Sunday, July 27, 2008

How To Displease God - 1: Gambling

The rant that follows has been percolating for a couple of years, and was pushed into the forefront by a couple of poster ads currently being shown. They're for Lotto 6/49. One shows a retirement-age husband and wife, sitting up in bed. She's looking bored, and he has his eyes closed with an ecstatic look on his face. In his hand is a golf magazine. In a thought balloon over is head, is an image of him playing golf on some exotic beachfront course.

The second one shows a 30-something couple. Both look very exotic, but he looks like one of those cheesy lounge lizards with pencil moustache, Brylcreemed hair and ghastly shirt. She's the one with the faraway look on her face and the thought balloon shows her getting a spa treatment.

"Need to get away?" is the caption.

I hate these ads with a passion. For one thing, the messages they send are not the sort of thing any right-thinking person would want to be involved with. In the first one, here's this old goofball, dreaming of being anywhere but beside his bored-looking wife. This bored-looking wife has probably given him the best 35 years of her life, raised two kids, made sure she was the perfect hostess and/or escort to parties as he weaselled his way up the corporate ladder. Now he wants to get away from her? And she doesn't exactly look ugly! Maybe she has every right to look bored.

In the second one, the young woman quite obviously wants to be rid of the schmuck she's sitting next to, but let's face it: the only way she would be so entangled with him that she couldn't just up and walk is for her to be married to him, and guess what? She picked him! And maybe the guy honestly believes that was what she was looking for in a man.

Do the people at BC Lotteries have absolutely no idea what messages they're trying to get out? What are we supposed to make of it, if our spouses rush out to buy lottery tickets? That they want to get rich so they can get away from us? WIN THE LOTTERY - BUST UP YOUR MARRIAGE!

Then there's the over-arching theme of total self-absorption. We're in the "me" generation, no doubt about it, and these ads promote that unholy trinity, Me, Myself and I. Why not at least have one of the spouses daydreaming about the two of them together, getting away from humdrum life? Or, in the case of the post-retirement couple, have the wife dreaming of being able to send the husband on the getaway of a lifetime, because she knows that's what he's always wanted to do?

But why should I offer these wondrously creative ideas to the Lottery Corporation, when the main thing that annoys me about these ads is that they promote gambling. They hold out that minuscule hope that you might get something for nothing, so that you'll dig into your pocket for one more loonie or two-nie. Any Christian faced with that should have the still, small voice telling them ...

I realize many Christians don’t consider gambling to be sinful. Some might shrug it off as a “minor” sin, if there is such a thing. Some BC churches receive gaming revenue from the Province to bolster their incomes. But gambling is really a smorgasbord of Things That Displease God. First of all, it's rooted in a lack of faith: putting trust in the turn of a card or a roll of the dice, rather than trusting God to provide. Without faith, as the Apostle Paul writes, it is impossible to please Him.

And then there are the sins connected with gambling: avarice, lust, coveting what someone else has, sloth (wanting to get it without actually working for it) and a form of idol worship.

Besides, gambling involves losing, and God would never ordain something where people lose. That should put you off it right there.

But even winning – especially winning big – has a scriptural interdiction. Proverbs 20:21 warns us, “An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.” In Deuteronomy 7:20, God tells Moses “the Lord thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed. ... (22) And the Lord thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.”

God promises to remove the enemies from the land He’s given, but He cautions that there are still pitfalls and perils in that land, and if He were to drive out the enemies all at once and hand the place over to His people, they wouldn’t be able to handle those pitfalls and perils.

Our “promised land” includes freedom from debt and poverty, but the shift from crushing debt to incredible wealth is not supposed to happen in the blink of an eye – which is what happens when someone hits the jackpot. Ever wonder why we hear so many stories of people whose lives turned to mush after winning The Big One? God expects us to go through a transitional period in order to be strengthened against the pitfalls (the “beasts of the field”), which also come with wealth. That’s why, no matter how earnest our prayers are, they don’t get answered all at once.

Alright, you say, but charities and health care benefit from gambling.


According to the BC Lottery Corporation’s 2004/05 Annual Report, British Columbians gambled $2.03 billion – about $130 million more than the year before. Just over forty percent of that – $811 million – went to the Provincial Government, and another $8-mill went to the Feds under a deal to pay Ottawa to stay out of the legalized gambling business.

Of the Provincial Government’s share, $479.9-million went into “Consolidated Revenue”, helping to prop up the government's finances. The Health Services Account received $147.3-million. If you’re scoring at home, health care got about seven percent of the total wager. Put another way, when you plank your dollar for a lottery ticket, only seven cents of that goes to health care. Charities got even less – $135-million.

And yet look at the fruits: governments are still cutting back or going into debt, health care providers and researchers still complain they’re under-funded, and charities are still crying poor. Could it be that money acquired through legislated sin is failing to provide? Could it be that that revenue – like any ill-gotten gain – brings with it a curse, which causes it to evaporate?

Some try to toss in Proverbs 13:22, which says, "the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just". But I don't believe gaming revenue -- and we're talking about the monies turned over by the government to charities and some churches that apply for it -- is the wealth of the sinner. It is, in fact, money that has been stolen from poor suckers -- it's not their wealth, at all. If the sinners are the gaming operators -- taking the money from the willing suckers and encouraging them to lose more -- then the only way it could be their "wealth" is if the money were taken from their own incomes. The money that goes into gaming revenue with the government is a cost of doing business -- not wealth. Is the government the "sinner", and gaming revenue its "wealth"? Well, we elect the government, so if we elect sinners, then what does that say about us?

When the Lord vented His wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah, it wasn’t simply because of sexual sin, but the fact that any kind of sin at all was allowed free rein. That’s what happens when a society simply winks at sin. How much more worse can it be if a society relies on it?

You want to help health care and charities? Bundle up the money you’d spend on lottery tickets, pull-tabs, roulette or slot machines and hike it over personally to the hospital foundation, arts group or sports organization of your choice. Do it as an offering to the Lord, without expectation of reward (another element of spending money on gambling). As Christians, we shouldn’t hold these groups hostage to sin.

If everyone did that, then – according to – there would be $2.03 billion – not a paltry $283-mill – handed over to those worthy causes. You would also have more control over where your money goes, because there may be some groups which receive gaming revenue, and which – for whatever reason – you don't want to support with your hard-earned money.

Better still, there would be no losers, since the Word of God says we are guaranteed serious returns for casting that bread upon the waters.

Is that idealistic -- or simply trading the world's system, with its built-in failings, for God's system?

The book-signing

Held a book signing today at Chapters Metrotown. Book-signings can be a bit daunting: you get book-buyers of all shapes and sizes and tastes and backgrounds milling about, there you are with a thesis that can provoke argument, with your face out for all to see. Who knows what loonie will haul off and pop you one, largely because they don't agree with the Bible? But a little prayer can go a long way.

I really didn't know what to expect. The last time I had a book-signing, it was in 1996, with a book called My Shattered Nerves! which was a biography of Ken Dobson, a beloved sportscasting personality in Victoria, who passed away in 1995. Dobber was so well-loved, it was a slam-dunk. But with A Very Convenient Truth, I would have to start from Square One, explaining what it was about.

At least, I've had some experience with that. Thor Tolo had given me two hours to deal with the various topics on his show, then Frank Pastore held me to nine minutes and Jeff and Lee let me run for over half an hour, and in situations like those last two, you don't want to waste time with witticisms (although Jeff and Lee liked my "Chicken Little on steroids" line to describe the increasingly shrill warnings from the eco-Pharisees). Cut the chase, stick to the main points, and know that you have about 30 seconds in which to grab the audience.

I prayed for wisdom and for some help, and the Lord answered my prayer in a very interesting way. Not long after I took up position at the little table near the front, a man in the cashier lineup looked over with great interest. He came over after he'd made his purchases, and looked over the book and started asking questions. I started explaining, and there was something about his manner that made me very comfortable, and it was almost as if I was getting a chance to rehearse the "pitch". His name is Barry, and he's written at least one book of his own -- a self-awareness book, from the sounds of it, so he was not out of tune with the message of AVCT. He'd also done book-signings, and since I've been marketing the book myself, he provided an invaluable tip on what to do, and I'll put it to work. As I say, it's clear the Lord placed him there at that time, to provide what I needed, so I'm not going to let that lie fallow.

Made one sale, to a young couple, who are, apparently, from Singapore. They go to Ian Goligher's Cloverdale Free Presbyterian Church and seemed grateful that someone had written about the environment from this particular angle. Furthermore, they seemed surprised and I -- a charismatic -- would use the King James Version. I didn't know that charismatics or Pentecostals would have a reputation for not using KJV. After all, Mel Davis -- one of the "spiritual fathers" of Westpointe -- does; so do Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Jerry Savelle and Noel Jones, so that's a pretty good endorsement.

Anyway, the people at Chapters left the door open for another signing event, and I think I'll take them up on it. But I may just self-publicize it a bit more next time -- maybe have a good organized claque to whip up interest ... kind of like having people infiltrating the anti-poverty coalition, chanting, "We Love the Olympics! We Love the Olympics!"

OK, so I picked a bad example ...

Latecomers will not be seated

Had an interesting exchange last night at Gospel Mission, which usually comes up when someone who apparently hasn't received Jesus as their Saviour decides to invoke His name.

At GM, we have a schedule: door opens at 6:30, coffee is served until 7, when the Worship starts; door is locked at 7:30, when the sermon starts; supper is served at 8 -- ish (depending on (a) whether the sermon goes overtime, which isn't often, or (b) whether there's been a problem in the kitchen, in which case Amelia appears in the doorway and gives me the "stretch" sign (thank God for our showbiz backgrounds!) and I get this deer-in-the-headlights look and quietly ask the Lord to help me stretch this until I get the "wrap" sign).

Last night, a woman came in long after the sermon was over and the dinner served (I think she got in when someone else went out). I chided her lightly for showing up late, but since John had bought a LOT of ultra-large hot dogs, there was still plenty. But she came back at me with, "Jesus wouldn't have locked me out".

Ah, the old "what would Jesus have done?" approach, and later -- long after it would have done anyone any good -- the Lord gave me a bit of "backstairs wit" (a term coined by Voltaire, I believe, referring to the comebacks you think of as you're leaving the party by the back stairs and that you wish you'd thought of during the party).

The question of whether Jesus would have locked out this woman -- or anyone who misses the sermon but expects to be fed -- is purely academic. People didn't show up late for Jesus.

Nor, in fact, did they show up expecting food. They came to be in the presence of the Word of God, and were willing to starve in the wilderness, if that's what it took.

It's also a question of respect. People who arrive after the start of an opera, movie or play are usually held at the door until an appropriate time, such as in-between scenes: that's a "given". So why in the world do people seem to think nothing of arriving at church once the service has started? Do we expect God to cut us more slack than a disturbed opera-goer?

Of course, He does, because He loves us. But we need to question our attitude: doesn't the opportunity to hear the Word of the Lord merit at least as much respect as Wagner, Shakespeare or Spielberg?

And they don't provide meals.

Which brings us back to the original incident. The people who arrive on time are the ones who are there for the Word of God and for the most part have received Jesus as their Saviour; there are some who haven't yet, but at least they have the respect to follow the rules.

It's reminiscent of the fellow who commented on my piece about marijuana a couple of months ago: there are those who love to invoke the name of Jesus and tell us what He would have done, who really don't know who He is. So we pray for them and love them anyway, because that is what Jesus would do, and keep finding ways to spread the Gospel to them.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Right Place, Right Time ...

(... unless you're a pigeon.)

The overworked cliché* goes, “If you build it, they will come”. When it comes to The Lord’s Rain, there’s an element of truth to it, but something that’s even more important is, “if you build it … you will reach out”.
There was a sense that that was going to be the case, but it’s becoming more and more evident, the more the place becomes known and the more people come in who wouldn’t dream of setting foot in a “conventional” Christ-based Mission.

The opening this past Saturday was like that, although the way this latest example did not start out with any indication about the way it ended.

I’ve mentioned Axel, the street-tough-looking guy who has already been dropping his “street mask”. Lately, he’s had even more tragedies in his life: a sister died of an overdose, and his response – apart from telling me that he really hates God right now – has been to do even more self-destructive acts.

When his sister died, he came into The Lord’s Rain absolutely blasted on whatever drug du jour he had gotten his hands on. His sentences were totally disconnected, but the gist of it came through. (That particular day, most of the people coming into The Lord’s Rain were whacked-out on something, and getting a coherent sentence out of anybody was a challenge. Then I realized that the $100 “climate change dividend” cheques had arrived in the previous couple of days. Your tax dollars at work, folks: I haven’t done the required research to make a definitive statement, but you don’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize-winner to figure out what happened when an extra hundred clams reached people on the streets.)

Anyway, Axel and I have had a couple of serious and even quiet talks since then – including the day he told me he hated God. I quietly reminded him that God loves him, and is ready and waiting for him.

Then on Saturday (the 18th), Axel came in and announced, “I’m a pigeon killer”. He was carrying a pigeon. I remembered vaguely that he’d said something a week or so before, about having killed a pigeon. Now, here he was, walking into The Lord’s Rain carrying a live pigeon.

“No, you’re not,” I said. “Take that out of here and let it go.”

“I’m gonna kill it,” he said, as he left.

“No, you’re not – in Jesus’ Name.”

I went out after him, but he’d turned the corner in Pigeon Park. A moment later, he re-appeared, carrying the pigeon – now dead.

Ordinarily, my heart doesn’t bleed for pigeons. Indeed, a public health expert would probably tell you that they are rats with feathers. But in this case, it was a living member of God’s creation, and its life had been taken.

On the spot, I told Axel he was banned from The Lord’s Rain and Gospel Mission for 30 days. (That’s the penalty for breaking the House Rules – although I never really thought “no pigeon killing” would have to be a House Rule.)

The whole incident gnawed at me for much of the rest of the day. Initially, I was upset about the killing of the bird, but then I started questioning my own response. Axel is certainly messed-up: killing the pigeon was a crying-out of some sort; a demonstration that there was at least something he was able to control. For a time, I convinced myself that what I was hearing was the old bleeding-heart liberal rising up in me again, but the thoughts wouldn’t let me go. After all, Axel had been showing signs of being totally different away from The Street than he is when he’s in his “element”. I’d seen him drop the Street Mask, and I knew he was on the down-slope after his sister died. Duh! What to do?

Sunday morning, as I was starting a time of prayer and study, I got about five minutes into whatever I was reading and the Lord spoke to me. “Go downtown and find Axel.”

The message appeared to be that I was supposed to try to talk to him – or get him talking to me, at any rate. After all, I was one of the very few who didn’t tell him to **** off at first sight, and a recent time we’d met on the street, we high-fived and gave each other a “buddy hug”. He hung on me the nickname “Preacher-Man”, which might stick as a street name. If I condemned him, that might just make it worse.

So I headed down to Carrall Street, since that’s part of Axel’s turf.

I didn’t find him. I asked a couple of people, but they hadn’t seen him. I took a stroll around the block – past the Army and Navy, the pubs on Abbott Street, then down the alley beside the Mission. Nada.

As I looked over Pigeon Park again, I started asking the Lord to show me where Axel was and to give me an idea what I was doing there.

Then I saw Nicky. I hadn’t seen him before, and the way I knew his name was Nicky was that the people holding him up were calling him that. Nicky was unconscious on his feet, and two guys were walking him around the park trying to get him to wake up. Finally, they sat him down on a bench. Another guy came over to sit beside him, and I went over and started praying over him.

“Get him some water,” the guy said to me.

I ran to the Mission, and as I unlocked the door, I heard in the Spirit, “There’s your answer”.

I had, apparently, been called down to Pigeon Park at exactly that time to make sure this guy got prayer and water. Where else would he get either? I got two cups of cool water (hmm) and ran back. Horndog – an occasional visitor at The Lord’s Rain – came over. “Pastor’s here, Nicky,” he said. “Pastor wants you to drink the water.”

Horndog helped Nicky get the first cup down, then Nicky shook himself and grabbed the second cup himself. I prayed some more. Nicky started coming around, and Horndog went and got Nicky’s bike. Horndog walked the bike and the other fellow on the bench and I each took an arm and started walking Nicky. After maybe five steps, Nicky shook himself free and declared he could walk. Someone appeared with a cigarette and when I left them, they were lighting it.

Need one point out the connection between healing prayer and Nicky’s sudden recovery?

Again, The Lord’s Rain is in the right place at the right time. Incidents like this – or the time the young man came in with cracked vertebrae from a fall the night before – show how The Lord’s Rain is already way more than just four showers and a coffee-maker. It's a new
source relief from pain, trouble, the street itself. Gerry Wall at The Oasis near Duncan prophesied over Pastor Barry some years back that Gospel Mission would expand its influence and reach out to more people in the street, and this is a prime example. People might not come into the Mission for sermons and worship, but the everyday contact will show people, steadily and surely, who Jesus is and how much He loves them.

*I suppose a cliché is, by definition, overworked, isn’t it? That redundancy actually emphasizes just how hackneyed it is. Pity: WP Kinsella only wrote “Shoeless Joe” (the novel on which “Field of Dreams” was based) just over 20 years ago and already one of its memorable lines is considered hackneyed. Ah, modern media!

**Someone might wonder if we’re taking gambling money by accepting a donation from a 50/50 draw. We don’t receive government funding at Gospel Mission, and that’s one of the reasons: the money in question usually comes from gaming revenue, which is essentially stolen goods – money stolen from people who’ve been sold a bill of goods by the glamorization and heavy marketing of something that is a leading risk factor for crime, depression, suicide and broken homes. I could bore for Canada on how gambling is a cornucopia of Things That Displease God (based as it is in an abandonment of faith in God to provide one’s needs, along with lust, avarice and laziness). Some could argue that receiving a portion of gaming revenue that’s earmarked for charities is a case of “the wealth of the sinner (being) laid up for the just” (Prov. 13:22), but (a) that proverb doesn’t say how that wealth will be turned over to the just, and (b) the real sinners are the gaming operators and loan sharks: were they to suddenly repent, shut down their gaming operations and write off the loans, and then hand over all their assets to those doing the work of the Lord, that would be such a case. The more charitable organizations – including some churches, I understand – receive that money, the more governments will receive that as validation of their policy. On the other hand, I believe that people who buy 50/50 tickets are doing so to support the organization that’s selling the tickets, not to win the pot.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Christian environmental trump cards

In the past couple of months, I've started to get the idea that I sent A Very Convenient Truth to press too soon. The book came back from First Choice Books in January, and since then, two major issues came out that are only touched on in the book; the latest revelation from the Lord makes three.

The two major issues -- on which I've since blogged in this space -- are biofuel and the BC government's carbon tax.

When I wrote the book, the debate over biofuel and whether grain crops should be diverted from food uses to fuel production was just starting and governments -- like BC's -- hadn't begun mandating a biofuel component. Frankly, I can't think of any issue that has turned on its head so swiftly as this one: biofuel went from being the panacea into a leading cause of a worldwide food shortage.

The carbon tax hadn't even been thought of at that time. One could argue that, in writing about a current issue, if one waited until all the facts were in and all the stories told, nothing would get published. On the other hand, AVCT does discuss the "witchcraft" present in the environmental movement: the effort to modify people's behaviour and manipulate their minds. The carbon tax, being pitched to the people and embraced by the movement as a way to "force people to change their driving habits", falls into that category.

And this leads to this latest revelation from God: another trump card that Christians have for dealing with the environment. The first is repentance for having failed at The First Great Assignment -- have dominion over the earth ... be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:26, 28) -- as a way of re-committing to that assignment and getting back on track with God's program. This second one is found (hallelujah!) in Romans 12:2 ...

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.
Renewing one's mind happens with redemption and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. It's the Holy Spirit that changes us from the inside out. Real change cannot be imposed from the outside in -- just as people who are forced to go into treatment programs or whose rehab programs don't involve Christ often fall back once they've finished -- but has to come from within. With the Holy Spirit at work in one's life, one's entire DNA changes. The sinful behaviour of our previous life is scraped out and replaced with proper behaviour. It's a principle of recovering from sin in any other aspect of life -- sex, drugs, swearing, e.g. -- and that principle should apply to the "sin" of our having failed at the First Great Assignment.
(Sin is not just a matter of violating God's laws: sin is disobedience, and the premise of AVCT is that we've been disobeying God for the past few millennia by not managing His Creation the way He instructed us to.)
See, our mind-set does need to be changed. That mind-set is primarily self-centered and leads us to do things that are environmentally destructive. Maybe we're just too lazy to wash out tins and put them in the recycling, or separate out recyclable paper and compostables from regular garbage. Maybe we believe it's up to the government to provide the wherewithal to do it (the Town of Oak Bay, BC, for example, provides compost buckets that are then picked up with the rest of the trash*), and if the government won't, then there probably isn't a problem.
A couple of recent letters to the editor in some Metro Vancouver newspapers expose another area where our minds can stand to be renewed. They complain that public transportation "doesn't work for them" because it denies them their own "space" on the commute: no cupholders, no smoking allowed and you can't crank the stereo. Selfish, certainly not God-focused, and out of a mentality that refuses to accept responsibility. Unless the government does something -- and somebody else pays for it because I don't want my taxes to go up or fares to increase -- then I'm not going to be part of the solution (pout-pout).
(I could bore for Canada on how, when my family first moved to West Vancouver in 1962, there was no bus service. Eventually, we got a bus that went by every hour. Guess what we did? We made sure we were at the bus stop, waiting for the bus, by 12 minutes after the hour, or else we were hooped. And I remember dad and me having to cut out of more than a couple of ballgames at Nat Bailey (then Capilano) Stadium because we had to make the last bus. We didn't complain about inadequate bus service: we planned according to what was available.)
Attitudes like that have become ingrained in us as a species over centuries. It requires a Holy Ghost mind renewal to change it.
The other mind-set that needs renewing is to deny there's a problem. In part, that's a symptom of the presence of sin. But also, when we hear the shrill rhetoric and fear-mongering from environmentalists -- the Chicken-Little-on-steroids stuff -- we automatically switch off our brains. "Sod the price of gas," we say: "I'm going to use my vehicle anyway, and the Lord will provide, because I 'need' it." If you find yourself suddenly out of money because you're using so much gas, maybe the Lord doesn't agree that you "need" your vehicle as much as you think you do. Don't blame God for that: remember Psalm 127: Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
That's why it's so vitally important to expand your personal relationship with God to include environmental matters and to repent for your previous actions that failed to manage His creation properly. Walk in His ways, so He will take care of you and supply your needs according to His riches in glory (including the carbon tax and any other high prices). You'll find it much less confusing: rather than listen to your own conscience -- which can be seared and change to suit your ability to "handle" it -- or the pronouncements of some self-styled expert, you're taking your instructions from the Big Sir, Himself.
And praise God that the Holy Spirit is there to renew our minds when we ask Him to, so that we emerge from the mind-set that has led us to do things that damage creation. We've been laboring under this "me first" mind-set, while God calls on us to turn that into a "Him-first" mind-set.
Not "earth first".
Not "Mother Nature first".
Not "environment first".
Him first.
*'sfunny: I was just reminded of how government attitudes have changed: back in 1989, I contacted the City of Victoria to ask about getting a "blue box" for their new recycling program. I was put through to an answering machine. I'm still waiting for the call-back.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The behaviour-modification tax arrives

A new poll shows 59% of British Columbians are against the planned carbon tax, which kicked in today.

I am shocked and surprised.

I understand that another poll finds 80% of Canadians are in favor of free hot dogs and 90% support the east-west flow of the Fraser River.

If you've read earlier postings, you'll have seen that I'm against it, too -- although not necessarily for economic reasons. After all, with gasoline now over $1.50/litre, how much more damage can an additional 2.4 cents/litre make?

That's not really the point. Nor is the argument that the carbon tax shifts the burden away from income tax: when you're paying $30 for almost half a tank of gas (as I did yesterday in Cobble Hill, where prices are lower than in Vancouver), it's no comfort to know that you'll see a reduction in what you pay to the Province come next spring.

The point here is that this tax has been "sold" -- and embraced by the environmental movement -- from Day One as The Way To Change People's Behavior and force them to leave their cars at home. Behavior modification -- mind manipulation -- is witchcraft, and I believe that, even if the people protesting the carbon tax don't realize that in the natural realm, that's one of the intangible reasons behind their anger.

Putting it another way, it's one thing for the sheikhs of Farawabia to raise oil prices or for the greedy oil companies to be in collusion to keep prices high to line their own pockets; but here is our democratically elected Government Of The People, working with a particular interest group to manipulate the behavior of the general public -- basically forcing the world view of that interest group on everybody else.

In A Very Convenient Truth, I point out that witchcraft is one of Satan's Hot Hits -- a sign that he has his hands all over the dialogue on the environment and that God has basically been left out of the discussion. This was written before the carbon tax came in, but it was evident even then that the environmental movement considered it was perfectly OK to use various techniques to manipulate people's behavior and impose its own world view on others, because the overall goal was to protect Mother Earth.

Jesus Christ didn't manipulate people to follow Him. God always gives us freedom of choice -- life and blessing or death and cursing -- and while He makes it clear what He wants us to choose, He never takes that freedom from us. If the Creator of the Universe and His Son are not going to impose Their world view on us, why should we, who are no better than our brothers and sisters, attempt to do it?

What's a Christian to do? Refuse to be manipulated. Refuse to allow such actions to get in the way of serving the Lord. "Serving the Lord" doesn't have to mean "doing things for the church", but simply pursuing the activities for which He has given you specific gifts. Trust that the Lord will provide what you need, no matter what the price of gasoline or anything else might be. You may need to cut back in other areas, but remember that God always calls us to be circumspect in all things. Remember to count the cost, as Jesus said (Luke 14:28), and make sure the environmental cost is part of the equation; but remember that it is only a part of the equation -- not the deal-breaker. Re-commit to staying close to God in everything you do, and trust that He will take care of the worldly things as we keep seeking Him.

A Christian If Necessary?

In the US election campaign, we are finally seeing Sen. Barack Obama become pro-active about his faith. For much of the past year, a lot has been made of the fact that he has Muslim connections through his family (including the fact that his middle name is "Hussein"), and the Religious Right has been making hay out of suggesting he's Not Really Christian.

Krissah Williams' blog in the Washington Post shows the issue has finally come to a head, with Dr James Dobson of Focus On The Family taking Obama to task for his attitude towards faith and politics.

Simply put (and Williams' blog contains links to both statements in question), the argument goes like this: Obama is a Christian, but does not believe that should factor into decisions he takes and legislations he supports in public office because that would be "imposing his religion on others"; Dobson says that means Obama would abandon his principles for the sake of not offending other people's rights to freedom of worship, and calls that a "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution". Obama points out that Godly faith is a powerful instrument of change and that the Bible has been the guiding principle for great Americans over the centuries, but that he realized (at the time the speech was made in 2006) that he was elected to be the Senator from Illinois, and not the Minister from Illinois.

While that's a rousing bit of rhetoric, it's really claptrap (claptrap: n. a statement or action on stage having little substance, but with the effect of bringing applause from the audience). The great Americans Obama refers to -- like Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln -- were leaders who did not compromise their beliefs for the sake of consensus or popularity. More importantly, they were leaders. That's the essential difference between a president and a senator: a senator is expected to represent the people; a president is expected to take the reins and drive the wagon. Like it or not, that's what leadership is about. For all the portrayal of President Bush as a buffoon, his contention that history will vindicate his decisions says that, for better or for worse, he's willing to live with having to be a leader.

(It's worth remembering that, as World War 2 was brewing in Europe, the British people didn't have the stomach for war: neither did the American people at the time of Pearl Harbor; Churchill and Roosevelt -- their leaders -- had to take that tough decision, which has since been vindicated by history.)

To Obama's credit, he says "we don't read our Bibles enough". I agree totally. If more people read their Bibles, we wouldn't have cults, Jonestown Massacres or polygamist communes hunkered down behind razor wire. He also does not say, "Christians should read their Bibles, Muslims should read their Qu'rans, Mormons should read their Book of Mormon, Buddhists should rub the Buddha's tummy more often and atheists should read the funny papers". He specifically and solely mentions Bibles.

So while only God is the judge of whether Barack Obama -- or anyone else, for that matter -- is a Christian, the question arises: is Obama a Christian if necessary, but not necessarily a Christian?

While I can live with Obama's view of the Bible as being an instrument of positive change in society, the idea that one has to check one's faith at the door when reporting for work as an elected leader is, if not "fruitcake", definitely a sign of someone who may not be ready to lead. Because at the end of the day, the president is the one who gets elected, not the committees, consultation panels and top advisors, so it's the president who ultimately has to wear the decision: and he'd better be ready to show the moral basis on which he makes his decisions.

The fact remains that, as the country song goes, "you've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything."

O Canada!

Happy Dominion Day!

Sorry, but I still call it "Dominion Day", partly because it harkens back to our Christian heritage of the Lord having Dominion over the land from sea to sea (to sea), and partly because "Canada Day" sounds ... well ... chintzy. It also sounds like a federal government agency.

Anyway, today is a day to celebrate the country, and as far as I'm concerned, there's plenty to celebrate. Sure, we have our faults (smug self-righteous comparisons with the US being front and centre), but there are a lot of things that make this country pretty neat.

  • Canadian football. Bigger field, fewer downs, more players, more opportunity for smaller guys to succeed, harsher weather conditions (speaking as one who has sat in blazing heat at one game at Taylor Field in Regina and then, later that same season, biting cold); it's a game that we need to preserve(although (att'n Sen Campbell) not through legislation to block the NFL from playing games in Toronto), not because it's "tradition" or "Canadiana", because I believe it's a superior game to the American version.
  • Box lacrosse. One of Canada's great exports, judging by the response to the NLL in the US.
  • small-town hockey
  • Canadian beer. My beer drinking averages lses than two glasses per month, but when I do have a beer, since I enjoy the taste and don't drink it to "have a good time", it's likely Labatt's Blue, Molson Canadian or a local microbrew like Granville Island Lager. The poncy, high-priced European brands leave me cold and US beers, to quote Mike Royko, all taste like they were brewed through the same horse.
  • "History Bites" (esp. the guy who "does" Don Cherry, and I'm thinking in particular about his rant that Baggattaway was a great game until the Europeans took it over and started calling it "lacrosse")
  • Red Green ... the early episodes ... Graham Greene as the explosives expert whose clothes are constantly smouldering ... Gordon Pinsent as the compulsive liar ... and the Great Canadian Salutation: "keep your stick on the ice!"
  • The Guess Who -- individually and collectively (and keep praying for Jim Kale!).
  • Tom Cochrane (with or without Red Ryder), Gordon Lightfoot, Murray McLachlan, Ian Thomas, Oscar Peterson, Doug and the Slugs, Trooper
  • Loverboy. Not.
  • Rene Simard. My first TV gig as a writer and dialogue coach: I'll never forget the slight thrill of walking into the music studio at CBC while Rene was recording some of his tracks, and hearing him break off to say, "'ow are you, Drew, my frien'?". Also learned about The Great Divide in our own culture, when I had to explain to him who Wayne and Shuster were (recurring line in the show: "What did you expect here? Wayne and Shuster?").
  • Wayne and Shuster.
  • The Mackenzie Brothers.
  • The Ferguson Brothers. "How To Be A Canadian (Even If You Already Are One)" should be required reading for anyone living in this country.
  • Raymond Massey -- especially for his portrayal of an AWOL RCAF officer as a real "Holy Mackinaw!" hoser in that ghastly WW2 flick, "49th Parallel". Someone evidently said, "Ray, can you play a Canadian?", and Ray went to town. A good reason not to turn off the movie in disgust after Laurence Olivier's portrayal of a French-Canadian trapper.
  • Dorothy Davies. Earned her "Starwalk" spot on Granville Street -- and a passel of other honors -- by staying in Canada and not going to the US, which she could have done. Notable by-products of this: many next-generation actors who were influenced by her teaching or just being in the same cast with her; me.
  • Vimy
  • Sacrifices at Dieppe and Hongkong (back when the brasshats had this idea that Canadian soldiers were expendable)
  • my uncle, pulling a couple of extra missions in WW2 when he was supposed to be going home -- and getting shot down and killed
  • taking Normandy
  • our crack forces in Afghanistan: after hearing years of criticism from politicians that our forces were out of shape and under-supplied, I still remember the reaction of "where did we get these guys?" when the first reports of their taking out Taliban locations reached home. Nothing shuts up your critics like success.
  • Newfie jokes. Probably the last ethnic group we can make fun of in these PC days. Thank God for their sense of humour!
  • Winter. The Great Canadian Equalizer. In no other country can people from any area share a winter/snow story. Whether you live in Victoria or Iqaluit or Toronto or St John's, you have a story about "that winter when ...". It might be the unimaginably long dark periods in the far north ... or the time Victoria was paralyzed by a blizzard ... or square wheels in Winnipeg ... or playing hockey on a pond with new skates on Christmas morning ... or the time my dad and his sisters huddled under a blanket in their horse cart and Old Prince found his way home safely through a blinding Saskatchewan blizzard ... Minnesotans and Floridians can't share that kind of talk, nor can people from Maine discuss it with those in San Diego.
  • Our National Anthem, as sung by:
  • Roger Doucet (I didn't know this, but just prior to the 1972 Canada-USSR hockey series, he learned that "Stalinist" lyrics to the Soviet National Anthem had been excised by the current regime; so he got a professor at McGill to do some research and come up with something for him to sing. The result was officially adopted by Moscow a few years later.)
  • Sarah Cambidge (a girl who came to sing the anthem for the Surrey Stickmen lacrosse team back in 2004: at the time, 14-year-old a redhead with braces on her teeth, which we saw frequently because she smiles and laughs a lot ... and who unleashed this incredible operatic soprano on the great somewhat-less-than-washed at North Surrey Rec Centre. She's now studying on a music scholarship at Denver University).
  • Richard Loney (for many years with the Vancouver Canucks)
  • The US Navy Band (!).
  • Any group of happy, boisterous young people on any particular occasion, probably intoduced in the previous half-hour, their arms around one another's shoulders, belting it out (probably off-key) with sheer jubilation.

Happy about being a Canadian yet? As you hear in church sometimes, I'm preachin' myself happy here!

Praying for Morgentaler

In the next day or so, we'll find out whether Dr Henry Morgentaler will be named to the Order of Canada. It was one of those things this reporter had thought was dead and buried when a survey in The Globe and Mail found 92% of over 300,000 respondents were firmly against the idea. But an email bulletin from 4 My Canada brought word that there had been a procedural "end run" around the fact that the selection committee was not unanimous on the decision (that's a requirement, apparently) to present the abortionist with the highest civilian honour in Canada after all.

Reaction has been predictable, and traffic on Douglas Farrow's blog in the National Post has brought some heated discussion (much of it bringing out the worst in people, I see), and that's probably one of the biggest reason why we should put aside the notion once and for all. Reading through the list of Order of Canada honorees, I can't find anyone who has championed a cause that has divided the country as sharply as abortion has (indeed, it's hard to find any more divisive issue in Canada, unless it's same-sex marriage, and we know how close that vote was in Parliament). The people on that list -- Ofra Harnoy, Bryan Adams, Jack and Doris Shadbolt, George Clutesi, Tom Berger, Frank Mahovlich, Jean Beliveau, Ed Mirvish, et al -- are people who still make you feel pretty darn good about being Canadian. You may not agree with the politics of Ernest Manning, Grace McCarthy, Ken Georgetti or David Suzuki, but they are people who have helped define Canada at home and around the world.

Ironically, a name that leaps out at me from the list is the late Morris Shumiatcher. Not simply a brilliant human rights lawyer, he was an eloquent opponent of abortion. Indeed, during my pre-Saved days as a broadcaster in Regina, we talked a couple of times on the issue, and he almost had me converted. But I sat quietly after the interview and allowed the secular humanist pablum to ooze back into my being.

There's a list of reasons why Morgentaler shouldn't get this. In no particular order:
  • the divisiveness of the issue (which I mentioned)
  • the fact that this issue has perverted the cause of women's rights. Pay equity, equal opportunity, eradicating other forms of discrimination, renewing our minds to eliminate sexually-offensive behaviour: are all things our society needed to deal with. How on EARTH did "killing pre-born babies" work its way onto that list? I know how that happened: while socially-conservative religious types were busy trying to get their heads around, fend off or even discuss rationally without a knee-jerk reaction either way, the first items on the list, Satan slipped in and, in the spirit realm, got the feminists to agree to a deal; he'd get them the secular support they needed if they'd buy into the "woman's right to choose" BS.
  • the abortion issue has been a touchstone for a broader problem: "my right" has replaced "what's right" in the social agenda. Whether it's sexuality, drugs, welfare, native issues or sneaking into the country, if anyone has the temerity to point out that something isn't right, they're immediately trumped by the claim that it's a person's right. As you can see from, say, a walk through either the Downtown East Side or Davie Street, or listening to the conversation of high school-age children, our society has really benefitted from this attitude.
  • Not.
  • as Christians, we have a duty to pray that Morgentaler does not receive the award, and I don't mean because it will be national endorsement of abortion. Word has it that Morgentaler doesn't have long to live, and if he is honored by the country, he will take that as personal vindication. As Christians, we can't let anyone fall into the hands of the enemy, and have to remember that our duty is to pray for the Salvation of everybody. Check out Matt. 18:14, to see what I mean. But there is no salvation without revelation, and if Morgentaler believes he is vindicated, it could put up the final barrier between himself and that revelation.

On further review, we need to be praying for that revelation, regardless of whether he gets the Order of Canada or not. If he doesn't get it, he could likely blame "those &*%$#*! Christians" for denying him this honor, thereby throwing up a barrier anyway. But if he gets revelation, he would well use the renewed publicity to make a public repentance and apologize to the unborn and their mothers. That could be a greater contribution to Canadian society than all the hundreds of OC honorees put together.