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.