by Mathew Block
It’s become almost commonplace to note that Canada is not the nation it once was. We have quickly become a post-Christian society—a nation which counts Christian faith as part of its history but not its future. Last year, Statistics Canada announced that the number of Canadians identifying as Christian has dropped dramatically: from 77% in 2001 to 67% in 2011. And a new study confirms that fewer and fewer Canadians—even self-professed Christians—recognize the Bible as God’s Word. The fact is, most Canadian Christians never read the Bible at all.
It is not hard to understand why, as a result, that the Canadian consensus on hot-topic social issues is moving in a decidedly non-biblical direction. We’ve seen it in the headlines a lot these past few months. Consider, for example, the subject of abortion. The leader of the Liberal party made waves after declaring that, in the future, no pro-life candidates would be allowed to run for his party. The NDP took things a step further, calling for a vote in the House of Commons to recognize a woman’s right to abortion as “a fundamental question of equality and human rights.” And, lest we forget, the leader of the Conservative party is himself on record saying his government opposes changing the law on abortion. He even voted in 2012 against a private member’s motion that sought to study Canadian Law’s definition of when human life begins.
Of course, abortion is hardly the only issue that’s been in the news as of late. We’ve seen the province of Quebec attempt to ban public servants from wearing religious garb (including large crosses and crucifixes). We’ve witnessed a move to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide (watch for our upcoming article on this topic). The federal government is currently considering loosening the laws prohibiting prostitution, after a court struck down existing laws. And we’ve even seen attempts to ban a Christian university—Trinity Western University (TWU)—from running a law school. Even though the school eventually received the green light from the province of British Columbia, the law societies of Ontario and Nova Scotia have nevertheless barred TWU graduates from practising law in their provinces.
These actions, of course, are not outright persecution. Canadian Christians do not face death for their faith, the way Mariam Ibrahim of Sudan does. Ibrahim, a 27 year old woman and a Christian, was born to a Muslim father. Under Sudanese Islamic law, children must follow the faith of their father. Ibrahim has consequently been sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. She, and countless others like her, face true persecution, and need our prayers.
Nevertheless, Christians in Canada are also learning, if only a little, what it means to suffer for Christ. The rising tide of intolerance towards traditional Christianity is something we must learn to bear, with God’s grace. And we should not react to it with anger or vitriol. Yes, we must defend the right of Christians to speak, both in the private and public spheres, but we must do so, as St. Peter writes, “in gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:16). If we are still reviled after that, so be it. “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be God’s will,” St. Peter continues, “than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17).
Christians in Canada are also learning, if only a little, what it means to suffer for Christ.
Canada is changing; there is no doubt about it. But in the midst of that change, we have our Lord’s promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 3:16). That assurance gives us strength to stand firm in our convictions—to reject error, “speaking the truth in love,” as St. Paul writes (Ephesians 4:15). The fact is, there has never been an ideal time and place to be a Christian. The early Church suffered martyrdom for the faith. Once Christianity was legalized, it had to contend with major heresies—like Arianism, for example—which threatened to overwhelm orthodox Christian teaching. Later, Christians had to deal with the destruction of the Roman empire and invasion. Then came the rise of Islam. And later still, the Christian Church itself was ripped apart by doctrinal controversies. Even our past century has seen its challenges—consider, for example, the situation Canadian Lutherans faced during the World War I era (watch for our upcoming article on this topic).
There’s no point in looking back to a golden age. It’s never existed. Not since Eden. Yes, the “gates of hell” have long stood in opposition to the Church—but as Christ promised, they have never prevailed against it (Matthew 16:18). And—glorious good news!—they never will.
Mathew Block is editor of The Canadian Lutheran, communications manager for Lutheran Church–Canada, and editor for the International Lutheran Council.