Christians have often struggled with living in a society that has been consistently opposed to biblical concepts and ideals. The New Testament, particularly Luke’s account in the Book of Acts, is replete with examples of how the Christian message met with cultural resistance and the struggles that later ensued for local Christians. Throughout Church history, in various times and places, similar stories have emerged that illustrate this unfortunate, yet undeniable reality.
The same is true in the contemporary setting, as the sociological phenomenon of cultural and religious pluralism in Canadian culture becomes increasingly evident as more and more people immigrate here from various parts of the world. While I certainly applaud our immigration policies and the rich diversity immigration has brought to the Canadian landscape, with it has also come a plethora of world religions, very different from Christianity, effecting profound change to the way we conduct ourselves in a well defined politically correct society.
As Canada continues to become a mosaic of cultural diversity, many new and varied challenges confront us as we learn to accommodate new ideas and philosophies. We learn very quickly the importance of living in a peaceful co-existence, where a deep and profound respect for the rights of others is held in highest esteem. After all, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was founded on the principle that individuals and groups, regardless of cultural, ethnic and religious background, will be given equality and value—attributes we can be proud of.
Canadian society has not only been affected through the addition of new religious ideas, but also, and just as profoundly, through changes to the traditional family. With divorce rates climbing as high as 35 to 40 percent and single-parenting steadily increasing, and with the introduction of same-sex arrangements, it is quite easy to determine the reason behind the tension so many people experience. As a result, the question of the hour is not so much what has happened, but how best to respond?
A certain percentage of the Christian population, obviously influenced by 20th century fundamentalism, is attempting to re-instate Canada as a Christian nation. They lament the societal decay around them, while longing for some supposedly “idyllic past age characterized by a glorious uniformity and the predominance of Christian principles.” We soon realize, however, as Stanley Grenz has so aptly stated, that “no such age was truly and universally ‘golden,’ for often the past that today’s utopians romanticize achieved uniformity at the expense of ignoring or even eliminating dissidents and prophetic voices speaking from the margins.” Canada may have indeed been founded on principles that had a direct or indirect Christian influence, but to conclude on this basis that we were somehow a Christian nation, where every single citizen claimed Christianity as their religion of choice, is to commit what logic would call a sweeping generalization. Yet, this group continues their unrelenting quest for country-wide change and does so through various means of mass persuasion techniques.
Their strategy includes, but is not limited to, lobbying federal and provincial government offices through lengthy petitions and duplicate letter correspondences, in the hope that this will somehow affect positive change from within. While I admire their collective candor and understand their position to a degree, they seem to forget that Christianity never was and never will be a religion to be imposed upon another much the same as in a dictatorship setting, but a religion founded on the principle of free will and personal choice.
Whether they realize it or not, no degree of force, no matter how much holy fervor is behind it, will ever make Canada into a Christian nation. No amount of legislation and/or protest can compel others to the point where they willingly and wholly submit to any form of Christian idealism. Simply stated, you can never make a person believe in Christianity’s claim through governmental action, and any attempt to do so will lead us into a time of superficial Christianity, where people submit out of guilt or remorse brought on through manipulation, rather than genuine Spirit conviction.
It seems that a better response to the decay in our current Canadian context is needed, and while I by no means claim the final word on this subject, I do submit this proposal. First things first, not unlike every other Christian in Canada, I too lament the crumbling of our culture into what seems to be deplorable conditions. My heart aches every time I see families broken apart and children caught in the middle of long, confusing court battles. I too would love for every person I come in contact with to know the love of God personally and witness first hand the transforming power of Jesus Christ. But I also soon realize that I can never force them to accept and know this love. No matter how hard I may try, I can never pass enough legislation to make them bow down and submit to Christian principles. Why? Because Christianity was never meant to be something that is enforced, but something to be accepted by faith. Change will never be realized in Canada until we first understand this basic Christian creed.
Legitimate transformation will only come about when people are made new through a genuine encounter with God, through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Corporate change can only come through individual change. Canada will be touched not through legislation, but by one heart at a time, as Christians of all ages and denominational affiliations become Christ’s ambassadors and commit to proclaiming the message of reconciliation on Christ’s behalf—that being, be reconciled to God (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
The Church is primarily missional in nature and has been sent with a message of love and grace through Jesus Christ. While we may grieve over the pain, torment, and religiosity of Canadians, we must realize that true, genuine transformation will come about through love, not legislation; proclamation, not protest; friendship, not force; reconciliation, not ridicule; prayer, not policy.
• All Scripture references, New International Version.
• Grenz, Stanley. Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.