Today’s post comes from the pen of Dennis Maione. Dennis and I have been friends for over 25 years, from the days when we attended seminary together. He is a multiple author, including a book we reviewed here on Internet Monk, Pastor, has survived cancer twice, and was once spotted finishing an Ironman competition. For some unknown reason he lives in Winnipeg, which begs the question, “why?”. Here is his rather different take (you can google some of the others) on a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. As usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome.
This week the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that it was discriminatory for Trinity Western University to enact a morality code which effectively discriminated against anyone who would not conform to what they deemed to be a Biblical definition of marriage. While the court did not say that the morality code was, in and of itself, discriminatory, it was ruled to be contrary to the best interests of Canadian public life. This because it defined, and then mandated, who a Trinity Western student was allowed to have sex with: specifically, it prohibits sex between legally married people whose marriages do not conform to the definition of mariage that Trinity Western University deems to be Biblical. As a result, there will probably be no law school at Trinity Western University.
Of course, conservative Christians, and many other conservative religious groups, see this as an affront to their ability to practice religion within the public square. It is seen as a violation of the freedom of religion clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Inasmuch as I find it convenient to have my religious beliefs enshrined in a charter of rights , thus eliminating the fear of reprisal regardless of what I believe or what practices those beliefs engender, I am not going to raise a hew and cry. No protesting in the street for me. Why? Because the government does not owe me anything. Nor does society. In fact, the very scripture that I use to defend my right to believe what I do about marriage and about morality in general also says that as a follower of Jesus I am first and foremost beholding to God and after that my primary character trait needs to be one of humility. And while I would prefer that the morality of my culture would line up with all the beliefs I have as a follower of Jesus, it is naïve to believe that that will ever be so.
It has been argued that this ruling demonstrates an erosion of my rights. A subtle, or not subtle, stripping away of my right to believe and to practice my beliefs within the public square. What’s next, it is asked, will the government tell me what I can preach, whether I can go to church on Sunday, or whether I can say that some things are sin and others are not?
The answer to that question is two-fold. First, welcome to much of the world. While I don’t think that my plight is less important because others have it worse, this is a lot like folks in Winnipeg complaining about a day of of brown water when the community of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation have been boiling their water for 20 years because if they don’t they will die from deadly diseases due to water contamination. In the same way, Christians in Canada could look to China, or Cuba, or North Korea before they complain too vociferously about religious freedom.
Second, and more importantly, let’s look to our own Bible. My rights? I have the right to death because of my rebellion against God. And everything else, my life, my hope, my present, and my future, comes at the grace of God: not the will of society, not the edict of government. Oh yes, I also have the right to put everyone else’s needs before my own, whether those people are followers of Jesus or not. I do not have the right to define marriage for other Canadians. I do not have the right to define life—its beginning or end—for other Canadians. I do not have the right to impose my moral code on other Canadians. I have only the right to live in the grace that God has given to me and to put the needs of other people before my own.
Does this mean that I should just “sit down and shut up”? Of course not. As a citizen of this country and as someone who cares deeply about the people in it and the justice that we claim to want for everyone—both the majority and the minority voices—I have an obligation to speak. I must speak from my grounding in the world of God because that is where my voice comes from. But I should not be surprised when that voice is ignored in favour of other, sometimes more palatable, voices. But I’ll never stand, like an overwrought toddler, complaining that my rights have been violated. Because, as Jesus said and modelled to me, my right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness must always be subordinated to those of yours, no matter who you are or what you believe.