In April, voters in la belle province rejected a political party that had drafted a charter of values that would have treated the overtly religious as unfit for public service. The Parti Québécois (PQ) secular charter intended to make publicly funded spaces free from the intrusion of “conspicuous” religious attire and symbols like hijabs and crosses.
The word “conspicuous” is key. Hold your private religious conviction, but don’t let it show. The most secular part of Canada seemed the most likely place for this to find traction, but in one fell swoop Québécers said “no” and kicked the PQ to the sidelines.
Meanwhile, in British Columbia, Trinity Western University (TWU) is trying to convince Canadian law societies to accept graduates from a law school that has yet to launch. Although TWU has been given the thumbs-up by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to open a law school, provincial jurisdictions in Ontario and Nova Scotia have thus far barred any future TWU law graduates from approaching the bar in those provinces. Why?
The Globe and Mail has given TWU an A-plus for quality of education every year since 2005. Surely a school like this couldn’t hurt the reputation of lawyers that badly. So why all the hullabaloo? Because, as a private Christian university, TWU asks students—who voluntarily attend the school—to abide by a commu-nity covenant that asks them, among other things, to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
This, specifically, is what shocked law societies are calling “abhorrent and objectionable.” As George Jonas, who is neither a Christian nor a defender of evangelical values, wrote in the National Post, “We’re no more tolerant than we were 50 years ago; we’ve just reversed what we’re intolerant about.”
It would seem tolerance is shaped by those whose idea has power.
So let’s get this straight. Québec voters rejected a government that would have discriminated against religious values, while Canadian law societies are rejecting future lawyers because they have religious values. Welcome to the ironic paradoxes of the world you live in.
What is the shape of things to come?
At the heart of these seemingly unrelated events is what the PQ was unashamed to name: the conspicuousness of religious conviction. The problem with Muslims in Québec is that they don’t just keep their religion in the closet. The problem with Christian students in British Columbia is that they take their religion into their bedrooms.
Both are way too conspicuous for this age, and this will increasingly be problematic for followers of Jesus in this country. It’s fine to be spiritual or religious, it just can’t really have anything to do with your life. Otherwise, you are backwards and unfit for service.
Your ethics cannot be different than the prevailing mood or you will suffer. This is the shape of things to come. H.G. Wells’s 1933 book of that name predicted a world where organized religion needed to be abolished so the modern state could monopolize education and shape future generations. Seems he saw something. Can we?
Phil Wagler lives 15 minutes from Trinity Western University and serves as pastor of a number of great Christian lawyers who serve all people as those made in the image of God and worthy of a mediator, just as God himself has given us one.
--Posted May 7, 2014