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Book excerpts, Book Reviews, History, Human Rights, Politics

The bad king that prompted the Great Charter

How Robin Hood’s nemesis Prince John was the impetus behind the Magna Carta

In this excerpt from “A Christian Citizenship Guide” by André Schutten and Michael Wagner, we go way back to the time of the fictional Robin Hood and the very real Prince John to learn about the development of the Magna Carta, which has been described as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”

*****

Once upon a time there was a king named Richard the Lionheart. He became king of England in 1189. The time before this date, in English law, is known as “time immemorial.”1 Important legal and political developments occurred in this “time out of mind” and contributed to the development of the system of law and government that we have today.2 While important and formational, those developments can’t be covered in detail here. However, we must begin the story of our constitution somewhere, and so we will begin the day after time immemorial.

Most storybooks suggest that Richard the Lionheart was a good king, but that’s really quite debatable. All we know for sure is that his brother John was worse. Richard was a military man and mainly used England to fund his military exploits. He spent all but 6 months of his 10-year reign outside of England fighting various battles and pursuing various exploits. Once, on his way back to England, King Richard was kidnapped in a German territory and held for ransom. His brother John, temporarily ruling England in his place, not only refused to pay the ransom but offered the kidnappers money to keep his brother in custody! (You get a sense of John’s character, don’t you?) King Richard eventually returned to England but died shortly thereafter and, because he had no children, his younger brother John officially took the throne in the year 1199.

King John ruled as an absolute monarch, as had most of the kings preceding him. He was the ultimate law maker and the final judge of any legal dispute, and he set himself above the law. King John was also a particularly cruel and greedy king, which is where the tales of Robin Hood come in. His excessive taxation impoverished the people and united the factions opposed to him. All sectors of society rose up: the barons, church leadership, merchants, and commoners.

Signed not just twice or thrice

In early 1215, a group of 39 barons (out of a total of 197) openly revolted against the king, with the blessing of Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury. The barons successfully took over the city of London and more barons came to their side. By midyear, King John knew he had to negotiate. And so, on the 15th day of June, 1215, in an open meadow known as Runnymede, the barons and the king signed a truce negotiated and drafted by archbishop Langton. That truce is known as the Magna Carta, or the Great Charter, and it is quite possibly the most significant legal document in the history of English law. Lord Denning, one of the greatest English judges in history, once described the Magna Carta as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”3 Lord Chief Justice Bingham wrote that “the sealing of Magna Carta was an event that changed the constitutional landscape in and, over time, the world.”4

The Magna Carta stands for the rule of law that all free men must be treated fairly and that no one is above the law, not even the king.5 By signing the Magna Carta, King John swore that he, and subsequent kings, would not be able to order the execution of his political enemies or any other citizens that displeased him without a proper criminal trial, heard by an impartial jury. Nor could he exact taxes from the people without first consulting with a council of barons (the very beginnings of a Parliament). And, often overlooked in modern political textbooks, the very first clause of the Magna Carta guaranteed the freedom and protection of the church.6 This was particularly important because King John wanted the power to appoint only those who agreed with him to be bishops of the church. The ecclesiastical leaders were known to speak out against the excesses and abuses of the king and often paid a steep price for doing so. King John’s father, King Henry II, infamously had archbishop Thomas Becket murdered inside Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 for standing up to the king on matters of church independence.

While most parts of the Magna Carta have since been replaced or repealed by subsequent statutes, the ancient Charter has enduring value. One clause still in force today is Clause 40 which states: “To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.” This clause is an expression of the principle of equality before the law, cemented into Canada’s Constitution in section 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms 767 years later. The Canadian version reads, “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection of the law and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.”

If you’re wondering whether the Magna Carta was a particularly Christian document, the answer is, “Yes!” Not only does the Magna Carta open and close with declarations about the church’s independence from state interference (the beginnings of constitutional protections for religious freedom), but the author, archbishop Langton, was the leading churchman in all of England. His legal training in Europe was in canon law (or church law), and he applied this legal training and the scriptural principles of law to his drafting of the Magna Carta. He had “a scripturally informed conscience from which emerged truth’s uninhibited voice in Magna Carta encourages proper and good government, resulting in increased justice.”7

Unfortunately, the signing of the Magna Carta didn’t restrain King John’s excesses all that long. Three months after signing it, the devious king had it annulled by the pope, and England was plunged into bloody civil war. But thankfully (for the English people anyway), King John died the next year from excessive diarrhea8 and the war came to an end.

The Magna Carta did not die with King John. John’s nine-year-old son Henry III became king and reigned for the next 56 years. With the advisors and supporters of the young king seeking stability and an end to the civil war, the Magna Carta was reinstated in 1216. And when Henry reached adulthood in 1227, he reissued the Magna Carta again as law, though a shorter version of it, in exchange for the barons’ consent to a new tax. In 1253, in exchange for another tax to fund his battles in France, King Henry III swore on pain of excommunication “and stinking in hell” to uphold the Magna Carta.9 A decade later he broke his oath, imposing yet another tax, which sparked a rebellion known as the Second Barons’ War. That war concluded in 1267 with a peace treaty that required King Henry III to reaffirm the Magna Carta yet again (if you’re counting, that’s the fourth time).10

The development of the Parliaments

King Henry III eventually died in 1272, and his son Edward I became king. Edward I (a.k.a. Edward Longshanks, because he was quite tall) did much good from a constitutional perspective, despite his depiction as a particularly cruel and cold-hearted English king in the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart. Edward I instituted a major review of political corruption and the abuse of power by citizens who held substantial power. In 1275, he passed The First Statute of Westminster to put on paper many of the existing laws in the country. He also worked to strengthen the policing system and restore public order.

One of King Edward’s biggest contributions is that he initiated the first official Parliaments in England, calling about 46 Parliaments in his reign. The first Parliament, in 1275, included members of the nobility, clergy, and the election of two county representatives and two representatives from the towns or cities to attend.11 Twenty years later, this form of representative parliament became standard practice, known as the Model Parliament, and all future Parliaments, including Canada’s, are based on it. The nobility and clergy make up the House of Lords (comparable to Canada’s Senate), and the elected representatives of counties or towns make up the House of the Commoners (or House of Commons). Importantly, before the king could increase taxes, he had to gain approval from Parliament.

Parliament was also a check on the absolute authority of the king in other respects. After another dispute over taxes between the king and Parliament between 1294 and 1297, the Magna Carta was amended and passed by Parliament as a statute for the first time and signed into law by King Edward I. This 1297 version of the Magna Carta is the officially recognized legal text in English law today and remains a part of the constitutions of Britain and Canada. Over the next one hundred years, Parliament continued to pass statutes (known later as the Six Statutes12) that clarified and expanded on sections of the Magna Carta, constantly working to restrain by law the otherwise unlimited power of the monarch. These statutes ensured that any action taken against a subject, whether taxes, fines, evictions, imprisonment, or execution, had to be done by trial or due process of the law and not at the whim of the king or his officials. Some of these constitutional principles developed in the 1300s13 are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.14

The passing of the Magna Carta as a statute in Parliament marks a significant shift in the understanding of the power and authority of kings. The kings from the Norman Conquest (William the Conqueror in 1066) until the establishment of Parliaments believed “they ruled by means of their force and will (vis et voluntas), not by the grace of God or legal right.”15 Most people accepted this at the time, but cultural developments shifted toward “the principle of the supremacy of law.”16 The law was no longer a tool used by the king to get his way; rather the king himself was bound by the law and under the law. This shift did not happen by accident. Many of the legal rules and procedures that developed around this time were adapted from canon law (church law) which the king’s lawyers would have studied in the universities, which were also run by the churches. In the canon law tradition, “the idea that the rule of law was antithetical to the rule of men lay dormant.”17

To read the rest of the story, order a copy of André Schutten and Michael Wagner’s “A Christian Citizenship Guide” available for a suggested donation of $25. Email [email protected] or visit arpacanada.ca/CitizenshipGuide. Watch a conversation between the two authors below.

Footnotes

1. “A time out of mind” or “time immemorial” refers to a point beyond which legal authorities believed it was impossible to speak with certainty. See Ryan Alford, Seven Absolute Rights: Recovering the Historical Foundations of Canada’s Rule of Law (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020), pp. 79-80.
2. This includes the Law Code developed by King Alfred the Great (r. 871-899) which incorporated the 10 commandments into the laws of England, the tradition of the coronation oaths of the Anglo-Saxon kings, the Norman Invasion of 1066 led by William the Conqueror and the Charter of liberties his son King Henry I (r. 1100-1135) instituted.
3. Danny Danziger & John Gillingham, 1215: The Year of the Magna Carta (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2004), at p. 278.
4. Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law (Penguin Books, 2011), at p. 11.
5. Clause 39, still in force today, states: “No free man shall be arrested, or imprisoned, or deprived of his property, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor shall we go against him or send against him, unless by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.” The only other clauses still in force today are Clause 1, which guarantees the freedom of the church, and clause 13 (renumbered clause 9 in Magna Carta, 1297), which guarantees the ancient liberties of the City of London.
6. The first clause reads in part: “First, that we have granted to God, and by this present Charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired.”
7. Brent Winters, Excellence of the Common Law (2008: self-published), p. 554, note 1383.
8. We are not 100% sure, but this may be why toilets are called “johns”. Some observe that, because King John was so despised, no king has ever been named after him. There has only ever been one King John, and he was bad enough.
9. Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at p. 84
10. The Magna Carta was reconfirmed by various kings dozens of times, having last been confirmed by Henry VI in 1423. Ben Johnson, “The History of the Magna Carta,” Historic UK: The History and Heritage Accommodation Guide, online
11. Some might argue that King Edward’s father, King Henry III, instituted the first Parliaments. However, those earlier assemblies were more a collection of barons as advisors than a Parliament. Henry III did issue the first summons of parliamentum generalissimum to 24 barons to convene in January 1237, though only 18 attended. This evolved over time into the House of Lords. King Edward I was the first to have elected representatives from the towns and counties to attend. Those elected representatives evolved into the House of Commons.
12. See discussion on the Six Statutes in Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at pp. 885-88.
13. These principles were developed by Parliament in the 1300s but are borrowed from canon law developed in the 1200s. For example, Pope Innocent III maintained that “a prince could not abolish the judicial process or ignore an action, because he was bound by natural law to render justice.” See Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at p. 89.
14. These rights include the right not to be arbitrarily detained (s. 9 of the Charter), the right to a fair trial (s.11(d) of the Charter) and a trial by jury in serious offences (s.11(f) of the Charter).
15. Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at p. 87. Alford further explains, “The expression of royal anger and ill will (ira et malevolentia) was integral to royal status. Vassals had to accept the possibility of their destruction at the king’s hands as a fact of life.”
16. Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at p. 88.
17. Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at p. 88.

Adult biographies, Book Reviews, History, Teen non-fiction

Listen! Six Men You Should Know

by Christine Farenhorst 161 pages / 2021 The six men we get introduced to here are given 25-30 pages each which is enough space to get a very good feel for them. It's also short enough that it avoids completely the indulgence evident in many a bigger biography of telling us what the subject ate for lunch on the third Tuesday of October, one hundreds years ago. The half dozen that author Christine Farenhorst introduces us to are: Martin Luther King Jr. Albert Schweitzer Rembrandt Dutch Samuel Morse Sigmund Freud Norman Rockwell I enjoyed the eclectic nature of the selections – these six holding little in common outside their fame and influence, but all are worth knowing better. I was more curious about some of them than others, particularly the very first, the American icon, Martin Luther King Jr. But after learning a little about his thoughts, and the political and cultural battles of his time, I skipped ahead to the profile of Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud who spent most of this life in Europe, and died when King was just 10. I'd read biographies on both men previously, but Christine's solidly biblical perspective brought new light to both subjects. For the four others, I knew little more than their names – or their artwork, in the cases of Norman Rockwell and Rembrandt – and I enjoyed this opportunity to delve into their backgrounds, their age, and place. I enjoyed learning about Samuel Morse in particular, as he is the only one of these six who was clearly a Christian. Christine shows that some of the others, like Freud, clearly were not, while Rembrandt, had, at best, an odd relationship with his Maker. Overall, this is a very quick enjoyable read – I think I finished it in a day. It was sad reading about many of these men's outright rejection of God, so I might recommend reading the profiles out of order so that you can conclude with Samuel Morse, and end on a happy note! Children who enjoy history and reading would likely enjoy this as young as 12. The short, 30-page profiles, would also make this a great title for adults who want to know their history, but are put off by the tomes that some historians publish. Christine Farenhorst is a regular columnist for Reformed Perspective, so if you want to get a feel for her writing, that is as easily done as clicking here. You can order "Listen! Six men you should know" at many online retailers....

History

Why History matters

It’s not surprising people aren’t that interested in history. The evolutionary perspective that’s dominated the West for decades now, undermines the significance of knowing our past. How so? Well, if life started out simple and became more complex over time, then what exists now is superior to anything that came before, and what’s older is outdated and inferior. Now is much more important than anything recorded in the history textbooks, and thus there’s little reason to learn about our past. A person’s worldview affects how he or she views history. This is a point made by Stephen Mansfield in his book, More Than Dates and Dead People: Recovering a Christian View of History. Those with an evolutionary worldview will have little incentive to study history aside from trivial interests. Christianity, however, views history much differently. We know God controls everything, so historical events are not random and meaningless since they all have a purpose in God’s plan. As Mansfield puts it, “God has a destination for history that gives everything else in history its meaning.” Your history shapes you One way history affects our lives involves how we see and understand ourselves. Your own family’s past will influence your personal identity and if your ancestors were notorious criminals, that’ll impact you differently than if they were war heroes or great philanthropists. Mansfield writes, “…the way you see your past has a lot to do with the way you see yourself now. And the way you see yourself, good or bad, determines the way you live. This is why we say that history has the power to impact a sense of destiny. Your view of your past will shape your view of your future, and this is not only true of individuals, but even of nations – in fact, of any group of people.” Everyone’s parents are part of a particular nation and culture. Thus, everyone has a specific heritage from the time of their birth. Often this heritage will contribute much to their sense of identity, and to their sense of meaning and purpose. History shapes our time Studying history also provides perspective that helps people to better understand their own era. This can be an experience similar to traveling to a different country: seeing how other people live causes us to become aware of how our own society differs from others. It makes us conscious of things we haven't thought about before, simply because they were so familiar. Learning history can provide us with a similar experience, because we see how differently people lived in the past, even within our own country. In many respects, life is easier now than in the past. The higher standard of living today is due to the hard work of our forebears. However, we can’t truly appreciate what those people have done for us unless we actually know what they’ve done. The accomplishments of previous generations profoundly affect our lives today. Without victories in particular conflicts, for example, we would be living in completely different circumstances. Consider how things would be different if the Allies had lost the Second World War. As Mansfield explains: “every generation is living in the wake of the generation that precedes it…. We all live in the world that our ancestors have left us.” Religious history shows the why behind what happened History shows what people have done in the past but a key question is, why did they do what they did? Generally speaking, people are motivated by what they believe. Therefore, to understand history it’s necessary to know what a community believed that would lead them to do what they did. In other words, much of history is motivated by people’s religion. To explain this properly, Mansfield relies on a robust definition of religion as “ultimate concern.” As he explains more fully: “A man’s ultimate concern is what dominates his thoughts and passions, what he regards with unconditional seriousness, and what he is willing to suffer or die for. This is his religion, his god, his faith – regardless of what he says he believes.” Many think of religion in a narrower sense of believing in a particular god and attending some house of worship. They would say that they don’t have a religion and that society should be non-religious. In their view, people can practice religion as part of their private lives but should keep it out of the public sphere. However, when religion is understood as “ultimate concern,” it is clear that every society is religious because everyone has fundamental beliefs about the meaning of life that motivates their actions. In recent decades, North American society has turned away from Christianity. But the secular or progressive ideals that have replaced Christianity are just as “religious,” even though secularism isn’t a traditional religion where people attend an assembly of co-believers to worship a particular deity. As Mansfield summarizes this point: “When we look at the lives of people in history, we have to realize that each person’s life has been shaped in large part by faith. Whatever people believed – their ultimate concern – was their religion, even if they claimed to be completely opposed to religion.” This point is important with regard to understanding history because, Mansfield writes: “Faith is what powers the human side of history. Find out what people believe and you’ll know who they are. History shows how God blesses countries that obey One notable example of the influence of religion on history is how Protestantism led to the greatest degree of individual liberty among nations. While Christianity introduced the idea of a transcendent authority (God) above the state, the Reformation refined the concept of political liberty even further. This was particularly the case in Calvinistic countries. In 17th century Britain, individual liberty became a key emphasis of political theory. As the British Empire expanded across the globe, these ideas were carried with emigrants who settled new lands that became the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. These countries, along with some of the Protestant nations of continental Europe, have offered their citizens the greatest degree of freedom in history. Capitalism – the economic side of individual freedom – generated tremendous prosperity in these countries as well. Thus, both liberty and relatively high standards of living were the direct fruits of Protestantism. Legislative history reflects the heart of a nation Although there is a popular slogan that “you can’t legislate morality,” the opposite is actually true: all law is the enacting of morality into legislation. Murder is illegal because it is considered to be immoral; theft is illegal because it is considered to be immoral, and so on. Therefore, examining a community’s laws will reveal what that community values most strongly. Mansfield puts it this way: “Laws, all laws, are statements of value, of belief, of higher principles. This is why we might define law as ‘religion codified’ or religion set into a series of statements about right and wrong.” With this in mind, it is possible to see when a particular society’s religious beliefs are changing. Any substantial change in laws reveals a substantial change in their religion Just such a legal and religious change was noticeable in North America during the 1960s. For example, Mansfield notes that: “the United States Supreme Court, in the 1962 Engel v. Vitale case, told 39,000,000 American school children that the twenty-two word prayer with which they started their day was a violation of the Constitution.” This was one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in American history, and it indicated that the country was moving in a sharply secular direction. A few years later, the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 legalizing abortion throughout the U.S. contributed further to this change. The 1960s were also a major period of change in Canada. In 1969, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau legalized abortion (to a certain degree) and homosexuality at the same time. Clearly, the country was moving away from its Christian foundation. Trudeau went even further by adding his Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the constitution in 1982. That document would ultimately lead to the elimination of any restrictions on abortion whatsoever, as well as extend homosexual rights to the point where the federal government legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. Again, the change in law reflected a change in religion. Canada was becoming less Christian and more secular. We can see this from the history. We can understand the present political and cultural situation of our country only by learning this history. Conclusion Contrary to the evolutionary view that learning history has little value, the Christian perspective recognizes that history is the outworking of God's plan that provides meaning to our lives. It affects how we view ourselves and our purpose in the world. Without some knowledge of history, we cannot properly understand our own society and the significance of major cultural and political events. Given that religious beliefs are the primary motivator for people's behavior, history provides a record of how different religions have affected the world for better or worse. What history also teaches us then, generally speaking, is that those countries most aligned with God’s Truth – Protestant Christian nations – have been the freest and most prosperous....

History, News

Residential schools: what worldview is to blame?

We’ve seen at least ten Canadian churches burnt down and others damaged by fire since unmarked graves at two former residential schools became front page news in June. Many children who attended these schools did not live to return to their families, and it’s not a leap to think the arsonists are blaming the churches for their deaths. That’s the direction Prime Minister Trudeau took too, when he called on the Roman Catholic Church to apologize for their involvement. There is blame to be directed at individuals and organizations. However, to learn the right lesson here we need to look beyond just the people, and find out what worldview was the root cause. We can point to people who professed to be Christian as perpetrators, and the State was overseeing it all. So was the problem that people were acting like Christians, or that they were acting like agents of a secular State? Was this tragedy caused by too much Christianity or too little? To answer, let’s compare and contrast the worldviews that were involved: Christianity, and the secular worldview that has long been prevalent in government. Secularism is godless and consequently holds that the State is the highest authority, since it is the mightiest (if there is no God, then why wouldn’t might makes right?). The only limits on its power are self-imposed. The State gives rights and therefore can also take them away. Thus parents have only as much authority as the State grants them, and the State can take away that authority whenever it wishes. Under this worldview education is a State responsibility, if it so decides. Christianity acknowledges that God is the highest authority, and that He’s allotted limited authority to not only the State, but also to parents. God is the source of our rights via His commandments so, for example, his prohibitions against stealing and murder give us rights to property and life. While the State does often violate those rights, it can never take them away. God has given parents the primary role in the education of their children (Deut. 4:9, 6:7, 11: 19, Josh. 24:15, Prov. 1:8, 3:1, 15:5, Eph. 6:6, Heb. 12:7-8, etc.). When the Canadian government took these children away from their parents, it was acting as godless governments have always done, and in a manner consistent with secular conviction: without restraint, and as if might makes right. However, when professed Christian individuals and groups aided in these abductions they were acting in opposition to the Truth they professed, against principles God spells out in His Word. We need to understand then that the horrors perpetuated at these residential schools were not caused by Christianity, but by its lack. Today our government continues using schooling to indoctrinate children against the values of their parents. In the State's public system the abduction is no longer physical, but still mental and spiritual, with children taught the government’s secular perspective on God, the unborn, sexuality, rights, gender, and more. As our country continues to look at what happened in these residential schools, God’s people need to help their friends and neighbors unpack why it went so horribly wrong. It was wrong, but not according to the secular worldview – that the State disregarded parents is completely in keeping with our current Prime Minister's secular worldview. The only reason these abductions were wrong is because God is in fact King. They were wrong because He has granted parents the responsibility to care for and educate their children, and the State had no authority to take our children away. The lesson Canada needs to learn is to reject godless governance, and acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Photo by Blake Elliot/Shutterstock.com....

History, News

Residential schools and the devastation of State-perpetrated family breakup

For the past several months, Canada has been convulsed by the heartbreaking rediscovery of hundreds—and likely thousands—of child graves outside residential schools where Indigenous children were placed (incarcerated is probably a better word) by the Canadian government to “kill the Indian in the child.” The history of residential schools is one of the blackest in Canadian history, and anyone who has read even portions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report (I did research on forced abortions in residential schools several years ago) must conclude that this was a systematic crime committed against entire peoples. As Terry Glavin wrote in the National Post: "Imprisoned in chronically underfunded institutions that were incubation chambers for epidemic diseases, the children died in droves. Enfeebled by homesickness, brutal and sadistic punishments and wholly inadequate nutrition, they died from tuberculosis, pneumonia, the Spanish influenza and measles, among any number of proximate causes. At the Old Sun boarding school in Alberta, there were years when children were dying at 10 times the rate of children in the settler population… "The TRC report chronicles barbaric punishments, duly recorded by federal bureaucrats and officials with the churches that ran the schools. Students shackled to one another, placed in handcuffs and leg irons, beaten with sticks and chains, sent to solitary confinement cells for days on end — and schools that knowingly hired convicted “child molesters.” Only a few dozen individuals have ever been prosecuted and convicted for the abuse those children endured." In much of the debate over the nuances of these re-emerging stories, I think an opportunity for appropriate empathy is sometimes lost. Yes, it is true that not all of the children were abused. Yes, it is true that healthcare standards during that time meant that diseases were far more deadly. Yes, some students remain ambivalent about their experiences to this day. But none of this changes the central fact of the matter: Children were forcibly removed by the state from their families for the express purpose of destroying their family bonds and eradicating their language and culture. If they'd come for our kids... I hail from the Dutch diaspora in Canada, and like many immigrant groups in our multicultural patchwork, our communities have remained largely culturally homogenous. Imagine if the Canadian government had decided, at some point, that Dutch-Canadian (or Sikh or Ukrainian or Jewish) culture needed to be destroyed for the good of the children in those communities, who needed to be better assimilated. Then, imagine if the government forcibly removed children as young as three years old from the parental home – state-sanctioned kidnapping. At school, they were deprived of their grandparents, parents, siblings, language, and culture—and told that their homes were bad for them. At the end of the experience, if the children survived disease, abuse, bullying, and loneliness, he or she would have been remade in the image of the state – and community bonds would have been severed and many relationships irrevocably destroyed. The children who died of disease were often buried on school grounds. That means many children were taken by the government – and their families simply never saw them again. Imagine, for just a moment, if that was your family. If you were removed from your family. If your children were removed from you. How might you feel about Canada if her government had, for generations, attempted to destroy everything precious to you? It is a question worth reflecting on. Over the past decade, as religious liberty has been steadily eroded by Western governments, many Christians have wondered, fearfully, whether the authorities will eventually interfere with how they raise their children. Christian parents have been presented as a threat to their own children because of their “hateful” Christian values. When considering the residential schools, Christians should realize that what happened to Indigenous people in Canada is their own worst nightmare. This happened to real children and real families within living memory. Those families have not yet recovered. That devastation cannot be undone – it can only be survived. The intergenerational damage from these state-inflicted wounds ripples forward in time – and social conservatives, of all people, should be able to understand the fallout from family breakup. Except in this case, the families were forcibly broken up, against their will. As a father and member of large families, I cannot fathom the helplessness, despair, and rage that those who saw their family members stolen from them must have felt. Imagine losing your three-year-old son or daughter to the government, with no recourse for getting your child back. Imagine never seeing that child again. Hatred is absolutely never the answer. But I can certainly understand it. Why minimize this crime? If it had been my child stolen from me, who then died from disease years later and was never returned, I can imagine how I would feel if the response from people was: “Well, lots of people died from disease.” Or: “Many of the educators tried their best.” Or: “It wasn’t feasible to send the bodies of the stolen children home.” I can imagine how I would feel if I heard that in response to raw pain and grief at state-perpetrated injustice. I would feel as if people weren’t listening; didn’t care; and were simply, once again, making excuses. There are times when injustice must be faced in the raw, and the intricacies of healthcare in the early part of the last century can be discussed some other time. Over the past several weeks, residential school survivors have come forward anew to detail their experiences. Many of them struggled with substance abuse as a result of what they endured; many of the issues with alcohol and drugs on some Indigenous reserves today stem from the state-perpetrated breakup of their families. It is easy for those looking at reserves from the outside in to criticize without realizing the context for the state of many families, which would likely still be whole if the Canadian government had not intentionally destroyed them. This is not to say that people bear no responsibilities for their actions. It is to say that we should consider how we would think if the government had perpetrated this on our own communities. Christians know how important families are For several generations, social conservative and Christian scholars have been warning that family breakup is at the root of many of our social ills. Largescale family breakup results in crime, risky behavior, substance abuse, mental illness, PTSD, and other traumas and anti-social behavior. Fatherlessness is one of the greatest disadvantages a boy can face. In the case of our society at large, family breakup was largely facilitated by the Sexual Revolution (and in many communities, wealth has cushioned the blow and masked the damage). In Indigenous communities, family breakup was inflicted by the state, and the consequences they have suffered as a result have been devastating. Social conservatives should be able to intuitively understand this. I’ve said many times that I believe the real “privilege” in our society is not primarily racial, as progressives claim – but the blessing of growing up in a two-parent home where a mother and father love their children. This is a tremendous social advantage, and it was denied to generations of Indigenous children by the government, who felt they would be better off without the love and influence of their parents and grandparents. In her recent book Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics, Mary Eberstadt explored how family breakup inhibits the passing down of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. Again, this is a key part of the puzzle that social conservatives should instinctively recognize. During university, I toured an abandoned residential school in British Columbia with several other students. Our guide was a survivor who told us about the children who had died there and the abuse they had suffered. I remember the cold, damp chill of a dark tunnel in the basement as he told us how he and others had been locked there in the blackness for using their own language. His voice was heavy with pain, and it struck me again that these things are not history – they are still memory. There are thousand of Indigenous Canadians still living with the effects of these government policies, and their anger is well-warranted. We should listen to them and remember once again the horrors that unfold when the government wields power over families for the so-called good of the children. Jonathon Van Maren is an author and pro-life activist who blogs at TheBridgehead.ca from where this is reprinted with permission. Jonathon was the guest on a recent edition of the Real Talk podcast. Photo is "All Saints Indian Residential School, Cree students at their desks with their teacher in a classroom, Lac La Ronge, March 1945" and is cropped from the original in the Library and Archives Canada collection....

Church history, History

The Queen on our coins testifies to Canada's Christian roots

If you look at the back of any Canadian coin you will see an image of Queen Elizabeth II. Someone might consider that to be a little bit strange. Canada has been an independent country for well over a century, so why does its money portray a British monarch? Canada has indeed been independent for many years, but it’s important to realize that the British monarch is also simultaneously the Canadian monarch. People generally understand the monarchy in Canada to be entirely symbolic, if not anachronistic. But there is much more than symbolism involved. A simple analysis will reveal that the Queen is, in fact, at the center of Canada’s Constitution. According to the “letter of the law,” she is very powerful. Of course, in reality, she is more of a figurehead and does not actually exercise that power. But on paper, in the actual wording of the document, she holds a lot of power – she is Canada’s Head of State, although her functions here are usually conducted by the Governor General, as her representative. Under the section on Executive Power in The Constitution Act, 1867, the following is stated: “The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.” Not only that, but: “The Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.” This is the current authoritative Constitution of Canada. The monarch holds the power of the executive branch of the Canadian government, and he or she is also the commander in chief of the Canadian Armed Forces. Of course, in practice the Queen doesn’t exercise these powers nowadays, but they are still firmly entrenched in the current constitution. The Queen and Christ From a Christian perspective, this is very significant because the Queen provides a direct institutional connection between Christianity and Canada’s political system. The connection becomes especially clear by examining the Coronation Service for the installation of Elizabeth II as Queen in 1953. Veteran BC lawyer Humphrey Waldock summarizes important aspects of that service in his 1997 book The Blind Goddess: Law Without Christ? highlights the specifically Christian aspects of it. Much of the service was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest prelate in the Church of England. In one place the Archbishop asked Elizabeth: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant reformed religion established by Law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England and the doctrine, worship, discipline and government thereof as by Law established in England? Will you preserve under the Bishops and Clergy of England and to the Churches there committed to their charge all such rights and privileges as by Law do or shall appertain to them or any of them? To these questions Elizabeth replied, “All this I promise to do.” Then she laid her right hand upon the Bible and swore, “The things which I have herebefore promised I will perform and keep, so help me God.” Then she kissed the Bible, and signed the Oath, after which the Archbishop said: To keep your Majesty ever mindful of the Law and the Gospel of God as the rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes we present you with this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Carefully note that Canada’s Head of State took an oath to maintain the Law of God to the utmost of her power. She has clearly violated this oath, as well as others, but she is still accountable to the oath. Canada’s Head of State is formally bound, by her own words, to uphold God’s Law. Subsequently in the service, Matthew 22:15 was read, the Nicene Creed was recited, a hymn sung, and then Elizabeth was anointed by the Archbishop. As he anointed her Queen he stated: As Solomon was anointed King by Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet, so be Thou anointed, blessed and consecrated Queen over the peoples whom the Lord Thy God hath given Thee to rule and govern. Next, the Archbishop presented the Sword of State saying, ...that she may not bear this sword in vain but may use it as the minister of God for the terror and punishment of evildoers and for the protection and encouragement of those that do well. With this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the Holy Church of God, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss and confirm what is in good order. That doing these things you may be glorious in all virtue and so faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ in this life that you may reign forever with him in the life which is to come. She also received other tokens of authority including the Robe Royal, the Rod of Equity and Mercy, and a ring. The Archbishop continued, Receive the Ring of kingly dignity, and the seal of Catholic faith: and as you are this day consecrated to be our head and prince, so may you continue steadfastly as the Defender of Christ’s religion As Waldock points out, it is clear from the Coronation Service that Canada’s monarchy formally acknowledges that it receives its authority from God. The Queen, Waldock writes, “had utterly submitted her temporal jurisdiction for justice to the authority of Christ and the Church under oath.” Loyal to God In section 128 of The Constitution Act, 1867it is stipulated that every Senator, every MP and every MLA must take the Oath of Allegiance which appears in the Fifth Schedule of the Act. The Oath of Allegiance entails one to swear to “be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty” Queen Elizabeth II. If the Queen has sworn to uphold the Law of God, and Canada’s elected officials swear allegiance to her, it would seem, then, that those officials must uphold the same Law the Queen has sworn to uphold. This is certainly the implication that Waldock draws: “No servants of the Queen have any authority or jurisdiction to substitute their ideas of morals or religion for those she has sworn to.” Many Canadians no longer support the Monarchy and see the Queen as a foreigner who is inconsequential to Canada. But Canada’s Constitution says otherwise, and the Monarchy provides a vital institutional link between Christianity and Canada’s government. There are moves afoot in Britain to change the role of the monarchy and it’s likely that the explicitly Christian aspects will be lost in the future. But as things stand now, and as they have stood throughout Canada’s history to this point, our Head of State is sworn to uphold the “Protestant reformed religion.” Clearly, Canada’s Head of State is an explicitly Christian monarch. Take a look at the back of the coins in your pocket or purse and remember the oath made by the lady whose image you see. She may be woefully deficient in keeping her oath, but it remains an acknowledgment that she, the head of the country, is accountable to our Lord. This article was originally published in the March 2013 issue under the title "One for the Money: The Queen’s image on our coins points to the constitutional bond between Christianity and Canada’s national government." If you want to read further on this topic, Michael Wagner’s book, "Leaving God Behind" about Canada’s Christian roots can be purchased here. Also, the folks at Worldview Encounter have created a 5-minute video based on this article that you can view below, and if you like this one, be sure to check their website for more in the upcoming weeks.  How the Queen Demonstrates Canada's Christian Foundation. from Kingdom Focus on Vimeo....

History, Politics

The rise and fall of Canada's most effective opposition MP

It’s hard to conceive of any way that a Christian politician could, in today’s Canada, win a mandate to turn the country in a Christian direction. So if seizing power seems an unreachable goal, is there any other means by which Christians could prove influential in the political sphere? Yes. As Svend Robinson proved, you don’t need to be in government to have enormous influence – you just need to be fearless, dedicated, hardworking, and outspoken. And did we mention fearless? Svend Robinson was by far the most influential opposition Member of Parliament in Canadian history. He was not a force for good, however; Robinson used his influence to push Canada to the Left, especially on social issues. He was the first openly homosexual elected politician in Canada, and also worked to expand abortion rights, and legalize assisted suicide. Robinson’s life and influence are chronicled in Graeme Truelove’s 2013 book Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics. Truelove is an adoring fan including only the occasional bits of criticism, and that from other left-wing critics, like some of Robinson’s NDP colleagues who did not appreciate his brash and publicity-hungry style. Still, Truelove’s book gives us a look at how much can be accomplished by a politician unconcerned with playing it safe. Early life Svend Robinson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 4, 1952. His parents were both left-wing activists and his father was an English professor. However, according to Truelove, Robinson’s father was also an alcoholic with an anger problem, and had a hard time holding onto a job. As a result, the family moved frequently, mostly within the United States. Then in 1966, in conscientious objection to the Vietnam War, Robinson’s family moved to Burnaby, BC where his father got a position at Simon Fraser University. From an early age Svend Robinson demonstrated that he was intelligent, driven and as Truelove puts it, he had a “monumental capacity for hard work.” In 1972 he won the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) most prestigious award. He was appointed to a BC government commission on post-secondary education in 1974 and subsequently to the UBC Board of Governors in 1975. He was still in his early twenties. For most of his student years at UBC Svend was married to a women, Patricia Fraser. Eventually, however, he gave in to his homosexual urges and his marriage ended. He graduated from UBC with a law degree in 1976 and then spent a year at the prestigious London School of Economics in England. All through this time Svend had been active in numerous left-wing causes and organizations including the New Democratic Party (NDP), as both the president of BC Young New Democrats, and as a member of the Provincial Executive and Federal Council of the NDP. NDP candidate Returning from England, Robinson became the NDP candidate for Burnaby’s federal riding in 1977. Working as a lawyer during the day, he spent much of his free time campaigning for a federal election that wasn’t held until 1979. As a young, first-time candidate, Robinson tried to get support wherever he could. Truelove notes that Robinson: "used his socialist background to personally convince the Burnaby Club of the Communist Party not to run a candidate against him, assuring him a handful of votes that could make the difference in a close race." On May 22, 1979, he won his seat in the federal election and became an NDP MP. His first private member’s bill proposed the complete decriminalization of abortion, which was still partially restricted at that time. Prime Minister Joe Clark’s minority government fell a few months later and a new election was held in 1980. Robinson was re-elected. Pierre Trudeau became Prime Minister again and renewed his drive to change Canada’s constitution. Robinson’s Charter influence One of Trudeau’s main goals was to have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms added to Canada’s constitution. A special parliamentary committee was formed to carefully review the proposed Charter and to reshape it as necessary. Robinson was one of two NDP MPs on this committee. In this role, he had a crucial impact on the shaping of the Charter. Robinson proposed numerous changes, some of which were adopted and some of which weren’t. His influence, however, was substantial. Truelove quotes journalist Michael Valpy as writing that Robinson, “perhaps more than any other opposition MP, has been the architect of the Charter of Rights.” Robinson proposed adding “sexual orientation” to the list of protected categories in the Charter. That was rejected by Justice Minister Jean Chrétien. However, Chrétien said that future courts were free to interpret the Charter as if sexual orientation was protected. That would be up to the courts to decide. Chrétien’s caveat ensured that “future courts would be empowered to take evolving social mores into account and expand the list themselves.” Today, few people remember the central role played by Robinson in the framing of the Charter. However, Truelove correctly notes that: "an examination of Robinson’s contributions to the debate at the time, and of the ways in which the courts have embraced his point of view in the years since repatriation, suggests that his name deserves mention among the movers and shakers who crafted this defining feature of the Canadian legal landscape." Stacking the witness list In 1985 the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney established a parliamentary subcommittee to seek public input on the Charter’s equality rights provisions. The committee would travel across the country holding hearings for this purpose. Svend Robinson was appointed to this subcommittee. He immediately began to contact homosexual activists across the country to get them onto the list of presenters to the committee. Truelove writes that this tactic of “stacking the witness list” is common across the political spectrum. Whatever the case, Robinson successfully stacked the list with activists who would argue that homosexual rights should be protected by the Charter. In this way, politically-active homosexuals had a disproportionate influence on the subcommittee. His tactic was very successful and the subcommittee’s report was overwhelmingly favorable to the homosexual rights cause. The Justice Department’s 1986 official response to the subcommittee’s report echoed its commitment to homosexual rights. This was a major success for the gay rights movement in Canada. Friend of Morgentaler Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservative Party had come to power in the federal election of 1984. Robinson had been re-elected at that time. Besides his efforts on behalf of homosexual rights, he also pushed hard for the liberalization of Canada’s abortion law, proposing bills to that effect. Furthermore, Truelove writes that Robinson: "worked closely with pro-choice advocate Dr. Henry Morgentaler (one pamphlet circulated by opponents in Burnaby called him Morgentaler’s 'best friend' in Parliament) and accompanied him to the Supreme Court in 1988 as Morgentaler appealed his conviction for performing illegal abortions." The 1988 Morgentaler decision struck down any legal restrictions on abortion in Canada. It came out in January, and the following month Robinson, for the first time, came out publicly as a homosexual. He was the first elected official in Canada to do so. Many people believed that his public “outing” would hurt his political career, but they were wrong. The culture had changed enough that a significant body of opinion supported him. In fact, donations to his NDP riding association poured in from all over Canada, and it raised more money for the 1988 federal election than any other NDP riding association. That would also be the case in subsequent elections. Assisting suicide Besides abortion and homosexuality, Robinson worked hard on behalf of assisted suicide. He supported a woman named Sue Rodriguez who had a debilitating disease and challenged the criminal prohibition on assisted suicide in court. She argued that the prohibition violated her Section 7 Charter right to security of the person. Rodriguez lost in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in September 1993. The prohibition on assisted suicide was ruled to be constitutional. In spite of the decision, Rodriguez wanted to proceed with an assisted suicide anyway. As Truelove relates, she: "needed someone else to help her end her life when the time came, so she asked Robinson. He felt privileged to be asked, and despite the serious legal risk, he agreed to help." He was the only person with her when she died in 1994 but he was not charged with any crime due to a lack of evidence. He continued to push unsuccessfully for the legalization of assisted suicide. His 1997 parliamentary motion to create a committee to write legislation legalizing physician-assisted suicide was overwhelmingly defeated in the House of Commons. Leadership campaign In 1989 Robinson supported Yukon MP Audrey McLaughlin in her campaign to be the federal NDP leader. She won the leadership but the party lost most of its seats in the 1993 election. She resigned in 1994 and the following year Robinson launched a campaign to become NDP leader. He represented the most extreme left-wing faction of the NDP. Among his early supporters was future NDP leader Jack Layton. A Toronto city councilor at the time, “Layton was put in charge of fundraising, and the Ontario campaign was launched in the living room of the home he and Chow shared.” The leadership convention was held in October 1995. With three candidates for the leadership, Robinson finished first on the initial ballot ahead of second-place Alexa McDonough and third-place Lorne Nystrom. Nystrom intended to have his delegates support McDonough to block Robinson’s path to the leadership. Sensing defeat, Robinson decided to concede to McDonough before the second ballot was held as a way to unite the party. It didn’t work. McDonough and her people thought that Robinson was trying to upstage them by throwing the convention to her. This led to continuing rifts within the party between McDonough and Robinson. And many of Robinson’s supporters were outraged that he conceded defeat after winning the first round of balloting. Spinning a hiking accident On December 31, 1997, Robinson was hiking alone on Galiano Island in BC and fell off an 18-metre cliff. He was severely injured. Concerned he might die alone in the wilderness, thoughts of his Cuban lover, Max Riveron, inspired him to muster all of his strength to try to find help. He was successful and subsequently recuperated in hospital. This was a terrible experience, of course. But Truelove writes that Robinson saw a potential political benefit: "He hoped that he could use the story of his fall to demonstrate that the love between homosexual partners was as real and as powerful as the love between heterosexual partners." Homosexual rights achievements In the early part of the 2000s, same-sex marriage became a major issue in Canada. Unsurprisingly, “Robinson was acknowledged as one of the leaders of the same-sex marriage movement.” However, he was actually more concerned about adding “sexual orientation” to the law against hate propaganda. He introduced his own bill, C-250, in 2002 to accomplish this goal. Despite the fact that it was a private member’s bill, it was passed by the House of Commons in September 2003 and by the Senate in April 2004. According to Truelove, “Today he keeps a framed copy of the bill hanging over his desk at home.” Becoming a thief After years of highly effective political work, Robinson’s career came crashing down when he stole an expensive piece of jewelry. The spring of 2004 was a very significant time for Robinson. On March 20 a special event was held in Vancouver to celebrate his 25 years in Parliament. The speaker for the occasion was the world-famous left-wing American intellectual Noam Chomsky. The 2,500 attendees gave Robinson a standing ovation. This was the height of his career. However, three weeks later, on April 9, Robinson stole a ring valued at $21,500 from a jewelry auction in Vancouver. He just took the ring, put it in his pocket and went home. Subsequently, he was overcome with guilt and turned himself in, apologizing profusely for his crime. The fallout ended his political career. As Truelove relates: "If the Office of the Attorney-General had announced it was satisfied with Svend’s apology, and that he wouldn’t be charged, he might have run again. But no such announcement came, and he was left in limbo" A federal election was imminent and Robinson had to let someone else run in his place. Eventually he was charged. Interestingly, Truelove implies that the government was pushed into charging Robinson by a conservative organization: In mid-June an Alberta-based lobby group, run by publisher and former Reform Party activist Link Byfield, ran an ad in The Province which read, ‘Two months ago MP Svend Robinson was caught stealing. Will he be charged with theft?’ With one week to go in the election campaign, Svend was charged. Why did he do it? In the wake of this scandal Robinson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His supporters explained the theft as being a result of his anguished mental state, or the stress he experienced from encountering virulent homophobia. Strangely, despite being an ardent atheist, Robinson himself explained his criminal behavior in a rather Christian way. When asked about the theft by Truelove, Robinson replied: "In all of us there’s, you know, there’s bad and good. Maybe this was bad. Maybe I just, you know – temptation overcame me. I don’t know." Robinson tried to make a political comeback by running for the NDP in Vancouver Centre in the 2006 federal election. He was soundly defeated by the sitting Liberal MP. Subsequently, Robinson and Max (who got “married” in 2007) moved to Switzerland where Robinson works as the senior advisor for parliamentary relations at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Conclusion Truelove is correct in writing that Robinson was “more effective than perhaps any other opposition MP of his generation.” His hard work and determination led to numerous accomplishments in pushing Canada to the Left. Robinson was a “superhero for left-wing activists.” Robinson’s success and influence in Canada are unmistakable. However, it’s interesting to note how Robinson’s career crashed and burned immediately after he reached the pinnacle of success. His 25-year parliamentary anniversary, with adoring crowds and celebrity endorsements, was soon followed by a criminal act that ruined his career and severely tarnished his legacy. Perhaps the end of his career can be compared to that of a political leader mentioned in the Bible who was also at the height of power when “he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him” (Daniel 5:20, ESV). But there is a more important point to consider. What made Robinson so effective? And what can we learn from his approach? He succeeded because of his commitment to his principles. Make no mistake - Robinson is a godless man, but most certainly a principled one. And what his career demonstrates is that a clear commitment to principles, and a determination to advance those principles, can be an effective political strategy. He would not stop talking about the issues that mattered to him. His outspokenness meant he could never have become prime minister but it also meant that while others politicians were too careful, too tactical, or simply too cowardly too speak out, Robinson was being heard. A principled politician may not be able to rise to the highest positions of power, but what Robinson shows us is that such a politician can still be an influential player who makes a distinctive contribution to the direction of the country. We would do well to imitate his fearless, principled, outspoken approach....

History

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms was always meant to be revolutionary

Many Christians are puzzled by the decline of religious freedom in our country. Time after time, in conflicts involving homosexuals or abortion rights activists, Christians seem to lose. For example, we’ve seen people who voice opposition to special status for gays being harassed by "human rights" commissions. And recently we’ve also seen university pro-life groups being prohibited or severely restricted. Why aren't Christians’ religious freedom or freedom of expression protected in these cases? After all, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees both of these freedoms — religion and free expression. So when Christians lose out, it's because our Charter freedoms are being ignored, right? Well, maybe not. What if the Charter was adopted as part of a strategy to fundamentally change Canada? What if the framers of the Charter saw the historically Christian basis of Canada as an obstacle to be removed? If this were the case, then favoritism towards the opponents of Christian views would be a natural consequence. Not a conspiracy theory Now, at first glance that might sound like a conspiracy theory or something — a secret cabal plotting to shift Canada's historic foundation. But by definition a conspiracy occurs in secret, and this was never a secret. Some of the Charter's early proponents supported it because they wanted to make significant changes to Canada, and they said so openly. It wasn't secret, so it wasn't a conspiracy. Until 1982 Canadians had enjoyed considerable rights and freedoms under the traditional British system of common law. Certain rights and liberties were recognized by the courts despite their lack of explicit mention in the constitution. This British method was strongly influenced by a Christian worldview because Britain had been an explicitly Christian nation for hundreds of years. (Queen Elizabeth, for example, swore in her 1953 coronation oath to “maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law.”) Thus to reject this system was to reject the special place that Christianity had in undergirding Canadians’ historic rights and freedoms. With Christianity’s privileged position gone, the Christian perspective just became one among many views, and one that was clearly out-of-favor with Canada’s elites. A sudden secular shift Most people who supported the entrenchment of the Charter in the early 1980s simply thought that human rights should receive constitutional protection, and the Charter was a way of doing that. There's nothing sinister about this idea since it makes perfect sense. Don't you want your rights constitutionally protected? Of course, we all do. That's why the Charter was widely popular at the time of its drafting, and it's probably even more popular now. Christians commonly cite the Charter in defending their own positions. But what most people didn’t understand was that the worldview underlying the Charter was an alien thing. The changes that have been wrought in Canadian society as a result of court decisions (and political decisions) based on the Charter are the natural consequence of that document. Conservatives like to blame judicial activism for these changes but that's not fair to the judges. The judges are basing their decisions on the intent of the Charter. Now, they do so happily, because they support the Charter’s secular humanist worldview, but they are truly following its original intent rather than making it up as they go. After the Charter was adopted in 1982, the provincial and federal governments had to immediately review all of their legislation to bring it into conformity with the Charter. Before any judicial decisions were made on the basis of the Charter, a major change in Canadian law began to occur to prepare for its effect. “A revolution in Canadian society” When testifying to a parliamentary committee in 1985, federal Justice Minister John Crosbie made it perfectly clear that the adoption of the Charter was no ordinary kind of change — Canada was being fundamentally altered, and Canadians didn't yet know what was about to hit them: “The public does not realize that we already have had a revolution in Canadian society. The adoption of a charter was a revolution. It has changed the whole power structure of Canadian society.” As the head of the Department of Justice, Crosbie knew better than anyone the wholesale legal change that was about to engulf Canada. This was before any court decisions had been made, so it is clear that the judges are not to blame. They are only implementing the agenda given to them by the Charter itself. Fundamental change was always the point Of course, Crosbie isn't the only one to realize the revolutionary character of the Charter. Various left-wing activists and academics celebrate the Charter's overturning of the Old Canada. University of Toronto law professor Lorraine Weinrib is one such academic. In her 2003 article entitled “The Canadian Charter’s Transformative Aspirations,” she summarizes the matter this way: “The Charter’s purpose and desired effect, from the point of view of those who supported it was to transform the Canadian constitutional order in fundamental ways, not to codify existing constitutional values and institutional roles.” The Charter was not adopted to protect the rights and freedoms that Canadians enjoyed up to 1982, but rather to make Canada into a different kind of country — “transform the Canadian constitutional order in fundamental ways” — as she puts it. Weinrib describes the Charter as being part of a “remedial agenda.” That agenda includes the expectation that: “...through extensive institutional transformation the Charter would impose a new normative framework upon legislators, the executive and the administration, as well as the judiciary.” That may look like a bunch of egghead gibberish, but the main point is the imposition of “a new normative framework.” The “norms” of Canadian society would henceforth be different from before. New is not always improved In this view, Canada was an awful place before 1982. Weinrib says that “the Charter took Canada away from a repudiated history that had failed to respect liberty, equality and fairness.” But now people like Weinrib are freely remaking Canada into a wonderful new country, using the Charter to uproot the oppressive, crypto-fascist state that existed before 1982. That’s how they see it, anyway. The truth is, however, that before 1982 Canada was one of the freest and fairest countries in the history of the world. Few other nations had records that could rightly be compared to Canada’s humane achievements. Millions of people came here to escape the problems of their homelands. But in order to complete the Charter’s revolution, Canadian history must be rewritten into a narrative of oppression. This will help shore up support for the Charter while its “remedial agenda” is enacted throughout society. So if you're wondering why religious freedom and freedom of expression for Christians seem to be shrinking in Canada, consider how the country has changed since 1982. If you think your Charter rights are being denied, think again. The Charter is accomplishing just what it was set out to do — make Canada into a different kind of country. And it's not a coincidence that Christianity is being left behind. The adoption of the Charter in 1982 represented a deep philosophical change in the nature of our country. Originally published in the January 2011 issue under the title "Charting a path to tyranny? Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms was always meant to be revolutionary."...

History

Ulrich Zwingli: Reformer in the shadows?

In 1983 churches all over the world commemorated the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther. Ulrich Zwingli should have gotten the same sort of celebration a year later, when his own 500th birthday came and went on January 1, 1484. But Zwingli (1484-1531) has had to stand somewhat "in the shadows" of such giants as Luther and Calvin. But Zwingli's person, work, and life merit some more attention than he has received through the years. The call to "remember your leaders" (Hebrews 13:7) extends also to this man and the work he was enabled to do by the Lord. Early life Ulrich Zwingli was born into a relatively prosperous family living in the mountainous region of Wildhaus, Switzerland, as one of many children. Already at a very young age he left home, first to learn from an uncle, Bartholomew Zwingli, who was priest in the town of Wiesen. When he was ten years old, Zwingli proceeded to the grammar schools in Basel and Bern. Fearing that, because of his beautiful singing voice, Zwingli would be inducted into monastery life, his parents sent him on to Vienna, where he studied (natural) science and literature. Here in Vienna, Zwingli was drenched in the humanistic philosophy of his time. In 1506 Zwingli returned to Basel where he was promoted to magister artium (Master of Arts). After a brief training in (mostly scholastic) theology, Zwingli was ordained as priest in the village of Glarus. At this time Zwingli is a typical priest: well educated but humanistically oriented in his thinking. Taking a pacifistic turn Zwingli's period of service in Glarus is significant in many ways. It is here that he begins to study both Christian and secular classics, and becomes attracted to the works of Erasmus, the Dutch humanist. Here, also, Zwingli displays some of the patriotism for which he will become legendary. Although he twice accompanies Swiss infantry in battle for the Pope against the French, Zwingli begins to discourage young Swiss men from becoming mercenaries in foreign service. He expresses these sentiments strongly in an Aesop-like morality tale, The Fable of the Ox. Having experienced the ugly, mass slaughter of the battlefield, Zwingli turned to a more pacifistic philosophy. In 1516, Zwingli left Glarus and took up ministry in Einsiedeln. Here Zwingli further refined his emerging pacifistic views. During this time he considered all service in foreign armies a curse, although he maintained that it is one's patriotic duty to defend one's homeland. While in Einsiedeln, Zwingli met Erasmus and discovered Erasmus' edition of the Greek New Testament. As he proceeded to study this edition, Zwingli began to distance himself more and more from Erasmus' humanistic views and from the prevailing allegorical interpretation of Scripture. He began to study the Word of God in its own light and began to understand that Scripture require a literal interpretation. He realized that the scholastic and philosophical approach to the Bible and theology must be rejected. It is during this same time that Zwingli made a serious study of the works of Augustine and came to condemn the worship of relics and the adoration of saints. This growing resistance gradually deepened into a carefully-worded warning against the worship of Mary, and into a ridiculing of the indulgences. Ministry in Zurich In 1519 Zwingli was installed in Zurich, and it is in this city that he clearly made himself known as a prophetic reformer of great influence. It became evident that Zwingli wanted to let the Scriptures speak for themselves, and that he understood traditions and precepts of men that are made binding for the church are to be rejected. The sola Scriptura of the Reformation began to take powerful form in his ministry! Zwingli supported those who rejected the Romanist laws of fasting. He spoke out against celibacy and himself married a widow of class, Anna Reinhart, a marriage which became officially known two years later, in 1524. That same year Zwingli broke with the Church of Rome by declaring that he can no longer accept the Pope as the "head of the church," instead accusing the Pope of abusing worldly power. Christ is declared as the only Head of the church and His Word as its only guide. Spurred on by Zwingli's preaching, the city council of Zurich refused to give in to the objections of the Bishop of Constanz, but it did agree to conduct a public disputation. The first of these disputations — not unknown in the days of the Reformation — took place in January 1523 between Zwingli and the influential Romanist prelate, Johann Faber. The result was a smashing victory for the Reformation, for at its conclusion the city council of Zurich decrees that from then on nothing may be preached which is not in full accord with the gospel. Growing divisions Many Swiss cities, such as Basel and Bern, took the side of the Reformation in Zurich and, in 1528, formed a Christian federation. However, the Roman Catholic cantons were also organized against the influence of Zwingli and Zurich. This situation ultimately led to battle and bloodshed. On October 11, 1531, in a battle near Kappel, Zwingli was killed along with 400 other citizens of Zurich. After having declared him to be a heretic, a hastily formed court lets his body be quartered and burned. Zwingli paid the price in blood; at age 47, his earthly course suddenly came to an end. While the rift between the Romanist and Reformed factions in Switzerland was inevitable, there also emerged other, perhaps not so expected, divisions. In the years before Zwingli's death, there were radicals in Zurich who felt that Zwingli was not going far enough in his reforms. These radicals, such as Konrad Grebel and Felix Mantz, began to reject all civil authority. The Anabaptist movement was born and it causes so much dissension and confusion that the city council of Zurich arrested its leaders. One of these, Felix Mantz, is executed by drowning in 1527, and the Anabaptist movement then also had a martyr. All this was a source of great sorrow for Zwingli; many of the Anabaptist leaders were former associates and close friends. Of greater significance, perhaps, was the growing division between Zwingli and Luther. In 1529, in a meeting in Marburg, Luther and Zwingli discussed at length the matter of the Lord's Supper but could not come to agreement. Luther's theory of consubstantiation is too far from Zwingli's symbolic interpretation. Although both agree that Christ is present in bread and wine, they cannot agree as to the manner. Luther and Zwingli depart bitterly from each other and become estranged. This controversy, of course, greatly damaged the cause of the Reformation. Since it furthered Zwingli's isolation, it also contributed to his death. Conclusion It is not easy to estimate the significance of the work of a person such as Zwingli. Because of his own development and changing insights, Zwingli's significance cannot be caught in an easy formula. In liberal circles, Zwingli is hailed as the reformer who was a true humanist, a worthy forerunner of contemporary radical and political theologians. His humanistic background and patriotic zeal, perhaps, cause him to recede somewhat to the background in Reformed appreciation. We generally turn to Calvin for advice. Yet it cannot be denied that Zwingli's basic convictions and personal endeavors are true to the spirit of the Great Reformation. Zwingli wanted nothing else than to live by the Scriptures alone and to let the Scriptures explain themselves under the illumination of the Holy Spirit and not under the tradition of the church. For Zwingli it was without doubt that it is not the church with its sacramental administration that governs the flow of grace, but that men are reconciled to God only by the death of His Son. He clearly rejected the "cursed idolatry" of the mass and its excesses in the worship of saints and relics, proclaiming that our salvation lies only in the sacrifice of Christ, once offered on the cross. Zwingli did not tire in defending the just cause of the Reformation over against the Anabaptists, remaining firm with respect to the Scriptural doctrine of infant baptism. Although in many ways a disciple of Erasmus, he refuted the teaching of the master that the will of man is free. Man cannot save himself, Zwingli emphasized time and again, but must have true knowledge of God and sin, knowledge learned only from the Word of God. Man has no saving knowledge in himself! It is clear, then, that in these key issues there is a direct line from Ulrich Zwingli to John Calvin. In the turbulent era of the Reformation, Zwingli maintained the Scriptures over against the prevailing humanism and emerging radicalism of his time. In this respect he is still an example for the church, some five hundred years later. It would be good if in this commemorative year his works were rediscovered and studied anew. Since we are faced in our time with similar extremes, humanism and radicalism, we can learn from Zwingli's struggle. Zwingli definitely does not belong in the shadows between Luther and Calvin. Rev. Clarence Stam (1948-2016) was the editor of Reformed Perspective for eight years, from 1985-1993, and was a contributor for many more. This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the June, 1984 edition....