Canadian values are in the news. Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch has proposed screening immigrants for anti-Canadian values, which raises the question, “What are Canadian values?” The Charter of Rights and Freedoms begins: “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law,” but reflecting upon this, CBC columnist Neil Macdonald opines: “The sentence is true only insofar as Canada’s founders were a group of professed Christians who no doubt regarded the conversion of heathens as some sort of good… But belief in God, with the moral dictation that usually comes with it, can actually be offensive to atheists.”
It increasingly appears as though Canadian values can no longer be automatically equated with Christian values. This is hardly breaking news, but for many in the church today, it comes as a nasty surprise. Christianity was, after all, the dominant religious and cultural force in the founding of our nation. Canadian and Christian values and morality were to a large extent regarded as synonymous. And they had been, until a new cultural imperative began to replace the old. Canada, through its political processes and educational system and constitutional reforms and courts, has been rapidly transforming into a secular humanist society, where the rights and freedoms of the individual—the pursuit of personal gratification and self-fulfilment—are paramount, and where classic religious values—especially traditional Christian values—are being constantly challenged.
While the church was at one time the basis and judge of society, society now judges the church and finds it out of step; society now judges the Bible, and finds it goes against the new Canadian ethos. The response of some within the church, disoriented and troubled by waning influence and shrinking numbers, is to say, “Well, we’ll simply disregard those parts of the Bible which no longer fit our Western cultural viewpoint. We’ll change what we believe in order to better blend in. Maybe then, people will come back to church.” Although, if the church is simply a mirror of society, I’m not sure why people would.
A quick reading of the New Testament, however, reveals that we’re not supposed to blend in, and never were. We’re supposed to have different priorities, different behaviours, different core values. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. (John 15:19, 17:1416; Romans 12:2, etc.) We’ve been reborn into a family called the Church, which is guided and led not by the societal values of individual rights and freedoms, gratification and self-fulfilment, but by the self-sacrificial and moral high ground of obedience to the Holy Spirit, through the teaching of Christ, as revealed in the scriptures.
I’m a proud Canadian. There is no country I would rather call home. But as much as I value Canada, I see Canadian values moving steadily away from their Christian foundations, and in some cases, and more worrisome yet, bringing the church with it. As followers of Jesus, we must always and ever turn to the scriptures, creeds and confessions of the church, and remember what—and who, and why—we believe. There are, after all, some values which do not change