The Church and State Debate
By Michael Coren
Oh Mr. Lunney, whatever are you playing at? Long-time Nanaimo MP James Lunney announced recently that he was leaving the Conservatives because he could no longer speak as a Christian while being part of the party caucus. There was, he said, a nasty sense of religious persecution in the Ottawa air. That will be news to many people, a lot of them devout Christians and Tory MPs.
All of this became an issue when Lunney tweeted his support for an Ontario MPP who had criticized evolution. In that evolution is accepted by all credible scientists and most credible theologians it’s hardly a surprise that poor old James came in for a fair amount of mockery and even abuse.
His response was not to question his own rather flimsy ideas but to allege that “militant atheists” were now controlling the agenda, that Canadian Christians were persecuted and that there were “deliberate attempts to suppress a Christian worldview from professional and economic opportunity in law, medicine, and academia.”
As yet we have seen no supporting evidence for these somewhat hysterical claims and I can tell you as a Christian with a fairly high public profile that while I have been forced to defend and justify my faith I have never lost a job or been attacked because of my religion, there is no conspiracy of Godhaters and that to speak of persecution in the same week as dozens of Kenyan Christians were slaughtered was at best careless and perhaps downright obscene.
What Lunney seems to be talking about is not the right to believe that Jesus is the Son of God or born of a virgin but the political consequences of holding to conservative Christian ideas. Namely, of course, that abortion is wrong, marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman and that Canada is a Christian nation fighting to uphold its heritage.
All of these themes are vital and deserving of intelligent debate but none of them mark people out as Christians. In other words, non-Christians could oppose abortion and same-sex marriage and, for that matter, Christians could and some certainly do believe that marriage between people of the same gender is completely acceptable and part of a deeper understanding of Christ’s teaching.
In the past few months alone, we have seen a political and legal dispute around the right of Trinity Western University in Langley, BC to be able to exclude people in gay marriages from enrolling in their proposed law school. We have seen a heated discussion taking place in Ontario over the provincial government’s sex education curriculum, and nationally around the conscience rights of doctors concerning abortion, contraception and, likely in the near future, euthanasia. Again, all deeply significant subjects but if the courts and state decide in one particular manner is does not signify the persecution of Christians.
When it comes to evolution, the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, mainstream Protestants and even many evangelicals see no contradiction between God the creator and the explanation of evolution. In fact it is a fringe, a minority of Christians who still ride the – forgive the pun — roaring dinosaur of literal creationism! With all due respect they tend to reduce the great faith of Christianity to a series of flawed and easily deflated positions based not on science and research but on a refusal to understand the metaphorical aspects of Scripture. They minimize God, put Him in a box, enable those “militant atheists” to make Christians appear foolish.
None of this is about the right of Canadian Christians to live their faith and if you think James Lunney is a victim of persecution you probably believe Mike Duffy uses public transport so as to save taxpayers’ money. There is certainly a national conversation that needs to take place about church and state and the place of faith in the public square but it has to be based on fact, not fable.