Christianity, evangelism, Free Speech, Law, Politics

5 Things About Canada’s Motion M-103

Here in Canada, the private member’s motion by Liberal backbencher Iqra Khalid has been causing some consternation. As with most things political and legal, the result has been a great deal of misunderstanding about what is actually said, and where the arguments really lie in the debate over the motion. Unfortunately, this has become a bit of a political Rorschach test (with people seeing their own political boogeymen in the issue regardless of the facts), meaning that fair-minded people can get easily confused as to the issues. So here are some points that we Christians should be considering when thinking and discussing this topic.

1) This is a motion, not a bill. There is a very big difference in parliamentary procedure between a bill (which if passed becomes law), and a motion of Parliament (which if passed can only change the rules in parliament at most, and usually simply records the will of parliament). You can see this in the text of the motion, which instructs a Parliamentary committee to do research on a defined set of terms. You can check out this short backgrounder for more information.

2) Religious Discrimination really is a problem. It’s hard to argue that there aren’t people who have hatreds of Muslims in Canada (even evidenced in the pushback the member bringing the motion has faced). In at least one (possibly deranged) case, it has led to violence. As people who are in favour of religious tolerance (i.e. religious people being allowed to be openly religious in our society), Christians generally should be ready to oppose unjustified religious discrimination, whether it is focussed on us as Christians, or on any other religious group. In this way, the motion makes some good statements about dealing with religious discrimination.

3) There really is racism in Canada, and some of it expresses through the hatred of perceived “foreign” religions. Again, this is not particularly a controversial point. Some people (both in support of Muslims, and those opposed to Muslims) mischaracterize their feelings in terms of race. As we will see in a moment, part of the discussion does have to be about language, and so this is more of a complicating factor than it would first appear. That said, as a people purchased by Christ from every tribe and tongue and nation, and who affirm that all humans carry the image of God, we cannot support racial discrimination either, and indeed need to be openly opposing it. Here again, the motion has much Christians can applaud.

4) The issue is language. Contrary to public opinion at present, Islam is not a race any more than Christianity is. Thus, while we need to oppose unjust religious discrimination, and racism, we need to be careful not to conflate the two. The Muslim teacher I have had the best conversations with happened to be a redhead from Newfoundland, who has a whiter complexion than I do, and I have spent more time in the Middle East than he has. Similarly, as Mark Noll has pointed out, the average Christian globally is a woman living in sub-Saharan Africa. Thus I would point out that the juxtaposition of systematic racism with what is termed “Islamophobia” is going to cause confusion. To oppose the teachings of any religion is not in itself racist. While Christians need to oppose unjust racial and religious discrimination, we need to be careful to keep open the possibility of disagreeing over religious beliefs.

5) The Term Islamophobia is (a large) part of the issue Here the issue is going to depend largely on how you read the word. If Islamophobia refers to the irrational fear and hatred of Muslim people, there is valid reason to oppose it. As with any fear and hatred of people made in the image of God (regardless of what they believe), Christians must be at the forefront of opposing it. However, recent cultural movements have tended to mobilize the term “phobia” as a means of discrediting all criticism of the thing ostensibly feared. While the applicability of the terms in those cases can be debated elsewhere, when it comes to a creed or religion, applying the phobia moniker may chill free discussion of those creeds or religions.Where this may work against free speech, Christians need to be vigilant, since evangelism, and even internal religious debate within Christianity (as well as within Islam) may be chilled.

Archeology, evangelism, Islam, Mission, Science, Sports, technology

Online Reading, June 23, 2010

Sports: If I don’t begin with Korea’s advance to the second round of the World Cup with their 2-2 draw with Nigeria last evening, I might get lynched.

Freedom of Religion: Apparently in dearborn, handing out information about Christianity to Muslims is “disorderly conduct“. Some also worry that word choices among the Obama administration may reflect a desire to limit freedom of religion…. nah.

Technology: Of course, this can’t be the beginning of a brave new world dystopia. It’s not like people can track your location through your ipod.

Archaeology: Early drawings of the Apostles are found in Rome.

Christianity, evangelism, Mission

Online Reading, June 22, 2010

Church and Social Media: This article has special interest for me working in Korea where privacy is much less of an expectation.

The Church in North Africa: The expulsion of hundreds of Christian foreign workers in Morocco is making for friction with the U.S. State department.

The Church in Afghanistan: Pray for our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan as they face popular (and mortal) opposition for taking the name of Christ.

Prayer: Speaking of which, a very good prayer guide is the Joshua project. They even have a mobile enhanced page for the iphone.

Church Planting, Culture, Ethics, evangelism, repentance, theology

Despair and Sin

After some discussion, I’m finding that I have to explain what I mean when I say that the rarer form of unprepared heart for the Gospel is despairing sin.

Recall that my central understanding of the Gospel is that is at heart about the glory of Jesus Christ and the reign of His kingdom (Matt. 4:23). Jesus Christ rules over all things (Rev. 11:15), and that rule is evidenced both in wrath for sinners, and just mercy on some that was purchased on the cros (Rom. 9:22-23).

The problem for the exceedingly rare despairing sinner is not the conviction that they are sinners. They already have that. The problem for the despairing sinner is that the rule of a just omniscient God comes as bad news to this person. They are in rebellion to such a God, and know that they are, and so upon learning that there is such a God, despair because they cannot hope to measure up.

Unless their hearts are prepared, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for their sins is going to simply be too good to be true. They will prefer to have some mediating priesthood or action, or something, so that they can be sure that God is actually for them and not against them.

Biblically, this is the group Jesus and the apostles had the most success with at the get go. The only thing that the Spirit needs to convince such people is the love of God and the objective truth of Christ’s death and resurrection for their sins. In societies with a strong basis in an objective morality, the preaching of God’s love through the cross will be effective.

However, this group is very rare in modern culture. In fact, I’ve only ever met a handful of this group. In order to be in this group you have to have enough of a background that would convince you both of the reality of objective morality and that you are in transgression of that. Since the first step is openly denied in modern western culture, it is going to be rare to find people who are convinced that they are in transgression of it. What few that do get past that step, run up against the modern imperial I, and the belief that the objective morality is personally defined (thus everyone is always completely moral, since they define morality).

That is why I believe that Phariseeism is the far more common opposition to the Gospel in modern hearts, and why I believe that the current focus on the truth of God’s love to the exclusion of God’s wrath is probably doomed in modern society.

Culture, discernment, evangelism, Jesus, repentance

Crucifying What I Can’t Afford

jesus_cross_crucifixion.jpgThe Bible says that I am to “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the flesh” (Romans 8:13b) so that I may live. I used to think that that was just the things that are “sinful”, meaning all the negative rules that people consider to be part of the Christian religion…. you know, don’t lie, don’t cheat, etc. etc.. I’m not so sure anymore.The fact is that I am supposed to be living a life that is focussed on God. God really is worth all the effort, but it’s often easier to focus on immediate pleasures; ones Religious people often think are sinful (like sex, drugs, etc.) and some that they think are okay (reading, thinking, playing games) and things that are in the grey area (movies, video games, music etc,).

It seems that in Romans 8 though, Paul has a different idea entirely. We are alive to the Spirit and dead to the flesh. This isn’t a wacky desire to have ecstatic Spiritual giftings, but rather a desire to live towards the one the Spirit testifies to, Jesus Christ. It’s a fairly simple thing, when I spend time on something, is it trying to gratify my desire for more of Jesus, or is it something that is simply making my flesh a little happier? One is a good idea, the other is a bad idea, but in practice they might look like the same act.

For example, I write this blog so that hopefully a gorgeous redhead or blonde supermodel Christian will happen upon this blog and fall in love with me: bad idea. I write this blog in the hope of making people love Jesus more: good idea (even if there’s a side effect of someone falling in love with me and us going on to glorify Jesus in a married life). Different goals, same act, but if the goal is wrong it’s a deed of the flesh. If the deed springs from a love of something other than Jesus, it needs to be crucified, it’s distracting from the real goal. I can’t afford it.

Getting more of Jesus in my life, making my life reflect more of Christ, and making others actually think Jesus is really awesome, is going to take everything I’ve got (and judging by some who read this blog, I have an uphill battle). doing good stuff for any reason other than that means I have less with which to seek Jesus, so I can’t afford it.