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.

Is Canada Tradition-phobic?

Here we go again! Another bastion of political progressiveness, under the leadership of politicians who want to end the daily recital of the Lord’s Prayer in our country’s municipal, provincial and federal legislatures.

It’s been a traditional practice for many years, dating back to the Victorian age. But that was then, this is now. We have “progressed,” right? We have outgrown our need to call upon or depend upon the input of Heavenly Father. The kids have grown up and left home, in many more ways than one.

“It’s time for us to ensure that we have a prayer that better reflects our diversity,” they say. We must “look at how we can move beyond the Lord’s Prayer to a broader approach that is more inclusive in nature.”

Now, this is not unusual. Many of the provincial legislatures have either stopped praying altogether (Newfoundland), allow daily readings from a multi-faith base (BC), pray a non-sectarian prayer (federal government), or permit a daily moment of reflection (Quebec).

But some people are speaking up. The traffic was so heavy when the committee set up the online form that it crashed the website. The Toronto Sun reported that this proposal prompted 5,700 submissions from the public and hundreds of phone calls from many who want Ontario to preserve this Christian tradition.

Bruce Clemenger, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, wrote: “The act of prayer itself is an acknowledgement that legislating is not self-sufficient, that politics and governance are not simply human artifice, and that politics itself is an expression of a broader vision of life and is founded in a higher purpose and reality that transcends our individual interests.”

He went on to say that, “Unlike France’s secularist approach that seeks to privatize religion, or the American strict separation which presumes a compartmentalization, in Canada we have understood that religion cannot be separated from other aspects of life and sought non-sectarian solutions which did not eliminate religious expression nor establish one denomination or church.”

Now, praying the Lord’s Prayer must be controversial for us to take such a step, right? We are a multi-cultural, secularist state, right? This is another one of those politically correct acts, right?

Well, listen to who is and who is not standing up for the Lord’s Prayer in Ontario. Len Rudner, Ontario regional director for the Canadian Jewish Congress, suggested that the removal of the Lord’s Prayer, created by a Jew (Jesus), prayed to the same Heavenly Father (Yahweh) that Israel addressed, thought it was a very positive step.

However, Mohammed Saleh, the Imam at Belleville’s masjid (mosque) challenged the removal of the Lord’s Prayer. He felt that it was important to respect the Christian foundation on which Canada was built. I don’t even hear Christians saying that!

He went on to say: “If we live in Canada, we have to obey the laws of Canada. Canada has a Christian background; therefore, we have to [respect] the Christian religion. I came all the way from my country to live in Canada, so I have to obey the law of Canada….I can’t try to change the law. If I didn’t like the law, I would leave. Nobody is forcing me to stay in Canada.”

I find all of this interesting. Canadians seem to have a phobia about keeping any tradition that is rooted into our Christian heritage. Others, apparently, do not share our phobia that praying to Heavenly Father might be in some way damaging to our culture or political decisions.

 

Canadian Media – TV Trash and Bill C-10

I like tv as much as any other guy, I suppose. I like watching sports, the History Channel, the Classic Westerns (that should date me), and a broad expression of national and world news reporting. On the whole, people are watching a lot of television these days.

I know that television has changed over the years. First, black and white left – I wasn’t so sorry about that. Technicolor was great.  Then, we got options: remember going from one channel to two to cable to satellite?  And, what man can forget the invention of the “remote control.”

However, not every change has been beneficial or healthy for Canadian viewer ship. Many of us can still remember the days when “obscenity,” “nudity and sexuality,” and televising someone drinking or taking drugs was not tolerated for public viewing. Now it is commonplace.

Well, it appears that our Conservative government is considering cleaning up the moral filth occurring through the Canada’s film industry. This has serious implications because nearly a billion dollars in tax credits and subsidies goes to support the industry annually.

Some of the films that have received subsidy benefits glorify indecent sexual behavior between teens as exemplified in “Young People F—ing,” a film produced by Stephen Hoban. The government plans to set up a “screening process to make sure quality films, both in content and technique, will be receiving subsidy help.”

Bill C-10’s intent was to amend the Income Tax Act. However, Section 120 gives the Heritage Minister the right to withdraw tax credits from productions determined to be “contrary to public policy.” He would set guidelines for the producers regarding violence, hatred and sexual content.

The Directors Guild of Canada and ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) are up in arms. They are lobbying against what they consider to be “moral policing” with a Kill Bill campaign. What’s new? This is getting old real quick. You have to wonder: “When is anything going to be immoral to anybody?” Canada’s film industry has been kicking up against the edge for years. In an attempt to be different from the U.S. film industry, to give Canada its own sense of uniqueness, ACTRA has crossed many controversial lines.

This legislation isn’t an invasion on “human rights” – it is an attempt to give meaning to and protect human rights, like our children’s rights to watch television with some level of safety, or our women’s rights to have their bodies looked at with honor and treated with dignity.

Some bloggers are calling for “separation of church and state.” That is a tired argument. You can’t separate morality from any aspect of life. Anyways, what they are really whining about is the use of our money via tax incentives, the separation of “tv trash” and “state financing.”

Here is a novel idea: maybe some of this “tv trash” would not be supported by corporations if the tax incentives were removed. Maybe somebody ought to look at what corporations are financing this stuff!

If they really want the government to stay out of it, the government should, and not release any of the billion dollars to support an industry that may be undermining our nation’s moral strength.

I just returned from Vietnam. I was warned before entering that nothing that can be considered damaging to the moral strength of their people can be brought into the nation. I could have faced prosecution.

What the Canadian film industry is really concerned about is the possibility that government may be able to set a “community standard for the entire country.”

I, for one, support Bill C-10, Section 120. It’s about time somebody in government was “standing guard” over the moral health of our citizenry.

Canadian Preachers and Politicians

Whether it comes from the pulpit or podium, whether it is heard in auditoriums or championed in churches, whether it is before a room full of reporters or before the world via satellite, both Senator Barack Obama (politician, running for President of the world’s greatest power) and Rev. Jeremiah Wright (preacher, Obama’s ex-pastor) share one thing in common: they sure can talk.

And Canada, along with the rest of the world, is reading, watching and listening. Both of these men are educated and knowledgeable orators. Both can keep your attention when they speak. They are colorful, intelligent, masterful communicators.

However, that appears to be where the similarities end. The last few weeks have been marked by Senator Obama’s distancing of himself, and his campaign, from the very controversial remarks of his former pastor. It remains to be seen whether Rev. Wright’s opinionated views of the world, called Liberation Theology, will affect the outcome of the Senator’s race for the White House.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle listening to politicians speak. I have lived long enough, studied long enough (I have a degree in political science), and voted enough to know the difference between what a politician says and what he can actually do. Look at their record four years later.

I have also struggled listening to preachers, and I am one. I am constantly amazed at the fact that anyone would come out to hear what I have to say. But, I have lived long enough, studied long enough (I have a degree in religion), and attended church enough to know that there is often a difference between what a preacher says and what he can actually produce.

As long as we remain a democracy, we will have politicians and preachers. I, for one, am grateful for the freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble, the freedom of religion, and for the freedom of speech. Our nation’s laws support the right for both politician and preacher to speak their personal convictions, whether you agree with them or not.

Unfortunately, in reality, the playing field is not all that even. Politicians fare much better in terms of their freedom to voice their positions without prejudice. Preachers are often maligned and marginalized. It seems that the podium of the press is an acceptable venue for the politician but that the preacher should keep his remarks within the four walls of the church.

Obama is applauded when he separates himself – politically, maybe intellectually, and even, physically – from his former pastor, Rev. Wright. It is possible that was the right thing to do. But, what if the pastor felt strong enough that he needed to separate himself from a politician’s views? Would he be applauded?

There is a place for politicians – they have their national assembly (parliament), their legislatures, and they are given opportunity on a daily basis to convey their personal and regional convictions.

There is also a place for preachers – they have their solemn assembly (church), their legislature (prayer rooms), and they too have an opportunity on a daily basis to express deep religious convictions. And they should! One cannot separate their personally held moral views from corporate moral responsibility.

Is it possible that Canada has lost some of its moral conviction because preachers have remained silent on the issues behind the pulpit? Is it possible that our society has devolved rather than evolved because the Church has been gagged when it comes to their voice into social justice?

Look out Canada – the tide is turning. The Voice of the Church is beginning to emerge out of years of silence. And, trust me, our nation will be the better for it.

Compassionate Capitalism in Canada

Even heard of an oxymoron? That was the word that came to mind when I started writing this title, but even I had to look it up. It means “a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, like a deafening silence.”

Well, for some people using the word “compassionate” alongside “capitalism” may be seen as contradictory. However, I don’t see it that way at all. I happen to believe in and support both concepts.

According to Wikipedia capitalism refers to “an economic and social system in which the means of production are predominantly privately owned, operated for profit, and in which investments, distribution, income, production and pricing of goods and services are determined through the operation of a market economy.”

Call me conservative in my political views if you so desire, but I believe the best economies emerge from the least bureaucratic interference. Most of the jobs produced in our nation are done so through the enterprise of small business owners. The more centrally planned the society is the less efficient and effective. I have witnessed this.

Historically, Canada was based on a belief in a Creator God. If you study world economies, those cultures that believe in a Creator are creative, the innovators, and most often, the Nobel Prize winners. Cultures with a belief in polytheism – a recognition and worship of many gods – often build their economies on manufacturing and marketing other nation’s inventions.

Cold capitalism can be cruel though. Take the calling out of work, pursue making money for making money sake, spend all life’s energy on building bigger barns, use profit for selfish purposes, and capitalism becomes a four letter word. The rich get richer, and the poor die.

There is something wrong with that picture if you care to look at it. If you look closely, you may find yourself in the picture. That’s when this column gets personal. However, even though we know that we are blessed to live in Canada, among the world’s top 5% wealthiest citizens, we have the tendency to shut out the cry of the world’s poor and less fortunate.

This is where compassion comes in. I should not have to explain this, but let me try for a moment. Historically, our Western culture has been fashioned by the Greek mindset – ie. the analogical, scientific, cerebral. The Hellenistic world had no word to describe mercy or compassion: the closest they could come to it was courage.

The ancient world found a word to describe what should be our heart towards our fellow man, splagchnizomai, meaning “to have the bowels yearning.” When did you feel that last? Or, have we become dull in feeling and hearing the desperate cry of the world?

The Bible teaches that “if anyone has this world’s goods (resources for sustaining life) and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 Jn 3: 17).

This leads me to why I believe in compassionate capitalism. Make money – no problem: be a capitalist. However, decide on a purpose for the use of your wealth compassionately. Remember this: if you are Canadian, the poorest of us are among the wealthiest of the world.

How are Canadians doing on the mercy scale? 2006 stats on Charitable giving in Canada stated that Canadians gave only 1.2% of their monies into charities. You tell me if that “overwhelming generosity” moves the heart of God to reach out and bless us or not.

Is it possible that our Western culture may be facing judgment? Is it possible that what the United States economy is going through right now is related to a poor performance in mercy?  This may come home to roost in Canada, if we are not careful. Americans gave 2% of their wealth away.

Among the reasons Sodom was judged by God was “pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness … [and] neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (Ezek 16:49). Think about it.

Compassionate capitalism needs to start at home, extend to our neighbours, then to our city and nation, and ultimately, to the global village. I pray that God touches your heart with love for your fellow man, and that you find some practical way to reach out and touch somebody, starting today.

“I Am Canadian!”

“I am Canadian!” What an honor to be able to proclaim that. I believe that we are truly blessed to be sons and daughters of this great land. We have a lot to be proud of. Say the word “Canadian” around the world, and it speaks loud about the values we hold dear: freedom, tolerance, opportunity, and so on.

Since the mid-1990s, an average of 220,000 immigrants have come into Canada every year and made it their home. Citizenship and Immigration Canada says that it has been aiming at a “long-term objective of immigration level approaching one percent of Canada’s population (annually),” so these averages will continue to increase.

Immigration has become an increasingly important component of net population growth in Canada. Statistics Canada reports that immigration represents close to 70% of current population growth. Given our nation’s below-replacement fertility rate, within 25 years immigration will be the only source of net population growth factor.

Every immigrant is needed. The facts are beginning to speak for themselves. The Conference Board of Canada stated that “Canada could experience a one million worker shortage by the year 2020, and for some sectors, shortages already exist.”

Canada Perspectives commented five years ago that “the proportion of the working-age population employed was 62.4%, the highest on record.” However, Canada is aging. The Globe and Mail’s investigation of our labour force led them to state emphatically that “the country’s labour pool is expected to shrink under the weight of an unprecedented retirement bulge….”

So, Canada has put out the welcome mat to the world.

Recently I had the honor of being asked to witness close to 60 people inducted into Canadian citizenship. Citizenship judge William L. Day presided over the proceedings, and gave a heart-felt introduction into the rights and the responsibilities that came with Canadian citizenship. Then each new candidate stood, pledged their Oath of Citizenship, and resounded a closing “I am Canadian!”

He compared citizenship to marriage, the only difference being that you are marrying 33 million people. The oath (or vow) was a promise: if each citizen kept their promise, the marriage would work well. They promised faithfulness to the Queen, obedience to the laws of Canada, and a commitment to work from within the legal system to change Canadian law.

He stated that Canada was different from most countries of the world. Most nations have law, religion, dress, and a language that distinguishes them. However, he strongly addressed the fact that Canada is a secular nation.

Interesting, eh? We are secular, multi-cultural, bilingual, a mosaic of the world’s ideas and beliefs. We are not a melting pot where people become Canadian first. That is the Canadian difference.

 

I am saddened by that glaring reality. Canada used to be known as a Christian nation, people pledged allegiance and swore on the Bible, prayer was prayed over new citizens, they were given a Bible as a gift, and when they sung the Canadian anthem they expressed gratitude to the God of the Bible who was asked to “keep our land glorious and free.”

Now, instead of singing “Ruler Supreme, who hearest humble prayer, hold our Dominion, in Thy loving care,” we now look to the rule of law as our saving grace. And, by the way, Canadian law is no longer based on the Common law which was based upon Biblical law: it is now based on the law of our own making.

There is no question that things have changed – a lot. Time will tell if they have changed for the better. What made Canada Canada is no longer at the base creating who we are becoming. That concerns me. Will it make Canada safer for all who desire to make this nation their home? I am not sure. I know that most of our families came here from a different past. The challenge I guess is whether we will have a common future.