Friday, June 29, 2012

God keep our land glorious and free!

I have to confess, I've never really liked the term "Canada Day". Maybe it's because I was raised to call it "Dominion Day" or "Confederation Day": "Canada Day" feels like very ad hoc, like someone who thought we needed a holiday to go along with the Americans' Fourth of July plucked the date out of the air and said "and it'll be a day to celebrate ... um ... um ... Canada! Yeah! That's the ticket! We'll call it 'Canada Day'!"

Having gotten that off my chest, it's a very popular thing among Evangelicals to complain about Canada "falling away from God", through changing societal attitudes and various pieces of legislation that manage to ursurp God's authority. Indeed, when I first read Isaiah, I found myself saying at practically every other verse, "wow! He could be talking to Canada!" So it's worth pointing out a very convenient truth: Canada is one of the few countries that still officially declares God as sovereign.

There are other countries that try to claim Christianity as their preserve: I won't go into details, because comparisons are odorous, as Shakespeare wrote*, but God takes a prime location in our institutions.

The National Anthem -- O Canada! -- in both languages. In the original French, we sing, "Car ton bras sait porter l’épée, il sait porter la Croix ... " While your arm can carry the sword, it also carries the Cross; and later ... "Et ta valeur de Foi trempée protégera nos foyers et nos droits" -- and your valor steeped in faith will protect our homes and our rights.

In English, there's the line, "God keep our land glorious and free" -- and man, what a fight it was to get that line included in the official version! The forces of political correctness fought a pitched battle to protect the rights of non-Believers to not declare God as the One responsible for keeping our land glorious and free (much better to fall back on nuclear arms, I suppose**).

The very term, "Dominion Day", comes from "Dominion of Canada", which is a reference to Psalm 72:5, which says "[God] shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." That's also reflected in our national motto, a mari usque ad mare -- from sea, even unto sea.

Another pitched battle was fought over the first line to the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to wit: "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law ..." Courts and scholars have tried to water that down, saying (I'm not making this up) that "God" doesn't really mean "God", as in The Big Sir, but, well, some other kind of concept, like personal conscience. (Can you say "foundation of sand," boys and girls?)

Personally, I have a bit of a problem with the implication that the rule of law is on a par with God, considering how many laws have been enacted in this country that directly contradict God's word. But the fact remains that God is written into the Constitution, and the best efforts of those who think they know better than He does have not prevailed. Those people -- like all of us -- will die or their thinking will change over time (which is why we have to pray constantly for our elected leaders). God is Eternal. He ain't goin' away.

How about the motto of the RCMP -- Dieu et mon droit -- God and my right hand (the Biblical symbol of strength)?

Truly: can you think of any other country that puts God in the forefront the way Canada does?
So for those who despair over our Home and Native Land not being a Christian Nation, fear not. God is still alive and well and entrenched in our fundamental institutions. Besides, the idea of a "Christian Nation" suggests "state religion" and a requirement to be of a particular persuasion, whereas God leaves everything up to our personal choice and welcomes those who "gladly" receive Him (Acts 2).

Ask yourself which is preferable: to be a Christian Nation ... or a Nation of Christians?

*Yes, I know that should be "comparisons are odious", but the line is given to Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, and he is one of the wondrous, "fools" Shakespeare injects into his plays, partly to appease the "penny idiots" in the and to slip some real wisdom our way, cloaked in buffoonery.
**It's tempting to make reference here to Tom Lehrer's song, "Who's Next?", which refers to Israel getting nuclear weapons: "The Lord's our Shepherd, says the Psalm/But just in case -- we're gonna get a bomb!"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The relentless pursuit of perfection*

*with apologies to the folks at Lexus.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a UK organization, has decided that three-parent in vitro fertilization is ethically OK. Simply put, it's a process to combine genes from two women with those from a man -- presumably, lest we get too ethically hung up, the husband of one of the women -- in order to eliminate faulty DNA that causes inherited incurable diseases.

There is vocal opposition from the Pro-Life movement in the UK, and rightly so; but here's my main objection: this un-natural selection is another misguided attempt by mankind to create a perfect world made up of perfect people.

Anybody for a re-read of Frankenstein?

We have become so afraid of pain and adversity that we will go to any lengths to avoid it and to deny that it's only through tribulation that we actually grow. We legislate against bullying, as if that will ever stop children from being mean to one another; instead, we should be teaching children to learn to forgive others and understand that they won't always have a teacher or a parent to run to.

We're so hung up on the fear of growing old and dying that we'll do everything possible to avoid looking at an old guy in the mirror (ahem) and some even determine they want to make the call as to when they die. By that, I don't mean people who commit suicide in a fit of depression; I mean things like my dad's living will, which included the sentence, "I do not fear death so much as I fear the indignity of pain and suffering ...." Who said pain was an indignity?

Now that I've mentioned depression and suicide, I wonder how many suicidal people do away with themselves simply because they don't want to let on to others that they're not OK? They don't want to be a burden on others, and yet how many of those left behind have stood at their graveside saying, "WHY WEREN'T YOU A BURDEN ON ME, DAMMIT?"

But I digress.

The idea of using genetic trickery to eliminate inherited diseases may seem laudable in creating someone who looks perfect, but I can't help thinking about the number of parents of children with disabilities who would take great offence at the idea their kids were not blessings and inspirations. Some friends of mine have a child with Down Syndrome: many might look at them and pity them for being burdened, but while the boy's mother does admit that it raising him can be tough at times, she also rhapsodizes at the progress he makes and the amazing abilities he shows. How many times have you heard parents talk about their children with heart defects or cancer or who have lost limbs in accidents with wonder at their courage, perseverance and indomitable spirit?

The fact is, we can only look perfect, anyway -- and that's always in the eye of the beholder, anyway. Need I remind you of the number of "perfect" babies who have grown up to be mass murderers, child molesters and white-collar criminals? We're fallen human beings: a guy could have the looks of Ryan Reynolds and the physique of Tim Horton, but if he has the mind of Idi Amin, so much for perfection.

But what does the Bible tell us about adversity? "We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4 NKJV) In other words, by trying to avoid the struggle, we're denying ourselves -- and others -- hope.

And to my mind, that's the biggest argument of all against it.