Canadian Policies Flow from Personal Values

The issues facing Canada today are as varied as the Canadian mosaic. It appears that what is most important is determined by the eye of the beholder. Issues emerge and grow based upon gender, age, geographical locations, language group, or social status.

Canada is a very complex society. It is large in land mass, but it is small in population. Its needs are great, but its tax base is lacking. It requires a huge infra-structure and support network to function, and we are feeling the strains on almost every level as we attempt to keep growing within the global family of nations.

For some, the economic issues are most important – how do we protect jobs, preserve the value of our savings, deal with debt, and maintain our pensioner’s future. For some, the social needs are the most important – taking care of the elderly, providing for the poor, creating options for the unemployed.

All of our government leaders – whether they are municipal, provincial or federal – need our prayers. It’s a big job, and it requires the Wisdom of Solomon to run this nation. It is no easy assignment, and as I listened to the national debates, there appears to be a wide diversity of opinion among the parties as to how this nation should be governed.

I have experienced the challenge of learning how to budget a household on thousands of dollars. In recent years I have gained experience in learning how to steward the resources of millions. However, our leaders need to know how to distribute Canada’s wealth – billions – to the right people at the right time.

What guides this distribution of wealth? Do special interest groups? Does corporate money control it? Are lobbyists the central force? Is it media driven? Is it polls and public pressure that directs our money? What about unions? Or, is it the proverbial squeaky wheel that gets the grease?

If leadership does not have an internal compass or a guiding light, these external pressures can make governance unbelievably difficult. We are seeing devastation in the financial institutions because leaders lost sight of the line between right and wrong, profit and greed, stewardship and irresponsibility.

Policies and procedures always flow from values. Values find their strength and clarity in belief systems. Beliefs are either rooted into a fear of the Lord – righteousness, or they are built upon humanism – self-righteousness. What matters most about Canada right now is the state of its heart.

From my perspective, the real issues facing our nation right now are moral, not economic or social. The leadership Canada needs must come from a moral center. If we elect a government that is morally weak, our nation will ultimately create policies and programs that will diminish our citizenry and jeopardize our future. If we elect a government that is morally strong, the nation will be blessed and the people will be strengthened.

Parliament had some critical decisions to make. Bill C-26 cracked down on drug dealing with mandatory sentences. Bill C-214 was an act that tried to prevent the use of the Internet to distribute pornographic material involving children. Bill C-338 had to do with making abortion illegal after 20 weeks. Bill C-562 attempts to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Senate was no different. Canada has been targeted by the international community as a “source, transit and destination country” for human trafficking. S-218 was a bill designed to stop the global slave trade and help victims who were brought here for prostitution, forced labor, or removal of organs. S-209 tries to affect changes to the Criminal Code making spanking or restraining a child forcibly a criminal offense.

These leadership issues require the clear conscience of moral men and women. What training have these men and women got when it comes to making moral decisions? This is the real stuff and substance of political life. Bills passed on either of these floors will affect people and the destiny of generations forever.

God said, “Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance, and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs – or issues – of life” (Proverbs 4:23). If we are standing guard over Canada right now, our first and foremost concern ought to be to guard over its heart – its moral center.

Maybe One Voice is Enough to Change Canada

Four hundred and eighty-nine years ago, on All Hallows’ Eve, a German monk named Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, ushering in what became to be known as The Reformation. These “theses” were not attacks on the Church but a call for repentance, a hearty turning back to Biblical principles of living based upon faith, mercy and justice.

Luther’s intent was not to create a new denomination or to start a religious revolution. He was calling for revival, for a restoration of righteousness, and a rededication of the German society to a way of life that would ultimately strengthen their culture. And, for a while, it did.

Unfortunately, today less than 3% of Germany acknowledges the truth of the “reformation” that began in their back yard. Wittenberg has become a place for tourists, a sort of sightsee point of interest for religious travelers. The Reformation is now embedded in the past, not in the heart, in stone and not in flesh, on paper and not in people.

Well, where are the modern Martin Luthers? Where have the Elijahs gone? Where is the prophetic voice that demands a heart response of change from a nation of people? Where are the reformers who hold up a holy light in a dark present?

Did you know that the twentieth century has been the bloodiest in modern history, maybe of all human history? Our “modern culture” has not evolved: it has continued to devolve. It has not brought out the best of the human heart, but it has revealed the beast in the human heart – an utter deformity.

We saw the first two world wars, the Holocaust, the rise of Communism and the murder of millions under Stalin, the reign of totalitarian regimes, the Killing Fields of Southeast Asia, attempted genocide in Biafra, the Sudan, the Balkans, and Rwanda, Islamic “holy” wars waged against nations – do I dare allude to more? Twice as many Christians died as martyrs in this last century than did so in the last nineteen hundred years.

Two important North American elections have just become history. PM Harper seemed content to run on keeping the status quo. President-elect Obama ran on a commitment to change. What we need is not conservatism or progressivism but a holy reformation for both nations. We need leaders who are not afraid of moving the country towards righteous reform.

What are needed are new voices, not echoes of the past, but crystal clear, clarion trumpet calls, to awaken a generation to their future. Not a noise, but a voice – not a noise, but a sound. Maybe one voice – like Martin Luther’s – is all that is needed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s decision to leave comfortable Manhattan to address Nazi evil in Germany cost him his life but shifted a culture. The entire world has seen the influence one Mother Teresa can make on the state of the poor. The 1963 the “I have a dream” speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave changed a nation forever. Maybe one voice is enough – maybe it’s your voice, maybe it’s mine. Maybe enough can say what needs to be said long enough that not only history bears record but a generation heeds it in time.

Is Canada Afraid of its Own People?

When I began this column the title “Oh! Canada!” came into my heart as an appropriate expression to describe what I felt when I looked at the direction my nation was taking, especially as it pertained to family values and moral issues.

I looked for voices across the country that were speaking into these public and national matters, and found that there were far too few. Those who were speaking from their heart, whether they spoke from inside or outside the Church, were under constant pressure to yield to the increasing power of political correctness.

I was also concerned that they were not bringing their thinking into the public domain for dialogue. Almost every talk show host and television newscaster bore a very biased, liberal bent. I realized that I couldn’t complain about the silence if I was not prepared to put my voice on the line, and so, the column, “Oh! Canada!” was conceived.

The public do not want sermonizing and Bible thumping. They want dialogue, and the dialogue over these past few years has not disappointed. I am stronger for it, as should we all be. Some people do not share my convictions. They do not have to. I respect their right to do so, and to say so, as strongly as they deem necessary. They have a right to disagree – and believe me, they do – but that is what makes our people strong. It has made our nation one of the greatest countries on the planet. If that right of free speech is removed, we will become weak, and ultimately, we will be utterly dominated and lose ourselves.

You will not find me agreeing with Voltaire often, but I do concur with him when he commented concerning debate among fierce rivals: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I am convinced that our national strength can be gauged by our capacity to sit down, listen and express dissenting opinions. I highly value that exchange.

John Stuart Mill stated that “the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.  If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth:  if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

Rightly or wrongly, whether you consider me deluded or optimistic, I happen to believe that my concerns are shared by a majority of Canadians. You have heard of the “silent majority.” It exists, but some are moving from silence to the center stage. It is just possible that what is being postulated has merit, and the warnings about where Canada is headed if it does not evaluate itself, are valid.

Canada has changed. Not everyone believes that those changes are in the nation’s best interests or in our future generation’s good. It is their right to express that. Sometimes that expression can become emotional or reactive, especially when the heart is involved. All sides experience this.

However, we must understand that ideas of the mind cannot be divorced from deeply held emotions of the heart. An idea bonds with beliefs of the heart, whether they are from an organized or personalized form of religion. Every person speaks from their faith base.

President John F. Kennedy said, “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.  For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

May the nation of Canada always hold true to its valuing of the ideas of its citizens, and may it find itself strengthened by faith in its people, and not fear of its people.

Where is the Moral Plumb Line for Our Nation?

If you are a builder, you have probably heard about the use of a plumb line. It is a critical tool if a builder wants to establish straight, square and strong edges in the building. Without it, the house is weakened and undermined.

According to the American Heritage dictionary, a “plumb line is a line from which a weight is suspended to determine verticality or depth.” The lead weight uses the earth’s center of gravity to gauge perpendicularity.

As a citizen and an active voter who is interested in the future of Canada, and what the house will ultimately look like, I have a few questions to ask of prospective members of Parliament. “Where is the moral center of those who are running for political leadership? What ethical plumb line are they using to determine right and wrong? Do they acknowledge a gravitational pull conscientiously?  Will they build strong moral foundations?”

When pollster George Barna asked people whether they had “complete confidence” leaders from various professions would “consistently make job-related decisions that were morally appropriate,” the results were abysmal. Less than 3% believed in the moral appropriateness of elected government officials.

This is a broad, national problem. More and more books are being written about the “ethical crisis” facing North America. We see it affecting business, religion, politics, sports, even media and entertainment.

John C. Maxwell, in his book, “There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics,” shared some of his perspectives on why we are facing such moral dilemma in our society. He commented that there is a growing propensity to do the easy thing over the right thing, to make decisions based upon convenience rather than conviction.

Unfortunately, that seems to be a growing phenomenon. “Morality is a private matter,” they say. “Right is in the eye of the beholder.” “What’s good for me is good.” “If it feels good, do it.” “If no one gets hurt, then what’s the problem?” These lines characterize a person without a plumb line.

However, personal ethics is a character issue that will manifest itself in every day policy making. You cannot separate private belief systems from corporate decisions. It doesn’t work that way. What you truly believe on the inside creates your external reality. In that way, personal morality or immorality can be legislated.

That’s why a moral plumb line is important. When an individual rejects any objective, universal, moral plumb line what their constituency has to live with are decisions and policies based upon personal opinion or public polling. All leadership must move beyond this, and aspire to something higher than to ask, “Is it legal?” They need to ask themselves, “Is it right?”

One of the wisest men who ever lived made this statement: “The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker – travelers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces” (Pr 4:18-19, Message).

The Josephine Institute of Ethics, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, whose sole purpose for existence is to improve the ethical quality of society, made this statement: “Ethics is about how we meet the challenge of doing the right thing when that will cost more than we want to pay.”

Ethics requires two things. First, it requires that a person have a clear sense of ability to discern between right and wrong, good and evil, propriety and impropriety. Secondly, it requires that a person have a commitment to follow their conviction through into good plans and actions.

What Canadians need to know about leaders desiring our trust is whether they have a deep-seated plumb line that guides them in the making of decisions. Mariners have the North Star to navigate by. Hunters have the reliable compass to traverse the Canadian wilderness.

Does the next generation of political leaders carry a moral plumb line as they prepare to build their version of what the Canadian house should be?

 

Christian Faith and Human Rights in Canada

It is clearly impossible in one article to define one’s complete belief system about such a comprehensive topic like Human Rights. I am a work in progress, like many others. However, it is important, for those of us who profess faith in God, to address these fundamental belief systems and how they relate to the challenges of functioning in a pluralistic society.

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation describes the challenge clearly in one question: “Does faith provide a vital grounding and motivation for human rights or does faith hinder and oppose the full implementation of such rights?” It begs the question: “Is a person of faith a good citizen?”

Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, said recently at the London School of Economics, “Political and legal philosophy is unlikely to arrive at complete convergence with theology in any imaginable future.” I agree. But everywhere you go, from politicians to movie stars to economists, people are using the language of human rights as the communication tool to describe morality.

Each one of us can feel the dynamic tension that exists between the right we have to hold and espouse a set of personal beliefs and the need to protect the rights of others as a religious duty. Historically, the church – more aptly, religion – has failed in doing so.

For example, Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Religion, wearing a Christian mask, violated this human right for centuries, turning people into slaves who became assets for sale.

Thankfully, history also demonstrates that Christianity, wearing the face of Christ, became the force that broke the back of slavery, and turned a nation back to Biblical principles: ie. the belief that every life has been uniquely created and has equal value before God.

Human rights law was developed after World War II. According to Professor Conor Gearty said that “the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews of Europe showed clearly that state laws could be manipulated to justify the greatest of atrocities. Some global standard of morality and law was needed to judge such practices, and so in 1948 the new United Nations passed without dissenting vote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

I write this article from the Victory Hotel in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. The government here is facing increasing international pressure to comply with the “human rights” requirements under the UN’s Universal Declaration. This is a sensitive issue because nations and corporations decide to do business, or withdraw from doing business, based upon a society’s record on human rights.

Because of the work done to protect human rights, no nation can claim today with any legal justification, that it has the right to do with its citizens as it likes. Gearty went on to say that, “each citizen of the world can assert that she, or he, has human rights that transcend the authority of every government.”

Canada faces its own challenges. Recently, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) introduced a very controversial policy on Faith and the Human Rights Code warning physicians to “set aside their personal beliefs.” For example, they inferred that a physician’s refusal to perform procedures like abortion may be considered “professional misconduct.”

Reaction was quick and to the point. General surgeon John E. Kraulis said failing to respect “the ethical and moral perspectives” of physicians would result in “a spiritual castration of the medical profession.” Even though the College backed off somewhat, they still left the Christian medical profession with some lingering doubts concerning their protection under the Hippocratic Oath.

We all have a lot of growing up to do, a lot of listening heart to heart with our fellow travelers. No person, business leader, nation or church is exempt from the need to develop a clear position when it comes to the protection of human rights and liberties.

I sincerely believe that the Christian community is being called upon to repair the mistakes of the past and rebuild the foundations of a merciful and just society.

 

 

Canada – Facing Moral Dilemmas

Life is full of moral dilemmas. For those with a strong moral constitution – a defined and reasoned sense of right and wrong, a healthy conscience – moral decisions are clear and moderately quick. For those with a weak moral constitution – a relative sense of right and wrong, a compromised conscience – moral decisions are much more complex and longer to arrive at.

For some people their life is determined by convictions arrived at through deep soul-searching, through faith, and through the force of reason. It keeps them strong in the time of crisis. For others their life is a montage of preferences superficially adhered to, and easily yielded when challenged by their peers, public opinion, or times of crisis.

Every person faces moral dilemmas, situations that challenge their belief systems and values, and require them to make a choice between options that are or seem equally unfavourable or mutually exclusive. In the face of a moral dilemma, one may, at times, have to make a decision or take a position that puts them in opposition to others.

We used to be called a Christian nation. The Muslim community seem to think we still are – and actually encourage us to remain so – but, the reality is this: Canada has become a secular, humanistic, godless, Biblically illiterate society. In many ways, I feel the nation has lost its way.

The moral goal posts have been moved, and we now play the game of Canadian life without a rule book, sidelines, or referees. “Anything goes” might as well be the rule book. “No out of bounds” might as well be the sidelines. “Everyone is right and there are no consequences” might as well be the referees.

As a person of faith, a Christian, a citizen of Canada, I find myself increasingly and conscientiously challenged trying to live out my convictions. You want examples? There are plenty!

How about the right to choose and promote life instead of abortion?

How about the right as a parent to discipline my children and teach them consequence, so they do not grow up to be like some of the CEOs that ran our financial institutions into the ground and kept producing gas guzzlers that placed our society at risk.

How about the right of parents to determine the kind of sexual education their children receive, and whether or not the boys should be given free condoms or the girls HPV Vaccinations? Please tell me that educators and health officials are not implying that STDs are the only real danger of premarital sex. What about teaching chastity? What are we really saying to our youth by enforcing this?

I could go on….

My country, which historically celebrated and protected my faith, now constantly places me in a position where I have to defend myself (as well as pay the bill to do so, while the Human Rights Commissions fund those who would oppose my rights).

For the Christian three factors dethrone every other authority: God Himself, the scriptures, and conscience. As I see it, Canada is slowly devolving into a godless society, quickly undermining the authority of the Ten Commandments in its legal system, and increasingly forcing people to yield their personal conscience to individual rights.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for those facing moral dilemmas. Unfortunately, the stress between honouring God and nation is reaching a tipping point.

Expelled from Canada: Freedom of Inquiry?

I don’t know where you stand on the “theories of evolution” (Darwinism) and the “theories of creationism” (Intelligent Design), but everybody who loves our democratic system should stand together for the defense of the “personal and intellectual rights” its citizens have to question anything taught as scientific truth.

This is what accounts, to the greatest degree, for the ongoing controversy surrounding Ben Stein’s movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Stein has an issue with evidence of intellectual thuggery in our higher educational institutions, namely the silencing of any dissent teachers or professors might have with Darwinism.

He made it clear that he has found a mission in life. “I came to this project unsure what I would find. I am now amazed at the intolerance of many academic elites. I feel that it is my mission to speak out on behalf of targeted dissenters and fight for their freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry.”

He is not alone. Many states in the US are looking at the passage of bills (eg. Senate Bill 733 of the Louisiana Science Education Act) that permits a teacher to use “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.”

Kenneth R. Miller, writing in the Boston Globe, blasted the film as creationist propaganda. He warned America that “science is in trouble. Popular culture is gradually turning (youth) against science…” Well, Kenneth, on that point we agree. This has been growing for years.             Remember Generation X? They are the generation that sociologists identified to be the result of years of Darwinism. They were told that they came from nothing, survived by chance, and were going nowhere. No wonder they are rejecting evolution, and are now looking for hope in faith.

Stein stated: “I’m Jewish, and I have always believed that there is a God who was the prime mover in the universe, so it’s not hard for me to think of him as the Intelligent Designer.” Stein went on to say that his research bolstered his faith.

Intelligent Design, as a counter scientific movement, is filled with concepts that build value to the origin of life, purpose for the living of life, and destiny, hope in its end. Maybe that is why The Purpose Driven Life has been so well received by this generation.

Stein is operating from a base that declares that neither theory is provable, so why not investigate both? It takes faith to believe either theory. However, Darwinism has never attempted to explain how life began, to give meaning for life. Intelligent design does.

I believe that Stein’s challenge of the scientific community is valid. If his claims are true, that there is suppression and entrenched discrimination in our institutions, selective granting and posting, and most importantly, bias in our classrooms, then it needs to be exposed.

There is a belief that freedom is not conferred by the government, but as Martin Luther King repeated often, is given by God. Freedom of inquiry is a basic human right, and is critical to all scientific advancement.

That freedom has the right to inquire as to whether a greater intelligence than man had anything to do with our beginnings, our daily life, or our future.

The fact that a movie has triggered the possibility of changes to the way a culture is thinking, and that Education Acts in state governments are being challenged as a result of new evidence, means that the winds of change may be starting to blow in Canada.

I pray that we Canadians will have the intellectual and spiritual maturity to cope with an emerging culture that is requiring of its institutions the freedom to inquire.

 

 

Whatever Happened to Corporal Punishment?

I think I had it pretty good as a young kid growing up in Nova Scotia. I had the privilege of attending a public school that opened the day with the principal reading a portion of scripture over the loudspeaker and leading us in the Lord’s Prayer.

But, it was a school that believed in – and used – the strap. Teachers were loved, but they were also feared – or should I say, respected. Teachers were an extension of the parent, and given joint responsibility in terms of raising children. Children were taught to treat teachers as they would parents.

If children decided to opt out of that unspoken code of conduct, they were quick to face the consequences. I had a few friends who challenged the code, and they paid dearly for it with a few lashes to an open palm. Putting on “the face” – making out like it didn’t hurt – could not cover up the affect the strap had on their future relationship to authority.

I had parents that taught me to respect and honor teachers. They did not let me get away with anything. I remember the day my teacher called home and described a situation I had been involved with. I had to write out a letter of apology to my teacher that became required reading for the class.

What has happened to corporal punishment? US Daily News reported an incident about a group of South Georgian third-graders who plotted to attack their teacher, and brought a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the job to school. They actually assigned tasks including covering the windows and cleaning up afterward.

The police chief stated, “We did not hear anybody say they intended to kill her, but could they have accidentally killed her? Absolutely….we feel like if they weren’t interrupted, there would have been an attempt. Would they have been successful? We don’t know.”

And, what was the pressing cause that initiated this gang activity? Apparently, the students were mad at the teacher because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair. And this constitutes a reason to threaten a teacher’s life?

If it had not been for another student’s tipping off of the school that a girl had brought a weapon to class, who knows what would have happened. As it stands now, they are too young – they must be thirteen and over – to be charged with a crime.

Those investigating their actions stated, “From what I understand, they were considered pretty good kids.” Does anybody know what constitutes a “pretty bad kid?” Though these “pretty good kids” have not been back to school, and many are facing expulsion, I am not sure the discipline fits the “criminal intent.”

What is causing all of this? Some say, it’s the violence on television and young children’s lack of ability to discern between reality and fantasy, actions and consequence. I suppose that is part of our problem, but don’t tell those responsible for “family programming” – we will be targeted as censorious.

Maybe we are reaping an ugly harvest from the disempowerment of school authorities. Corporal punishment, the administration’s right to use reasonable force to discipline a child, has been challenged on many levels. Our corporate fear of teacher abuse (“yes, it has happened!”) is undermining all teacher discipline.

Maybe we should place the responsibility on the home front, square on the shoulders of the parents. Kids need discipline. They need to be disciplined from without until they can discipline themselves from within. That starts at home.

Discipline always comes, sooner or later. If youth don’t listen to that inner voice of conscience, reject the correction of parents, despise the education of teachers, disobey the directives of employers, they will ultimately face the discipline of the street, the control of jailors or the Voice of eternal judgment.

Let’s love our kids enough to discipline them, and not rob from them the hope of a better future.