By Lea Z. Singh |
|The crowd shouting "Give us Barabbas". |
Image via wikimedia.
Yesterday was Good Friday, and tomorrow is Easter. But the Good Friday darkness that has descended upon Christianity in Ontario and across Canada shows no signs of abating.
The latest evidence: this week's fiasco concerning Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) Trustee Angela Kennedy. Kennedy is a Registered Nurse and has been a Catholic school trustee for 14 years. Recently she was nominated to the Toronto Board of Health. This is a big deal as the Board only has 13 members, and makes some very important decisions about Toronto's public health policies.
Kennedy had been nominated by the Civic Appointments Committee (CAC) on March 26, after TCDSB Chair Mike Del Grande wrote a letter to the CAC, daring to protest the fact that the only seat on the Board of Health which is reserved for a school board representative has been filled with a public school trustee for 13 years straight. Del Grande had said: “this ongoing lack of representation on the Board of Health is an enormous disservice to this large constituency.” He also said of Kennedy: "I would ask that you support her nomination without prejudice."
Seems like a simple enough request. And the CAC did see Mr. Del Grande's point, so they tried half-heartedly to make things right. They did nominate Ms. Kennedy, as Mr. Del Grande had asked.
But many of the Councillors went home feeling sick about it. After all, how can any nice, tolerant, fair, open-minded, secular liberal appoint to a position of power a person like Angela Kennedy, a person who "has voted against homosexual-activist clubs being permitted in schools, opposed HPV vaccinations in schools, and self-identifies as Pro Life"?
In the end, the councillors just couldn't go through with it. And so, on March 31st, Toronto City Council met again and on a motion by Coun. Joe Mihevc, Chair of the Board of Health, they voted 20-17 to erase Ms. Kennedy's name from the nomination. Her replacement: yet another secular trustee from the public school board.
To deny same-sex marriage is racist
The city councillors who voted against Kennedy didn't even try to find any other respectable reason for it: they freely admitted that she had been rejected for her personal beliefs.
Coun. Joe Mihevic felt completely at ease to ground his rejection of Ms. Kennedy in her "'consistent' opposition to gay-straight alliances" and further explained: "Would we allow that as a society if it was black-white alliances? That’s what human rights are about and those perspectives in a public health context just won’t work.”
Coun. Paula Fletcher used very similar language: “These are actually human rights issues, the right for gays and lesbians to lead an equal life in the city of Toronto”.
This is huge.
More and more, the analogy to racism is freely being used to describe Christian beliefs on marriage and sexuality. It is becoming widely accepted wisdom that people whose religion teaches that same-sex marriage is wrong are the modern equivalent of racists.
Just last year, we saw this in the case of Trinity Western University, where three provincial law societies decided it was in the interests of public justice to prevent TWU law graduates from being admitted to the bar, solely because they had made clear their opposition to same-sex marriage by voluntarily signing a campus covenant to that effect.
In the debate over TWU by the B.C. Law Society, several Benchers compared traditional Christian beliefs on marriage to racism. For instance, one Bencher asked “whether we would have the same debate over discrimination against other equity-seeking groups, like women, people with disabilities or racial minorities.” Another Bencher put it this way:
“I remember that in the 1960s some people in the deep south of the United States were made to feel unwelcome at lunch counters, at the fronts of buses and, indeed, in some universities…TWU’s community covenant is an anachronism, a throwback that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1960s.”Remember, these Benchers are the cream of the crop, wealthy lawyers who hold influential positions in our society. Their extreme hostility to TWU should have been a wake-up call to a whole new Canada. They were the harbingers of a society ever more Jacobin, blinded by the tempting delusion of its moral superiority, fiercely intolerant of Christian beliefs, and willing to ruthlessly suppress and oppress in order to pummel through its own delirious convictions.
Waking up to a new Canada
Indeed, that militantly secular new Canada is already here. This week, Toronto city councillors said essentially the same thing as those fancy legal eagles. Only, this time it isn't about Evangelical Protestant law graduates, it is about a trustee who happens to adhere to the Catholic teachings on marriage.
The reasoning of the city councillors and the law societies is identical, and goes like this: Those who oppose same-sex marriage are opposed to human rights, just like racists were opposed to racial equality. Therefore, their opinions are not worthy of tolerance or respect. Such people can be - in fact, should be - kept out of workplaces and positions of influence.
Trinity Western University is suing the law societies, and the cases will probably wind their way up to the Supreme Court. Trustee Angela Kennedy is contemplating an appeal to a human rights tribunal.
But whatever happens in these two cases, the writing is on the wall. It's only going to get tougher for Catholics and Christians here in Canada. If Catholics and Christians are starting to feel like a hunted species, there is a good reason for it. Our Good Friday is here.
The words of a modern prophet
Last May, Princeton Prof. Robert George spoke precisely of this coming persecution of Catholics and other like-minded Christians. In an incredible speech (which I blogged about earlier) that should be remembered through history as truly prophetic, he said the following:
The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over. The days of comfortable Catholicism are past. It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel. A price is demanded and must be paid. There are costs of discipleship — heavy costs, costs that are burdensome and painful to bear.A long Good Friday
Of course, one can still safely identify oneself as a "Catholic," and even be seen going to mass. That is because the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call "political correctness" do not assume that identifying as "Catholic" or going to mass necessarily means that one actually believes what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.
And if one in fact does not believe what the Church teaches, or, for now at least, even if one does believe those teachings but is prepared to be completely silent about them, one is safe — one can still be a comfortable Catholic. In other words, a tame Catholic, a Catholic who is ashamed of the Gospel, or who is willing to act publicly as if he or she were ashamed, is still socially acceptable. But a Catholic who makes it clear that he or she is not ashamed is in for a rough go — he or she must be prepared to take risks and make sacrifices.
...To be a witness to the Gospel today is to make oneself a marked man or woman. It is to expose oneself to scorn and reproach. To unashamedly proclaim the Gospel in its fullness is to place in jeopardy one's security, one's personal aspirations and ambitions, the peace and tranquility one enjoys, one's standing in polite society. One may in consequence of one's public witness be discriminated against and denied educational opportunities and the prestigious credentials they may offer; one may lose valuable opportunities for employment and professional advancement; one may be excluded from worldly recognition and honors of various sorts; one's witness may even cost one treasured friendships. It may produce familial discord and even alienation from family members. Yes, there are costs of discipleship — heavy costs.
...And so, here we are. You see, for us, as for our faithful Evangelical friends, it is now Good Friday. The memory of Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem has faded. Yes, he had been greeted, and not long ago, by throngs of people waving palm branches and shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David." He rode into the Jerusalem of Europe and the Jerusalem of the Americas and was proclaimed Lord and King. But all that is now in the past. Friday has come. The love affair with Jesus and his Gospel and his Church is over. Elite sectors of the cultures of Europe and North America no longer welcome his message. "Away with him," they shout. "Give us Barabbas!"
As I sat at church for yesterday's Good Friday service, I contemplated the crowd assembled there. The church was packed to overflowing, both on the main floor and in the basement, where a live feed had been set up on a large television screen. So many Catholics had come to celebrate this Good Friday, knowing that Easter was just around the corner.
But suppose that someone had come up to the podium and told the assembled crowd the following:
"Everyone here is now considered a racist. By your active membership in the Catholic Church, you are excluding yourself from respectable society. You now assume the risk of losing your jobs and getting passed over for promotions. Opportunities will be denied to you in the name of human rights. Your children will be seen as brainwashed and prejudiced, and they may not get into the schools or programs that they want to study. They will be mocked and tormented unless they renounce their moral values. Your Good Friday is here, and no Easter is on the forecast."It's easy to cry "Hosanna" when everyone else is waving those palm branches. But those days are gone. How packed will the Church be in a few years, when it becomes apparent that these are the costs that people must bear for their religious participation?
On March 31st, the Toronto City Councillors held a vote, so reminiscent of the original Good Friday. Angela Kennedy had done no wrong, her only crime was to hold fast to the opinions of the Catholic Church. In disposing of Angela Kennedy, the Councillors might as well have shouted "Give us Barabbas!"
This is a very strange time to witness in modern history.