Canadian Christians’ Trumpian Moment

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Karl Marx thus ruminated on the great, and greatly destructive, Napoléon Bonaparte being succeeded by the comically less competent Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte half a century later.

Canada now faces its Donald Trump moment, and Canadian Christians would do well to learn from our neighbours to the south. Doug Ford has been elected the leader of Ontario’s conservative party and will soon run against a widely despised liberal woman to govern the world’s 17th-largest economy.

Yes, this is Doug Ford, older brother, enabler, and defender of former Toronto mayor and out-of-control drug addict Rob Ford, the politician who globally tarnished that city’s long-cultivated image of being “world class.” This is Doug Ford, whose sanitized Wikipedia page still bears traces of a wide range of questionable utterances, threats, promises, and actions.

This is Doug Ford—and here the parallels with Donald Trump grow more ominous—who describes himself as a man of the people and a defender of the marginalized who, like Trump, inherited a multimillion-dollar business from his dad and has spent his entire life in…Toronto. This is Doug Ford, who recently and sensationally submitted to being anointed, literally, by a controversial megachurch pastor and pledges to uphold the values of social conservatives.

I haven’t lived in Ontario for more than thirty years, but Ontario, like Toronto, deeply affects the rest of Canada. So I, and all Canadians, have a stake in this election. I bear no love for Kathleen Wynne, her policies, or her record and, like many Canadians, have been hoping for a change of regime. But now: what a choice.

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Who Is Ready?

Last week I preached at the funeral of Evelyn Bodner, 19-year-old daughter of good friends in Moncton, New Brunswick. With the family’s approval, I off this transcript of that message.

I was completely unprepared when Crandall University colleague Prof. Keith Bodner phoned me to say that his daughter had been killed in a car accident on an icy road between Trail and Castlegar, BC. He asked if I would preach at her funeral in Kelowna, and of course I said yes.

I had been enjoying a casual week’s vacation with my family when the dreadful news came. So I flew to Kelowna with nothing appropriate to wear for the service. I ended up preaching in a navy collared shirt and khaki trousers…as if I’d stepped out of an Eddie Bauer catalogue, albeit one aimed at an older, rounder clientele.

I wasn’t ready for such an awful occasion. Who is?

My late father was a cancer surgeon. He would operate in the mornings and then meet patients in the afternoons. And almost every day, he once told me, he’d have to give someone the grim news that there was nothing they could do, the disease was too far advanced, and they would face death very soon.

What percentage of his patients were ready for such news? Zero. Who is?

Evelyn Bodner was on her way to write a mid-term exam. She wasn’t ready for death.  Who is?

But she was ready for what comes after.

What does? And how do you prepare for that?

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Why Didn’t God Make You More Beautiful?

Perhaps you are one of the blessed few who are entirely content with their appearance. Perhaps you never stand in front of the mirror, as I did this morning, wondering as you take in the image before you, “Why didn’t God improve on that?”

While we’re at it, why didn’t God make you smarter? Stronger? More creative? More insightful? More wonderful in every way?

If, like some irritating friends of mine, you happen to be reasonably good-looking, talented, prosperous, healthy, and happy, asking such questions could seem downright greedy. But lots of us are obviously lacking in one or more of these zones.

Or so it would seem.

But in the kingdom of God, things are not always as they appear.

Jesus is pausing with his disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi. He asks them how he is currently viewed by the populace, and the response seems very promising: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matt. 16:14).

One would think a rabbi couldn’t do any better, but Jesus then asks the disciples their opinion.

Peter, one of those keen pupils who instantly sticks up his hand whether he knows the answer or not, replies at once: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

For once, Peter is right, and Jesus blesses him. But “then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.”

This is a bit disappointing. Peter finally gets an answer right, and he can’t tell anyone? In fact, he gets The Answer right and he can’t tell anyone? Why in the world not?

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (v. 21).

Jesus connects his messiahship, his appointment as the very Instrument of God, with suffering and death … and at the hands of the very people who ought to be his strongest supporters, the religious leaders of the people of God.

This shockingly contradictory idea provokes another outburst from Peter, which Jesus stifles and sets in order. But soon after that, things get even stranger.

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