I became increasingly alarmed last year when Laurier University where I attended became embroiled in a controversy over the censorship of one of their TAs but this came to a head when the federal government announced a new proviso for the Canada Student Summer Grants Program. We as a church have taken advantage of this program to hire students for a variety of ministry-related projects but if we are to continue we now will have to check off an attestation that confirms we align ourselves with the current government’s policies on reproductive right and human sexuality.
So the problem comes that it appears as if we are being discriminated against for following biblical principles in terms of morality. While the government has come back and said this is not designed to go against what we believe but only certain groups it does put us in a moral quandary. To continue with this grant we need to give tacit support to the government’s views that we would see as sin.
So what do we do?
The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us there is “nothing new under the sun” so what we’re facing is not so different from what the early church did. Peter addressed this is his first letter to a group of churches facing increasing Roman persecution. He wrote:
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:12-17)
Peter encourages us to submit to those in authority and to show proper respect. But does that mean then we have to passively take this and be silent in order to be ‘good Christians’?
We have a responsibility as free people and the children of God to speak and provide an alternative. We must vigorously and wisely defend our Charter rights to the freedom of religious expression. What does this mean? First, be informed and aware of what’s going on. Then you can write your MP or local newspaper, you can support groups like the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada who work on behalf of people like us to ensure our voices are heard. To me though, the most important thing to do is to talk to the world around you about this. Talk to family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, whoever, with proper respect and compassion about these issues and why it’s important that we, God’s church who contributes so much to our society, be allowed to continue without restriction. There is a growing trend that God’s people in Canada are seen as some sort of threat to this country and this is far from the case. We need to show God’s love and let our lights shine to counter this false idea.
Later on, Peter encouraged us in the same letter he wrote to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15). Wise words that still apply today. We have hope because we have Jesus and we have a voice, and are empowered by the Holy Spirit. We ARE free to speak; the question is, will we?