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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

Charles Darwin's grave mistake

One hundred and thirty-seven years ago, on April 19, 1882, a seventy-three-year-old man died at home in his bed. He was surrounded by his wife and two of his children, all three of whom wept inconsolably. His wife, who had held him against herself the last moments of his earthly strife, gently lowered him onto the bed. She stroked the white beard and closed the glazed eyes. Even though the family sorrowed, there was also a sense of relief that the patient had finally succumbed to death. The last few weeks had been difficult. Angina attacks precipitated fear. He had refused to eat with his family, preferring to eat in his bedroom alone. He had observed his body with morbid interest, taking notes on what he saw. “Much pain,” he would jot down, or scratch out “dropped down,” after he succumbed to faints. Tuesday, April 18, 1882, was his penultimate day and the pain began just before midnight. He woke his wife, to tell her that he was dying and she ran for his pills. Together with a servant she also administered brandy. But he was unable to keep it down, and retched miserably. He slept a little but vomited throughout most of the next morning, his body heaving and shuddering in agony. “If I could but die,” he said repeatedly, intent on present escape and not focused on the fact that he would shortly face the Creator of his heart, the Judge of his soul. He vomited again and blood spewed out, spilling red onto his white and venerable looking beard. “Oh, God,” he cried, and again, “Oh, Lord God.” His pain appeared to be excruciating and lasted until he lost consciousness about a half-hour before he died. And Charles Darwin was no more on the earth he had with human textbook clarity consigned to evolutionary origins. ***** Charles Darwin, (1809-1882), was the youngest son of an English doctor – one who did not believe in God. His paternal grandfather, an Erasmus Darwin, was also a doctor and an atheist – one who believed in the natural ascent of life and in the kinship of all creatures. Young Charles liked the outdoors. He reveled in collecting shells and bird eggs. Although his father wanted him to become a doctor, like himself and his father before him, Charles had no interest in following their footsteps. He dropped out of medical school, studied theology for a while, and then went on to become a naturalist. In 1831, when Charles was 22, he was hired as a naturalist aboard a ship called the Beagle and left England for a five-year excursion around the world. During this trip, Darwin was particularly intrigued by the plants and animals on the Galapagos Islands, several hundred miles off the west coast of South America. Darwin’s conclusions at the end of this trip are well known and have had repercussions around the world. He inferred that all species – the entire plant and animal kingdom – resulted from environmental adaptations over millions of years. In other words, God did not create the world in six days, but the world was the product of millions of years of evolution. In 1859, Darwin published these conclusions in a book entitled, The Origin of Species. The fact that Darwin stated God did not create things but that they arose through natural processes, and the fact that he promoted the existence of the universe as an accident with no purpose, were both in direct conflict with the Word of God. ***** Darwin had expressed the wish to be buried in the churchyard in the village of Downe, some sixteen miles south of London, where he had lived and worked most of his married life. He wanted his grave to be next to the graves of three of his children under a great yew tree. But such was the mood of the day – that a fool without clothes could be held up as a king – that one who openly flouted God could be hailed as a saint. Freethinking friends, wanting to honor the dead atheist, presented the Dean of Westminster with the request that Charles Darwin be buried within that church. Petitions went around and many influential government people signed, indicating that they thought Darwin’s last resting place should be one of glory among other English patriots. The Standard, a newspaper, urging the family to comply with popular feeling, wrote: “Darwin died as he had lived, in the quiet retirement of the country home which he loved; and the sylvan scenes amidst which he found the simple plants and animals that enabled him to solve the great enigma of the Origin of Species may seem, perhaps to many of his friends, the fittest surroundings for his last resting place. "But one who has brought such honor to the English name, and whose death is lamented throughout the civilized world, to the temporary neglect of the many burning political and social questions of the day, should not be laid in a comparatively obscure grave. His proper place is amongst those other worthies whose reputations are landmarks in the people’s history, and if it should not clash with his own expressed wishes, or the pious feelings of the family, we owe it to posterity to place his remains in Westminster Abbey, among the illustrious dead who make that noble fame unrivaled in the world.” Darwin was compared with Newton, foreign tributes to him poured in and in the end the Dean of Westminster acquiesced to the request that the body be laid to rest in the Abbey. Undertakers dispensed tickets of admission to the widely advertised funeral and an expensive coffin was sent to Downe for the body’s repose. No newspaper paused to consider the fact that burial at Westminster might present a religious obstacle. The Standard said: “True Christians can accept the main scientific facts of Evolution just as they do of Astronomy and Geology, without any prejudice to more ancient and cherished beliefs.” The Daily News stated: “.... Darwin’s doctrine was quite consistent with strong religious faith and hope.” It wasn’t just the newspapers which blew Darwin’s trumpet. Ministers praised the dead man as well. Canon Prothero, Queen Victoria’s chaplain, said on the pulpit, that Darwin had pursued the truth and in him had lived “... that charity which is the essence of the true spirit of Christ.” The canon at Westminster Abbey, an Alfred Barry, echoed the queen’s chaplain’s sentiment by saying that Darwin’s theory of natural selection was “by no means alien to the Christian religion.” At St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, another minister lauded Darwin for the patience and care in which he had recorded minute facts. In this way he had brought about a revolution in modern thought and shed high distinction on English science. The funeral was not attended by either Queen Victoria or Gladstone, her Prime Minister. Neither had expressed an appreciation for Origin of Species. But thousands of others did attend. Judges, Parliament members, the Lord Mayor of London, ambassadors, scientists and a great many people from the ordinary homes and hearths of London. Multitudes entered the Abbey, all handing in their funeral tickets at the door. After these had all settled in their pews, the doors opened to those who had no tickets. These people filled the less desirable seats in the northwest side of the Abbey. At noon Canon Prothero entered with the choir as they jubilantly sang “I am the resurrection.” The family, flanking the coffin, which was draped in black velvet and covered with white blossoms, followed. A specially composed hymn was sung after a Bible lesson. The words of the hymn came from Proverbs: “Blessed is the man that findeth wisdom, and getteth understanding.” Darwin's funeral service It is not entirely strange to suppose that the devil occupied one of the pews of Westminster that day. He for one was well aware that Darwin had said, “If God had planted the knowledge of His existence in humans, all would possess it.” He also knew Darwin had said that “the plain language of the New Testament seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.” And the devil must have slapped his knees in mirth thinking about Darwin’s public confession: “I am sorry to have to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation, and therefore not in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.” In the end, Darwin’s coffin was lowered underneath Newton’s monument as the choir rendered another selection, “His body is buried in peace, but his name liveth evermore.” People were awed at the solemnity of the moment. The mourners filed out. Darwin had been interred as a symbol of English success in the field of science – that is to say, he had put forward the thought that man was just an animal – an accident of cosmic evolution with no ultimate purpose. ***** Society would never be the same. Although Darwin only put a framework to what many people were already thinking, and to what itching ears were desirous of hearing, the consequences of what he contributed were severe. Racism was rampant in the thinking among early evolutionists. Ernst Haeckel, (1834-1919), the great proponent of Darwin’s theory in Germany, wrote: “The mental life of savages rises little above that of the higher mammals, especially the apes, with which they are genealogically connected... Their intelligence moves within the narrowest bounds, and one can no more (or no less) speak of their reason than of that of the more intelligent animals... These lower races (such as the Veddahs or Australian negroes) are psychologically nearer to the mammals (apes or dogs) than to civilized Europeans; we must, therefore, assign a totally different value to their lives.” The idea that white people were superior led to the practice of eugenics – a campaign to improve humankind through selective breeding. James Perloff, in his book Tornado in a Junkyard, writes: “...In Britain, Charles Darwin’s son Leonard became president of the Eugenics Education Society. In the U.S., the movement caught fire in the early twentieth century. By 1935, 35 states had enacted laws requiring the sexual isolation and sterilization of ‘unfit’ people – including the retarded, the ‘feeble-minded’, chronic criminals, and even epileptics. Proposed legislation targeted tuberculosis sufferers, alcoholics, the blind and homeless. About 70,000 Americans were involuntarily sterilized before the practice was stopped.” Nietzsche, (1844-1900), was influenced by Darwin’s theory. He denounced Christianity and declared: “God is dead.” He then advanced the idea of the "superman" and a "master race." This idea was taken over by Hitler, (1889-1945), who consequently killed his millions insanely believing that Darwin’s theory of evolution justified and sanctified his cruel actions. Hitler was not the only madman Darwin influenced. Karl Marx, (1818-1883), viewed Darwin’s work as a basis in natural science for the class struggle throughout history. He actually wanted to dedicate his Communist book, Das Kapital, to Darwin, but Darwin refused the "honor." Stalin, (1879-1953), as well, who began his studies as a theology student, changed his thinking after he was exposed to the theory of evolution. In a book, published in 1940, Landmarks in the Life of Stalin, this change is recorded by the author Yaroslavsky in these words: ‘“At a very early age, while still a pupil in the ecclesiastical school, Comrade Stalin developed a critical mind and revolutionary sentiments. He began to read Darwin and became an atheist. G. Glurdjidze, a boyhood friend of Stalin’s relates: “I began to speak of God. Joseph heard me out, and after a moment’s silence said: ‘You know they are fooling us, there is no God...’ "I was astonished at these words. I had never heard anything like it before. ‘How can you say so, SoSo?’ I exclaimed. "‘I’ll lend you a book to read; it will show you that the world and all living things are quite different from what you imagine, and all this talk about God is sheer nonsense,’ Joseph said. "‘What book is that?’ I enquired. "‘Darwin, You must read it,’ Joseph impressed on me.’” Joseph Stalin also killed his millions. The Chinese leader, Mao Tse-tung, (1893-1976), regarded Darwin as a teaching influence in his life. Calling Darwin the founder of Chinese scientific socialism, Mao was responsible for the death of millions of people. Andrew Carnegie, (1835-1919), and John D. Rockefeller, (1839-1937), were also Darwinists. They were both ruthless businessmen who practiced "survival of the fittest" in their business dealings. Carnegie said: “When I, along with three or four of my boon companions, was in this stage of doubt about theology, including the supernatural element, and indeed the whole scheme of salvation through vicarious atonement and all the fabric built upon it, I came fortunately upon Darwin’s and Spencer’s works... I remember that light came as a flood and all was clear. Not only had I got rid of theology and the supernatural, but I had found the truth of evolution. ‘All is well since all grows better’ became my motto, my true source of comfort.” Rockefeller financed the preaching of Harry Emerson Fosdick’s radio ministry. He brazenly accepted evolution and downgraded the Bible into mythology. ***** So Charles Darwin rests beneath the cold cement of Westminster Abbey. Or does he? Is his eternal soul at peace? Well aware of the tenets of Christianity, he knew that his ideas would destroy the faith of millions. He referred to Origin of Species as "my accursed book." There was considerable trauma associated with his writing of the final draft. In the year leading up to publication he was rarely able to write for more than 20 minutes at a time without stomach pains, and he finished the proof on October 1, 1859, in between fits of vomiting. Ten days before the proofs were bound he wrote to his friend J.D. Hooker, “I have been very bad lately; having had an awful ‘crisis’ one leg swelled like elephantiasis – eyes almost closed up – covered with a rash and fiery boils: but they tell me it will surely do me much good. – it was like living in Hell!” His modern biographers talk of Darwin’s self-doubt, his nagging, gnawing fear that “I ... have devoted my life to a phantasy.” It is not surprising that Darwin was subject to a "gnawing" fear nor the fact that he admitted that, in the dead of night, terror would strike him with painful force when he thought of the possibility of an afterlife. And so his body lies in Westminster Abbey – a grave mistake – an unwise decision. And what, after all, is true wisdom? Is it not the fear of the Lord? May God grant that the eyes of many hearts may be enlightened. Let voices not be afraid to cry out loudly without fear that evolution is a hoax and that it literally hasn’t got a leg to stand on. Edmund Clowney’s hymn, "Vast the Immensity" is a witness to God’s wisdom and creation. Vast the immensity, mirror of majesty, Galaxies spread in a curtain of light: Lord, Your eternity rises in mystery There where no eye can see, infinite height! Sounds Your creative word, forming both star and bird, Shaping the cosmos to win Your delight; Order from chaos springs, form that your wisdom brings, Guiding created things, infinite might! Who can Your wisdom scan? Who comprehend Your plan? How can the mind of man Your truth embrace? Here does Your Word disclose more than Your power shows, Love that to Calv’ry goes, infinite grace! Triune Your majesty, triune Your love to me, Fixed from eternity in heav’n above. Father, what mystery, in Your infinity You gave Your Son for me, infinite love! END NOTES 1 Desmond and Moore, The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist, Warner Books,1991, page 668. 2 Ibid, page 670 3 Ibid, page 671 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid, page 251. 7 Ibid, page 623. 8 Ibid, page 634-5. 9 Perloff, Tornado in a Junkyard, Refuge Books, 1999, page 220. 10 Ibid, page 221. 11 bid, page 225. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid, page 226. 14 Ibid. 15 Creation, Ex Nihilo, Vol. 17 No 4. September-November 1995, ‘Darwin’s Mystery Illness, by Russell Grigg, page 29. 16 Ibid....

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."...