The Cultural Imperative

I sincerely believe that Canadians are entering a very critical hour in regards to their emergence as a nation among nations. Though there appear to be signs of good days ahead, I still carry deep concerns as to the prevailing values that govern our future.

Many believe that the Church has been asleep while values and principles have slowly crept into some of the highest places of governance in the nation. Some believe the Church has suffered from a spiritual stupor that has left them politically impotent and, according to the polls, basically irrelevant to Canada’s future.

I believe that stupor has been caused by a faulty theology preached from Canadian pulpits. Generations of Christians have been put to sleep in the pew by those who have bought into an impotent gospel.

Many Christians have acted as though “separation of Church and state” really meant the “separation of righteousness and nation.” The early Confederation Fathers believed that Biblical principles formed the foundation for righteousness in the nation. Separate a people from God’s righteousness, and a nation loses perspective on justice.

Many Christians have acted as though “political institutions, processes and parties were evil in and of themselves,” when, in reality, the evil resides in men, and therefore, needs to be erased with the power of public veto, the vote of its citizenry.

Many Christians have acted as though “Canada’s future is decided by the majority,” when, in reality, on average 16.5% of its voters select and elect its future leadership. Think about it carefully: one controls the future of six in our country.

Many Christians have acted as though “whatever is legal must be moral” when, in reality, the only good law worth obeying is a godly law! Henry David Thoreau said, “It is not so desirable to cultivate a respect for the law so much as for the right!”

National government is legitimate. Power may corrupt people but it does not mean that power itself is corrupt. God is the Source and Originating point for the release of the principle of authority in the earth. His authority works through people who empower institutions which rule and govern (Rom 13:1). We need to pray for all in authority.

Society is shaped by ideas, both for good and evil. Ideas become philosophies that develop mind sets or strongholds in a nation.

People in leadership form society by creating structures, laws and programs which influence the way people live. This is what we call government, and our vote empowers leaders to create a government after their own values and convictions.

There are those who say that faith and politics should not mix. However, John Calvin called political involvement by the Church “the cultural imperative,” meaning that Christians are responsible to work for righteousness in government. He considered it a crime against the state for moral men not to stand up for righteousness.

Laws are not neutral. Morality is legislated. Every law is built on a view of life. He believed that to avoid the political process does not add to one’s holiness, it impeded the force of righteousness from lighting the way for a nation.

Who knows if we are not heading toward the emergence of righteousness as a force for change in our nation? Who knows if a radically righteous breed of politicians will not be invited to lead the nation Canada will become tomorrow? What is critical is that the Church wakes up from its spiritual slumber!

 

A Word about National Elections

“God-devotion makes a country strong; God-avoidance leaves people weak” (Pr 14:34, The Message). Statements like this cause me to want to read the Bible! Why? Because it speaks the truth I believe in my heart.

I am convinced that a ruling political leadership, through their integrity and righteousness, creates a safe place for people to raise their children, or, they, through their sin – their law of God breaking – create a reproach that diminish and shame a nation.

When it comes to elections time so many Canadians make the entire process an issue of personality when, in reality, it goes much deeper. Elections have to do with philosophical, and thus, moral and spiritual differences. It is at election time that I feel so strongly that Canada is weighed in the balance: generally, Canadians are weighed in the balance; but more specifically, the Canadian Church and Christians are weighed in the balance!

Elections tend to be historic pivot points. They tend to be hinges for the doors of destiny to swing upon. They are a quick look into the soul and conscience of a nation. They expose the roots of real belief systems and what Canadians truly value.

As Henry Thoreau, the civil libertarian stated, “…a man has not everything to do, but something; and because he cannot do everything, it is necessary that he not adopt the attitude that he can do nothing…Cast your whole vote entirely, not a strip of paper merely, but cast your whole influence.”

Every four years Canadians, all across our beloved country, come together and leave their legacy. The next four years empower leaders to live out the beliefs, values and ultimately, the national destiny entrusted to their creation. A Prime Minister is selected, a party appointed, and a national vision is affirmed by the populace. We could wind up living someone’s dream or entering their nightmare.

Election time, like no other time, touches us where few want to be touched: it touches the place of personal responsibility. We (corporately) get the kind of leaders we empower to lead us through our vote, and incredibly, we will get the kind of leaders we deserve. We are ultimately personally responsible for our choices.

Incredibly, fewer people are showing up at the polls. And, what concerns me most is the lethargic attitude existing in the younger generation, many of whom have still to cast their first vote. On top of that, less and less Christians are moving themselves from the couch to the booth.

I personally believe that voting – getting involved in the political process – is a moral obligation. It is a Christian responsibility. Our “yes” must be “yes, and our “no” be “no.” It’s time to stand up or stand aside.

Bob Dylan wrote a song, “When You Going To Wake Up,” from his album, Slow Train Coming. The verses speak authoritatively to our society’s situation today: “Adulterers in churches and pornography in the schools. You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules. When you going to wake up, when you going to wake up, when you going to wake up and strengthen the things that remain?”

Consider this to be a wake up call. Don’t turn over and hit the snooze button. You will have generations to answer to if you don’t wake up, get up, and get out to vote.

 

Castanet Article
Thursday, November 9th, 2007
Oh! Canada! Column

Is Praying Publicly Going to be Illegal in Canada?

All of us know that our neighbors to the south, though deeply religious in nature, seem to be a bit bipolar in their spirituality. I received an e-mail this week about a statement read by Principal Jody McLeod at the Roane County High School football game in Kingston, Tennessee.

The most recent Supreme Court ruling prohibited her saying a prayer, stating that doing so was a violation of Federal Case Law. It had been the school’s custom to say a prayer and play the National Anthem, to honor God and country.

She stated her understanding at the time was that she could “use the public facility to approve of sexual perversion and call it ‘an alternative lifestyle,’ and if someone was offended, that was okay.” Again, her understanding was that she could designate a school day “as ‘Earth Day,’ involve students in activities to worship religiously and praise the goddess ‘Mother Earth.’” If someone was offended, it was okay.

However, “if she used the facility to honor God and to ask Him to bless the event with safety and good sportsmanship,” then Federal Case Law would be violated. It was not okay if someone was offended.

To her credit she refrained from praying, and simply said, “If you feel inspired to honor, praise, and thank God, and ask Him to bless this event, please feel free to do so. As far as I know, that’s not against the law—yet.”

The article went on to say that one by one, people in the stands bowed their heads, held hands with each other, and began to pray. This happened in the team huddles, at the concession stands, and even in the Announcer’s Box! The story was inspiring.

Hats off to a gutsy and intelligent lady! If I ever go to war, I want her on my side. I love people who carry the conviction of faith. We need more Christians standing up for their right to exercise their faith freely. I sincerely believe that government needs to watch carefully its assault on religious rights.

But, what does this have to do with Canada? Well, it so happens that religious persecution is hitting above the 49th parallel: praying before decisions in city hall has been adjudicated, singing Christian songs in a public venue has been challenged, etc.

Ralph Reed of Christian Coalition stated that “Americans are being denied the right to express their religious speech in the public square.” I see increasing signs of this same thinking in our beloved nation of Canada.

My understanding of freedom of religion in Canada is that it was never intended to be freedom from religion. However, this freedom must be valued and contended for.

 

Castanet Article
Thursday, October 25th, 2007
Oh! Canada! Column

Hypocrisis?

I know it may seem that I just invented a new word – that wouldn’t be a first for me. Maybe somebody better let UrbanDictionary.com know. However, let me say that hypocrisis is actually a word, but its roots are not English or Germanic It originates from Late Latin usage, meaning “to play-act, pretend,” or “to play a part.”

The English version is the word hypocrite, meaning “to pretend to have a virtuous character, moral or religious belief or principle that one does not really possess.” It appears that there is a lot of that going on today, and hypocrisis does not appear to be the sole possession of The Canadian Actors guild. It appears that hypocrisy is a crisis affecting many people from all walks of life.

Hypocrisy is everywhere. The Church is facing it in its ranks. Sports heroes are infected with it. Political leaders are reeling. Hollywood can’t hide the damage inflicted when people try to keep up appearances. And, we can’t pretend that it is going to go away with a flick of a switch. People don’t just turn on integrity: you either have it, or you don’t.

If you don’t, and you want others to think you do, you wind up play acting, living a life of pretense, and sooner rather than later, the lie becomes hard to separate from the truth: people begin to live out the lie as a lifestyle. The sense evolution behind the word hypocrisis is that people begin to “separate gradually” from reality and start to “play a part.”

I believe that our culture is in crisis. It is difficult to find people who are worthy of our trust. Integrity appears to be in short supply. A person of integrity “steadfastly adheres to a strict moral or ethical code,” and over the long haul, that integrity or moral soundness is demonstrated in their life.

People of integrity are undivided: they are not two-faced; they do not play a part. Who they are on the inside and what you see on the outside are the same. Their judgment in the light is unimpaired by any inner darkness. They don’t have to act – they simply are who they are.

I have been a pastor for close to 35 years. I have heard it said that church is filled with hypocrites, that Christians are a bunch of hypocrites. Well, it’s true: I have to agree. However, hypocrisy is a church problem because it is a human problem.

I would be the first to admit my own struggle with hypocrisy. Every one of us has the daily task of closing the gap between what we know and how we live. I just happen to think that there are “honest hypocrites” who admit their personal need for help and realignment, and “dishonest hypocrites” who deny they have a problem.

I am constantly amazed at the willingness of Christians to go to church, week after week, and let someone confront their hypocrisy. I hang out with these people because we are trying together, with God’s help, to close the gap between confession and profession. I honor them as they face integrity audits within the context of relational and corporate accountability.

What really matters is the hypocrisis in our own lives. Live in pretense too long and you will gradually separate yourself from reality and start to live a lie too. One day, if it is not dealt with, it may be your undoing, whether in a private or public setting.

 

Castanet Article
October 11th, 2007
Oh! Canada! Column

Trading Success For Significance?

On our way home from holidays a few years ago, my wife picked up the latest Horizon Air magazine. There was an article on page 3, written by Bill Ayer, Chairman of Alaska Air Group, entitled Farewell, Bruce. After reading it, she passed it on to me.

Jeff Pinneo, President and CEO of Alaska Airlines stated that on June 28th, Bruce R. Kennedy, a former CEO, who had spent 40 years of “extraordinary leadership and service” for Alaska Airlines, died when his Cessna 182 crashed near Cashmere, Washington.

Jeff expressed that Bruce was a man of deep character, and that the wise counsel and powerful example that flowed from that character into the organization would be missed. Bill stated that Bruce’s “caring, integrity, resourcefulness, spirit and professionalism were part of [his] essence long before [Alaska Airlines] adopted them as their formal values.”

While reading the article, I was impressed that this man’s character – who this man was on the inside – had influenced and impacted an entire airline culture that will continue affecting others long after his passing.

A Seattle Times reporter, interviewing Bruce after retiring in 1991, quoted Bruce as saying, it is time to trade “success for significance.” From that point on, Bruce devoted himself to Christian missionary work overseas and humanitarian efforts.

He and his wife traveled to China to teach English with the Christian group Educational Services International, and they volunteered with World Relief and sheltered dozens of refugee families in their home.

Quite a choice, eh – success or significance? Undoubtedly, our North American culture is success driven. Usually, success is seen through material eyes – ie. what car I drive, the house I live in, who I associate with, how much money I have in the bank, being on the Who’s Who list, etc. The Bible calls the man who builds bigger barns to house his wealth a “fool,” for what happens to his wealth when his soul is required of him? Jesus said, “What profit is there if a man gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” There are too few people in this world who understand true riches, or who are in touch with the state of their soul.

 

Bruce Kennedy caught sight of something that most people are blind to. He understood the difference between success and significance. One man said that there will be no success without a successor. Unless one is living their life in such a way as to leave a legacy to another generation, there will be no significance in life. Success is often uni-generational. Unless the “values, vision and mission” are multi-generational in nature, no significance will be left behind.

Values give you character, vision gives you direction, and mission gives you purpose. Einstein wrote, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather, try to become a man of value.”

Where do you connect with values that will leave a legacy of significance? It appears to me, from everything I have read, that Bruce’s values were clearly rooted into a personal experience with God. Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, who he was because of his relationship to God, became the most important thing he desired to leave behind.

Bill Ayer stated that the “little airline that could has flown into significance.” However, that significance was not because of better planes, or because of better trained pilots, but because of better people who carry the legacy of values and character into the next generation.

 

Castanet Article
Thursday August 23rd, 2007
Oh! Canada! Column

Canada in an Identity Crisis?

I am grateful to be Canadian, to live in a country that values the individual, no matter the race or religion, and protects freedom of expression. I have visited nations from every continent and realize that Canada is a special place. I am not unaware of the fact that in many countries I would not have the opportunity to write articles as I do, addressing issues every week.

For Canada to remain “strong and free” Canadians must take their duty to “stand on guard” seriously. There are two ways a nation can fail and fall: one is through an external power – conquered from without; and, the other is through an internal weakness – collapse from within.

I see Canada embroiled in a war of ideas. Canada is still in a search to define itself. As such, it is open to entertaining new ideas, adopting them and integrating them into our society. Those ideas need to be challenged, for that openness can be a wonderful strength or a profound weakness. The effect of an idea gone wrong can be devastating.

I see Canada as in the early stages of its national development, and my observation is that Canada is imitating the habits of teenagers. Those of us who are parents can identify with that challenging time as teens attempt to transition into adulthood. It is not an easy thing to watch or be a part of. The maturing process can be painfully slow, and often brings out the best or the beast in them.

Canada, in its national adolescence, seems to be attracted to the idea of difference for difference sake. It seems to know more of what it is against than it knows what it is for, and has built its identity around a reaction to what it does not want to be. There have been numerous books written on the identity crisis Canada suffers living next to Big Brother USA. We often take positions against the American mind set just to express our right to create the Canadian difference.

I have seen my nation’s struggle to be viewed as a global leader propel them to be early adopters of new ideas and take on positions that defy common sense. Is our corporate identity enhanced in some way by demonstrating our right to march to the beat of our own drum? Are we somehow strengthened in our national image by disagreeing with the ancient wisdom? Has being an early adopter helped or hurt our international image? Or, are we having an adolescent spasm?

To use a statement from Natalia Mordy’s column on Eco-Friendly Living, my aim is not to be mainstream minded either. As she said, “last time I checked, the stream wasn’t too healthy.” I concur. Canada should not define itself by comparison or competition with other nations in the world. There is an historical wisdom we can tap into for decision-making. There is an internal grid called conscience. There is a law written upon the hearts of the generations of the nations that we all must read.

Canada is vulnerable as it strains to emerge into adulthood and maturity as a nation. Its identity is still in the making. What will Canada eventually look like? What will its core beliefs and values be? What will it eventually grow up to become? How will it be seen by its global neighbours?

The key to the formation of this new identity will be the ideas Canada adopts as its own. Those ideas will form its future. Those ideas will attract visitors. Those ideas will create a DNA for generations as they will be read in our legislatures, taught in our schools and universities, applied in the marketplace, and integrated into our homes and family values.

The future identity of Canada will be forged in the ideas of today. They need to be challenged from passionate Canadians. A confluence of compassion and reason need to come together to ensure that the destiny of our great land and its people is protected. May God keep this land glorious and free!

Castanet Article
Thursday August 16th, 2007
Oh! Canada! Column

20,000 Ghosts

 

We are Canadians. This is our nation. We have been called to “stand on guard” for our country. To stand on guard requires that we be personally aware of the very real, clear and present danger facing our country. I submit to you that Canada is under siege, not from without, from some foreign power, but from within.

What I am referring to is an invasion of ideas. Napoleon said that ideas were more powerful than armies. Armies come and go, but ideas can lie embedded in a society for centuries, influencing a nation’s culture, affecting the thinking and activity of generations, and touching their very soul and conscience. Good ideas strengthen a people: erroneous ideas, unchallenged and tolerated, weaken a citizenry.

I had the privilege of seeing the movie, Amazing Grace when it first hit the theatre, the true story of one of the 18th Century’s greatest heroes, William Wilberforce.

The movie’s title comes from a hymn sung in many of our churches, penned by John Newton. He was the son of a sea captain, pressed into naval service at an early age. He deserted, was recaptured, and then flogged for his efforts. At his own request, John was placed into service in a slave trip, which took him to Sierra Leone, on the Windward Coast of Africa.

On a homeward voyage, in the midst of a violent storm, he cried out to God for mercy, and “grace led him home.” Though truly converted, he continued in the slave trade, until he was overwhelmed by a conviction about the evilness of the idea of trading in people’s souls. It was detailed in his pamphlet, Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade.

In it he wrote about the need to suppress the trafficking in human souls with the hope that the “stain on the national character would be wiped out” (pg1). He affirmed that he would have quit sooner, had [he] considered it, “unlawful and wrong” (pg 4). He went on to say that “the Righteous Lord loves righteousness, and He has engaged us to plead the cause, and vindicate the wrongs, of the oppressed. It is righteousness that exalts a nation; and wickedness is the present reproach, and will, sooner or later, unless repentance intervenes, prove the ruin of any people (pg 6).”

He started to speak out about what the acceptance of a faulty idea had cost the Empire. The Slave Trade had created a moral critical mass. Everyone was marked by its evil, and few were standing against its abuses. He pointed to the loss of the soul of England’s sons who were hardened by the inhumanity to humanity, the curse of fever which took both black and white’s lives, the affect on the minds of those involved in the trade, the unmerciful whippings, torture, crying babies being thrown overboard, men stacked like books on a shelf.

In the movie he speaks of the 20,000 ghosts that haunted his soul. They were men, women and children who died trying to make the nine month journey. Statistics estimate that close to 100,000 blacks, both slave and free, were bought and sold annually, that more than 20% died enroute, and those who survived passage seldom lived beyond nine years in captivity.

John joined the Abolitionists, and was influential in convincing a young man, William Wilberforce to remain in politics and “serve God where he was.” Wilberforce spent decades in Parliament fighting a “bad idea” that had gripped the soul and economy of a nation.

It wasn’t extracted easily from the consciousness of England. Men defended it for years: “if we do not do it, the French will glean the profits from it;” “shutting it down will affect the port economy and be a hardship to its people.” The justifications for a “bad idea” were numerous. For years the nation and its citizenry bought into it, drowning out this young man’s voice.

Finally, after impassioned speech after speech, using common sense, force of reason and political wit, truth won out. It was agreed that the trade was “contrary to the principles of justice, humanity and sound policy.” The Slave Trade Act, after twenty years of debate, received royal assent on 25 March 1807. A new idea won out, and has prevailed since that day.

What happens when good men say nothing about bad ideas? What occurs when good ideas are silenced by evil ones? What happens to the soul of a nation? What affect does it have on the corporate conscience of a generation? What legacy is left to its most innocent of citizens, its children? The question begs asking, “Would you have been an Abolitionist in Newton and Wilberforce’s England?”

Let’s make sure that 20,000 ghosts do not haunt our lives, as they did John Newton. Let’s get ready to stand on guard for Canada as we start to expose some bad ideas that desire to invade our corporate consciousness, and ultimately become part of our nation’s DNA.

 

Castanet Article
Thursday 19th, 2007
Oh! Canada! Column