Dangerous Dreaming

Religion doesn’t matter.

At least, it doesn’t seem to matter much in Canada.

Canada’s cultural magazine, The Walrus, devoted its June issue to The Future and covered all sorts of interesting subjects: nature, diversity, travel, cities, food, exploration, journalism, TV, and, of course, sex.

What it didn’t cover, however, was religion. Religion apparently is now merely part of Canada’s past: a hugely important issue at Confederation and in controversy after controversy since then. But it’s apparently not in Canada’s future.

Two recent books—sociologist Joel Thiessen’s analysis of people who rarely or never go to church (The Meaning of Sunday) and historians Brian Clarke and Stuart Macdonald’s survey of recent religious polls (Leaving Christianity)—also suggest that religion doesn’t matter to the majority of Canadians. Many may still profess belief in God and call themselves Christians (or by the name of some other religion), but there is no evidence that religion affects daily life for them.

Thiessen’s book also concludes that it’s unlikely that the people of low or no religious motivation are going to show up at church anytime soon. And why should they? Life in Canada for most Canadians is demanding, sure, but also pretty good—compared with that of most people in the world today and in every century of the past. Secure, comfortable, clean, entertaining: Why worry? Be happy!

If religion is, in fact, no more than a social club or a social agency, and if few Canadians are looking for anything more than social clubs (fun) and social agencies (service) for their precious non-work hours, and if churches don’t compete well as social clubs and social agencies versus the wide range of other options available, then…low religious interest is to be expected.

Christians, however, believe that quite a lot is at stake here.

[For more, please click HERE.]

Different Schools for Different Folks–or Not? Reflections on Trinity Western’s Law School

No political issue in Canadian history has been more important, contentious, and complex than schooling, and particularly the question of government support for different kinds of schools.

The Constitution itself provides for different kinds of schools. Roman Catholic schools were to receive state aid alongside public (which, in 1867, would have meant “Protestant”) schools. Since then, we have wrestled with this commitment to minority schooling, as controversy has arisen from Newfoundland to British Columbia over how much support should be given to various kinds of religious schools. And at least one recent provincial election in Ontario was largely decided on such matters.

The history of the residential schools is that of a different approach: one type of education for everyone. In this program, European languages, stories, principles, and values were provided to, and imposed upon, minority children of widely varying indigenous cultures to the declared end of assimilating these children to majority ways.

A similar approach to education shows up as an important chapter even within Canadian church history. As two very different accounts of the United Church of Canada demonstrate (Kevin Flatt’s After Evangelicalism: The Sixties and the United Church of Canada, and Phyllis Airhart’s A Church with the Soul of a Nation: Making and Remaking the United Church of Canada), the New Curriculum for Sunday schools of the 1960s was intended to get everyone to read the Bible the same way in order to come to the same conclusions. Instead, more than any other single factor in that fractious era, the New Curriculum both demonstrated and exacerbated divisions in our largest Protestant communion.

Which brings us to Trinity Western University’s Law School project and the recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Paige Patterson, Donald Trump, and Theological Malpractice

As Christian leaders have defended Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson over this past couple of months and President Donald Trump over this past couple of years, one is reminded of . . . the opioid epidemic.

The connection may not be obvious at first, but it’s an instructive one.

The New Yorker recently ran an article exposing the tactics of Purdue Pharma, a privately owned company best known for producing OxyContin in 1995, the most popular form of the opium-derived drug oxycodone. OxyContin was originally developed as a long-lasting narcotic that could help patients suffering from moderate to severe pain, especially after surgical procedures. What it became, however, under the relentless and ruthless marketing of Purdue Pharma, was a “treatment” for all sorts of maladies.

OxyContin is one of the most egregious examples of what is known in medical circles as “off-label prescribing.” This is practice of using a drug that has been officially approved to treat a certain problem in a certain population in a certain way for something else: for an unapproved problem or in an unapproved age group, dosage, or mode of administration. Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs can be prescribed this way and often to good effect by knowledgeable physicians. But in the wrong hands applied to the wrong situations, the drugs can have baleful effects quite different than originally intended.

OxyContin is one of those drugs, of course, as is fentanyl—originally formulated as a veterinary painkiller for large animals. These and similar drugs have ruined many, many lives because they are not being used as intended. They instead are being exploited for illegitimate and harmful use by people who ought to know better.

This brings us to the theological defenders of Patterson, Trump, et al.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]