want anyone to say, "where were you when They came after ours?"

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Where's the debate?

I have a VHS tape that I love to bring out from time to time -- usually around the start of baseball season, to get into the mood. It's Game 6 of the 1953 World Series: the earliest extant copy of a full televised World Series game. Brooklyn vs. the Yankees, and the Dodgers could have won the series that day. But the Yanks won, sending the series back to Yankee Stadium, where they won Game 7. Another "wait 'til next year!" for Dodgers fans.

I love watching that tape: to hear Mel Allen and Red Barber calling the action: to watch Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson and Yogi Berra as young men, already heroes and fan favorites, to hear Mel call a Duke Snider homer: "Look out! And look no more!"; even to watch the grandstand shadows creep across the field, with the shadows of dozens of photographers, standing on the roof, capturing the action.

But I know the outcome. No matter how many times I play the tape, the Yankees will win and the series will go back up to The Bronx. Not once do I put the tape in the VHS machine (ask your big brother or sister what a VHS was, kiddies!) thinking, "Wow! I wonder if the Dodgers will pull it out this time?"

I got to thinking about that tape recently, reading about a debate last week at UBC, where an atheist debated the existence of God with a Christian.

The Ubyssey, the student newspaper (which has spawned, in times past, such luminaries as John Turner and Allan Fotheringham), displayed the kind of editorial balance that will make this generation of reporters fine candidates for work at the CBC by sending an atheist to cover the debate.

No bones about it: the secondary headline identified the reporter as an atheist.

To my mind, the idea of debating the existence of God is one of the biggest wastes of time imaginable. How can one look at anything in our world and attribute it to anything but the work of a loving, beneficent Creator? And how can one look at miracles in people's lives, which have followed effectual, fervent prayer, and say there is no connection? How can you accept the fruit, but reject the tree?

Debate the existence of God? Might as well stick in the video tape and hope that maybe this time, it will come out differently: the prayer won't get answered, the battle won't come out in favor of an army that seems hopelessly outclassed, David won't bring down the enemies' "Big Man" with a single, well-placed rock; or, failing that, that all these victories, great and small, were due to just plain dumb luck.

Debating God's existence is one of the enemy's great mis-directs. Try to get us into a fleshly discussion, based in "rational, reasoned argument", where the object appears to be winning rather than winning souls. That's one of the reasons why Jesus warned us not to worry about what we'd say if we were called on to defend our faith: the Holy Spirit would give us the words.

Jesus wouldn't even debate whether He was the Son of God. When Satan tried to tempt Him in the wilderness, he started his challenges with "if thou be the Son of God", and Jesus wouldn't bite. Why? Because even to attack that premise -- if thou be the Son of God -- would be to accept the possibility, however remote, that He wasn't the Son of God. And that would open the door a crack. His only reply -- as we know -- was, "it is written ...."

The Ubyssey coverage was strange. The reporter challenged the campus ministry people, who organized the debate, on why a Christian was brought in. DUH! The thought that you could discuss God without Jesus is like discussing the sky without mentioning the sun. The atheist reporter also had a problem that "God's Advocate" was not taking the position that some nebulous, hard-to-define supreme being existed, but was actually referring to The One True God, the God of Israel. Not that there is a god, but that there is only one God and we know who He is.

That's like discussing that, although it's obvious that the sky is blue, there might also be a red sky and a green sky.

(The reporter also made a comment at the end of the article, which was rather telling. He said it was a night that reminded people why they were in university in the first place. Indeed, for centuries, universities have been venues for intellectual self-gratification, even to the point of denying the reality that stares them in the face every day. I don't know if that was what he meant, but we should keep that in mind.)

That being said, was the event a waste of time? No: it did expose a hunger that young people have for spiritual meaning in life. Even the atheists probably wanted some kind of confirmation that it's Perfectly Fine to define life, the universe, and everything in terms they make up out of their own intellect (and at the end of the day, isn't that what denying God means?). Good luck to them: Shakespeare didn't consider himself creative enough; Einstein didn't consider himself smart enough. And look at the raw numbers: 1200 students turned out for the debate, filling six lecture halls -- with live video feeds into the overflow rooms. 200 filled out response cards from campus ministry -- Hallelujah! I wonder how many of the remaining thousand were committed Christians? And how many were committed atheists? And how many young people walked out into the night, with rain cascading down from the skies, firmly believing that there couldn't possibly be a god, that everything was perfectly explainable in the natural realm?

I'm not worried about the answer to that question, actually. God has a funny way of revealing Himself to people -- invariably, it's at times when they really need Him. The fact that those young people came to hear the debate -- assuming that the majority were not there to hear their own point of view reinforced by the debaters -- tells me there's a whole lotta kids out there who (a) haven't been raised up in the knowledge of Christ and (b) still are seeking something. They may try other avenues, other approaches, other world views; they may keep sticking that VHS tape into the machine, thinking, "Come on, Dodgers! Let's beat 'em this time!". But sooner or later -- especially in these end times, as God gradually but firmly chokes off all other "alternative routes to the top of the mountain" and exposes them as the false messiahs that they are -- they will go from constantly asking, as CS Lewis put it, "is that You?" to saying "so that was You, all along!"

For that moment to come -- and sooner, rather than later -- let us pray.

Friday, February 1, 2008

"Love Speech" Legislation

Al Siebring has an insightful piece on the "No Apologies" website, going into the issues of freedom of speech in Canada. You can read it here:

and some follow-up on

The part that really bugs me about the whole discussion of "hate speech" and whether we offend someone is that it forces people to lie. We have to proclaim openly that we really dig someone and really don't mind what they say or do, or else we can get hauled in front of a quasi-judicial setting (minus the fair trial, apparently) and put through the wringer, emotionally and financially. Lie about your feelings, and you'll be fine. Express yourself frankly, and you're in a sling.

Frankly, homosexuality creeps me out. Many people I've known with same-sex preferences exude a spirit that grieves mine, yet if I actually came out and said that, there'd be hell to pay.

Funny I should say that: I actually do hold my tongue, but because I'm afraid some Human Rights Commissioner might come through the door at 2 AM. It's because God calls us all not to react to a spirit but to pray about how to respond: in that way, there'd be literal "hell to pay" for not holding my tongue. We must hold our tongues until the words that come out are words founded in love. As Fred Allen once said, "it's as easy to take back an unkind word as it is to recall a bullet from a pistol."

Paul writes that we're not struggling against actual flesh-and-blood people, but find ourselves in a spiritual war, which can only be fought through prayer and circumspection, before we respond with any actions.

James warns us about the tongue: the "littlest member", but which "kindleth a great fire". Our words -- and that includes the written word in its many forms -- have greater power than anything else.

... (the tongue) is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
-- James 3:8-9, 14 (KJV)

And that Truth is that if we curse others, we are cursing the image of God, whether we like it or not. That's why we have to hold our tongue and let God take it over: if we curse someone or even speak unkindly to them, no matter how much they might offend us, we'll have disobeyed The Great Commandment.

Is not hate speech legislation an attempt by government to usurp God's authority? God has already laid "love speech legislation" on us, and if we're walking in His ways, we don't offend Jews, Muslims, homos, native Indians, or anyone else. If we walk in God's ways, Truth triumphs. If we walk in God's ways, people see the light emanating from us and are attracted to that same light. And -- to quote Charles Price at the People's Church in Toronto -- the light that shines the farthest burns brightest at home.

God's ways include dealing with issues -- particularly those that offend us -- in the exact opposite way from the way our flesh would react. Let me elucidate. A couple of years ago, I was blessed to work alongside a very openly gay man. We worked weekends in radio, and there were times the things he said and some of his mannerisms made me cringe. Like many homosexuals, he talked openly about his preference and made lewd remarks -- the sort that would get a straight man busted if he said them in front of female co-workers. So I started asking the Lord, "why do I have to work with this guy?" And He was right there, with the response: "because you are called to love him and show him what a Christian is really supposed to be". So I made an effort. I wonder how well I succeeded.

But one day, as I was sitting at home, my mind strayed towards him. There was a pile of Bibles on the coffee table, which I was going to take to Rainbow Mission to hand out. The Lord said, "give him one tomorrow".

My mind immediately flashed through the man's possible reaction: is he trying to convert me? Is he trying to get a message across that he doesn't approve of my lifestyle? Is he one of these judgmental fatheads and he's trying to make a subtle point? But the Lord was adamant, so I took one of the books to work the next day.

Now, to find the appropriate time. There didn't quite seem to be the Right Time To Do It, so I kept waiting on the Lord. Finally, our beat reporter left the room ... my co-worker was about to do his last newscast of the day ... and the Lord said, "Now!" I went over to him and said, "I'm supposed to give you this". I handed him the Bible. Inside, I had written, "To my good friend _____. May this bless you in ways neither of us can imagine!"

His reaction blew me away. I'd even say he was "overjoyed", as much "overjoyed" as I'd ever seen him. "Wow! Thank you! I know we have one at home, but I can't remember where ... look: it's got a ribbon bookmark, and everything!" It was genuine gratitude, and as I went into the booth to do my newscast, I started laughing at how God knew exactly what I should do.

The next day, he was chatting with the beat reporter, and said, "Oh, I'm a little hung over ... we were out last night, celebrating my birthday." My eyes dilated. I said, in the spirit, "I didn't know it was his birthday", and the Lord said, "no, but I did".

I still don't know how or even whether that Bible has ministered to the man or not, but the seeds are sown. He has a deep distrust for Christians -- referred to Stephen Harper as "a dangerous man", for opposing same-sex marriage -- and I pray that what he saw in me was a Christian pas comme les autres -- or, more to the point, closer to what Jesus has in mind for us.

God's Love Speech Law is far greater than anything governments and special interest groups can come up with. If we Christians set the gold standard -- or the God Standard -- for speaking and acting in Love -- pure, uncompromising, all-blessing Love, "hate speech laws" become redundant.

And in case the point needs to be reinforced, note what I said above, that "hate speech legislation" is a way governments have of usurping God's Authority (as, indeed, is the attempt to "define" marriage). Somebody else tried to usurp God's Authority, too ... name begins with an "S ... A ..."

No, not Santa Claus!