Category Archives: Religion

Blog posts on religion and its influence in public life.

I am a Canadian. — John Diefenbaker

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“I am a Candian,” is the opening phrase in a notable quotation from the Right Honourable John Diefenbaker (1895-1979) 13th Prime Minister of Canada serving from June 21, 1957, to April 22, 1963. The entire quote reads as follows:

“I am Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” (John Diefenbaker, House of Commons Debates, 1 July 1960)

Yes, John Diefenbaker was a proud Canadian–not only that he was a proud Canadian nationalist. As Prime Minister, Diefenbaker advanced the cause of Canadian nationalism. He envisioned:

One Canada, one Canada, where Canadians will have preserved to them the control of their own economic and political destiny. Sir John A. Macdonald gave his life to this party [Conservative]. He opened the West. He saw Canada from east to west. I see a new Canada – a Canada of the North! (John Diefenbaker, Winnipeg Manitoba, 12 February 1958)

Diefenbaker lived during the first century of Canada’s existence. He witnessed the development by which Canada gained independence from Britain. Until 1931, with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, the British government managed Canada’s international affairs. Diefenbaker saw Canada fight in two world wars and Canadians suffer through the Great Depression. He proudly saw the passage of the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947. Canadians have much to be proud of in their history.

While Diefenbaker saw all that is good in Canada and being Canadian, he did not overlook the problematic moments in Canadian history. Canadian society was not without issues of unjust discrimination and prejudice. Diefenbaker observed:

From my earliest days, I knew the meaning of discrimination. Many Canadians were virtually second-hand citizens because of their names and racial origin. Indeed, it seemed until the end of World War II that the only first-class Canadians were either of English or French descent. As a youth, l determined to devote myself to assuring that all Canadians, whatever their racial origin, were equal and declared myself to be a sworn enemy of discrimination. (John Diefenbaker, Nowlan Lecture, 6)

Diefenbaker knew of the head tax charged on Chinese immigrants. The head tax, enacted in 1885, remained in effect until 1923. Chinese immigrants to Canada were charged (at its worst) $500 for admission to Canada as landed immigrants. From 1923 to 1947 Chinese immigration to Canada was banned. He knew of the internment of Japanese-Canadians in World War II. He was well aware of the Catholic-Protestant divide in Christendom that existed well into the 20th-century in Canada. I remember my mother telling me that my father had to convert to Roman Catholicism to marry her in 1960. My father’s family is Anglican. It is hard to believe such tribal divisions existed in Canada historically, but it is the reality.

Diefenbaker envisioned Canada as a nation organized according to the values of liberalism and pluralism. In shaping his vision of Canadian society, Diefenbaker was inspired, in part, by the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a Canadian-led effort. John Humphrey, a professor of law at McGill University, became director of the United Nations Division on Human Rights in 1946. Humphrey produced the first draft of the declaration. When Diefenbaker became Prime Minister in 1957, he set out to enact a piece of legislation–following up the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human rights–called the Canadian Bill of Rights. In addressing the historical issues of unjust discrimination and prejudice in Canada’s history, the Canadian Bill of Rights asserts in part:

 It is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,

  • (a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;

  • (b) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law;

  • (c) freedom of religion;

  • (d) freedom of speech;

  • (e) freedom of assembly and association; and

  • (f) freedom of the press.

The Canadian Bill of Rights was superseded by the passage of the Constitution Act in 1982 with the entrenched Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

To his credit, John Diefenbaker laid the groundwork for our national identity as Canadians. Despite what so many people think currently, nationalism is not a dirty word. As I grew up the values of liberalism and pluralism–the proposition on which Canadian identity is built–that John Diefenbaker advocated were instilled in me. I remember the Centennial celebrations in 1967 fondly; the swell of national pride Canadians felt in celebrating Canada’s first 100 years as a nation. I am proudly Canadian. I am not ashamed of my European heritage–my ancestry goes back to the British Isles. In keeping with Diefenbaker’s vision, I view the people with whom I interact as individuals and judge them according to the content of their character. I reject the notion that expressing Canadian nationalism is racist, that it is a declaration of white supremacy. No, Canada is not a “post-national state.” Canadians are well within their rights to stand up for their national interest, and Canadian law guarantees them their right to speak up and do so.

I hope Canadians will not lose sight of the fact that Canada is a great place to live and Canadian citizenship is worth fighting for. Yes, John Diefenbaker got it right when he advanced the cause of Canadian nationalism and Canadians would do well to remember as they face the challenges of life in the 21st-century.

Posted by Geoffrey

 

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Sentence first, verdict afterwards. — Lewis Carroll

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Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, poses with Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and Sadiq Khan, Lord Mayor of London.

“Sentence first, verdict afterwards,” is the unreasonable demand issued by the Queen at the trial in the novel Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. What brings this quotation to mind is the absurdity of the emotional and knee jerk response to the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Her mawkish virtue signalling and condescension towards Muslims is truly cringe-worthy. I can only surmise this is a desperate effort to appease Islamists. It is a despairing ploy on her part to ward off a retaliatory attack on New Zealand by Islamists. If Jacinda Ardern thinks putting on a Muslim veil, encouraging New Zealanders to do the same, broadcasting the Islamic call to prayer over the airwaves, and having an Islamic prayer recited in parliament is going to impress Islamists, she is delusional. New Zealand had better brace itself for retribution from Islamists for the 50 Muslim citizens killed in Christchurch.

If this situation were not bad enough, Jacinda Ardern, moved ahead with a hastily crafted plan to prohibit specific makes and models of semi-automatic guns currently owned by New Zealanders. She justifies this decision in pointing to the dead and wounded in the Christchurch terror attack. This decision is emotionally driven, poorly thought out–there is zero public consultation. Sure, it is very popular with supporters of gun prohibition, both in New Zealand and across the world, but what does she expect to accomplish with this course of action? The people gunned down in the mosques in Christchurch were helpless against the attacker. It took New Zealand police 36 minutes to arrive on the scene. The fact that the attacker used semi-automatic rifles in the attack is incidental. The attacker in the shooting spree at the École Polytechnique at the Université de Montréal in 1989–in which 14 women were murdered–used a semi-automatic rifle. As the Report of the Coroner’s Investigation into the shooting at the École Polytechnique concluded: “with the unlimited ammunition and time that [the shooter–name redacted by the author] had available to him, he would probably have been able to achieve similar results even with a conventional hunting weapon, which itself is readily accessible.” (Report of Coroner’s Investigation)

There has not been an investigation into the attack on the mosques in Christchurch and the background of the perpetrator. Therefore, there is no rational basis on which to proceed with the prohibition of specified makes and models of semi-automatic guns as a response to this atrocity. Just as in Alice in Wonderland, Jacinta Ardern demands “sentence first, verdict afterwards.” Her maudlin virtue signalling and knee jerk jump to implement gun prohibition shows how weak and emotionally driven she is as Prime Minister. It does not inspire confidence. I hope the police and intelligence services in New Zealand are actively preparing for the likelihood of Islamist retaliation. It is sure to come. Beyond that, New Zealand’s gun owners are preparing for a fight with their government over the hasty decision to advance the prohibition of specific makes and models of semi-automatic guns. The dispute between New Zealand’s gun owners and their government only diverts attention from the threat of terrorism and ensures that New Zealanders are as helpless as the men, women and children gunned down in the mosques in Christchurch given the risk of future terror attacks.

I hope New Zealanders pull together and calmly and rationally take stock of their situation and work toward developing practical measures to ensure the peace and security of every individual and community in their society.

Posted by Geoffrey

Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony. — Heraclitus

maxresdefaulteris__goddess_of_strife__discord_and_chaos__smite__by_mitchumhody-d8ky9dqGrowing up I really enjoyed reading books of fairy tales, folklore, legends and myths. I especially enjoyed the books of ancient Greek myths I found at school. These were adaptations of the stories suitable for children, not the original texts in translation, of course. Of these stories, the one featuring Eris, the goddess of strife and discord, and the apple of discord was a favourite. In short, in the story the apple of discord is a golden apple with the inscription “for the fairest” the goddess Eris threw among the gods. Just who among the gods was fairest was open to question and led to disagreement between the goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite over who among them was the fairest. What started as petty bickering between the three goddesses over this question ultimately brought about the Trojan War. The moral of the story as Timothy and Susan B. Gall note in The Lincoln library of Greek & Roman mythology refers to “the core, kernel, or crux of an argument, or a small matter that could lead to a bigger dispute.” (as cited in Wikipedia) What made me think of this story in the present is the discord generated by Motion 103 Systemic racism and religious discrimination, introduced in parliament on December 5, 2016 by the backbench Liberal MP from Mississauga Iqra Khalid and passed on March 23, 2017. Continue reading

The poet’s expression of joy conceals his despair at not having found the reality of joy. — Max Jacob

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When the news broke on July 20, 2017, of the death by suicide of Chester Bennington, lead singer of the band Linkin Park, my immediate thought was “surely this is another hoax, like the bogus announcements over the internet of the deaths of Clint Eastwood and William H. Macy.” Sadly, it is true. Chester Bennington took his own life at the age of forty-one. This came as a horrible shock to his family, friends, band mates and millions of adoring fans. He was in the prime of his life, at the top of his game as a professional performer and in between tours with his band in promoting their new album One More Light. It seemed he had everything to live for, yet he decided to end his life. This is, undoubtedly, hard for many to understand and who are left wondering why. I can only surmise that in spite of the fame and success he enjoyed in life, despair got the better of him and he decided he could not go on living. Despair is part of being human and how human beings cope with it or not varies according the individual. Continue reading

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. — Henry David Thoreau

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“Do you think religion inherently good?” This was a rhetorical question posed to the class when I was a student at Queen’s University in 1986. The class was in a course in the history of Christianity. The question was posed by Professor William P. Zion who was on the faculty of the department of religious studies and the Queen’s Theological College. He was also a Russian Orthodox Priest, Father Basil. We were young students who never stopped to think about this. Professor Zion answered the question for us, telling us, “no, religion is not inherently good.” He cited the fact that historically Christians gathered to watch people burned at the stake as a witness to their faith. Professor Zion had a bit of fun with the class in posing this question, but what made me recall this memory is the fact that the majority of humanity practices some kind of religion. I appreciate and understand the appeal of religion for people. I was a pious Roman Catholic myself for several years. Interestingly, it was Father Basil who supported and encouraged me to accept my gayness and continue practicing my faith. I concur with Professor Zion in that I do not think religion is inherently good. This puts me in a bind at times as I interact with people of various faiths, who view their faith as inherently good, right and desirable, both personally and informally in my daily life. Continue reading

I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary. […] Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in ‘religion’ mean nothing unless they make our behaviour better. — C.S. Lewis

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There is a great deal of discussion about Kim Davis, the clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, jailed by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning who found her in contempt of court on September 3, 2015. She defied the court order to issue marriage licenses as required in her capacity as County Clerk. Davis refuses to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015 that made same-sex marriage lawful across the United States. She justifies her refusal to issue marriage licenses on the grounds of her religious objection to same-sex marriage.  As she stated: “to issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.” (New York Times) The question here is whether her refusal to issue marriage licenses is genuinely a matter of faith and conscientious objection to same-sex marriage or, as many of her critics allege, simply a cynical ploy on her part to draw attention to herself and feather her own nest in the process. Is this nothing more than religious hypocrisy on her part? Continue reading

It is an infantile superstition of the human spirit that virginity would be thought a virtue and not the barrier that separates ignorance from knowledge. — Voltaire

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“Virginity is like a balloon; one prick and it’s all over.” So went the punchline of a joke I remember from my high school days in the latter half of the 1970s. At the time virginity was primarily associated with the virtue of teenage girls and young, unmarried women; it was something they were expected to safeguard until marriage. It was an issue for adolescent boys and young bachelors too but in a different way. For a boy during adolescence and a young man, generally, he wanted to give up his virginity very much, and before marriage if possible. The sexual revolution was in full swing at the time. The period between the 1960s through the 1980s saw the legalization of abortion and birth control, the decriminalization of gay sex and gradual acceptance of people engaging in sex outside of marriage.  Nevertheless, I remember a degree of discomfort experienced by some of my classmates in grade ten health class when the sex education portion of the curriculum was presented. Despite the liberalized attitudes toward sex that emerged in the West during the sexual revolution, the age one chooses to give up their virginity (if at all) and to who remains a delicate issue. Continue reading