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St. Gianna Molla put it best: “As to the past, let us entrust it to God’s mercy, the future to divine providence. Our task is to live holy in the present moment.” Photo by Vincepal (Flickr CC)

Persecution and the Canadian Church

“Our task is to live holy in the present moment.”

Some say evangelical communities in Canada are being persecuted. However, this not only mocks the actual persecution of many Christians around the world, but also pushes otherwise sympathetic people away from our concerns, and, frankly, makes us look ridiculous. The gospel is offensive enough on its own; we don’t need to help it along by behaving foolishly ourselves.

But does that mean the discomfort many of us now experience is based on imaginary events? Certainly not.

In his book An Anxious Age, the American public intellectual Joseph Bottum accounts for the current cultural climate in the United States, though with obvious parallels to Canada for readers north of the border. Bottum argues that those who set the cultural agenda are re-shaping institutions according to their moral convictions—as, in fact, they have always done.

What marks them out from previous generations is not their “post-Christian” cultural vision but the evangelical zeal with which they pursue it. Provocatively, Bottum names this group the “elect,” highlighting that in demeanour, if not in religious content, the new culture shapers are very much like their Puritan ancestors.

Francis Fukuyama, the American political scientist, has coined the term “Megalothymia,” (the compulsive need to feel morally superior to others) to label the mindset that underlies the activism. The “elect” must not only be right; they must be seen to be right. As a result, those groups or individuals perceived to be out of step are not merely as mistaken, but morally suspect as well: objects first of pity, then scorn, and finally, sanction “soft discrimination,” if you will.

If Bottum and Fukuyama can help the Canadian evangelical community to get a sense of what is going on, how should we respond? I’d like to suggest a two-step approach.

First imagine the worst possible future and trust in God anyway.

Here’s how Francis Cardinal George of Chicago described such a future in 2010: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” The quote has been making the rounds following George’s death on April 17.

The Cardinal’s point was not that events will unfold this way, but that if they do, the Church will still be present, seasoning society with the gospel. Why? Because it’s Jesus’ Church. Cardinal George makes me wonder how much of our rhetoric reveals fear for the future. How much of that fear reflects a lack of trust in God? Can we not trust, that even if the worst possible future comes to pass, God will care for His own? No matter the future, that future belongs to God.

Second, take note of the present and live faithfully and fully in it.

St. Gianna Molla put it best: “As to the past, let us entrust it to God’s mercy, the future to divine providence. Our task is to live holy in the present moment.” I understand her to say, there is no point pining for past privilege, even as there is no value in worrying for a future that belongs to God. To pine and to fret are distractions from the mission of holy living here and now. They are, in short, sins.

And if in some dystopian future whether near or far, we are called to suffer (as so many of our brothers and sisters outside North America have been and are now) hopefully, we’ll rejoice that we will have been counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:41). Until that day…

Tim Perry is rector at Church of the Epiphany in Sudbury, Ontario. He blogs about theology, religion, politics and sometimes the blues at texasflood.ca.

 

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Tim Perry is rector at Church of the Epiphany in Sudbury, Ontario. He blogs about theology, religion, politics and sometimes the blues at texasflood.ca.

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  • ice

    Of course the experience of Christians in Canada is far different than the actual persecution occurring in many countries. That does not mean that the issues surrounding Trinity Westerns law school; or issues of communities not accepting conventions of people who hold a conservative view of marriage are not real. The suggestions in the article are good but we out not to be blind to issues that make Biblical Christianity a tougher road now than in the past.

  • Jonathan Kotyk

    With the continuous growth in depravity our society is seeing, soon being Christian will by looked at as being no different from being KKK or a Nazi, with the Bible on par with Mein Kampf. Already we are seeing things like laws banning conversion therapy, in Western nations we have seen preachers arrested for quoting the Bible and charged with hate speech, we are seeing sharia enforcement zones springing up where Christianity is forbidden. And this is taking place in European countries.

    And the reason for this is simple, we as Christians do not stand up to evil anymore. We collectively think that loving ones neighbor means accepting their perverse behaviour. Instead of rebuking people, we do nothing or make excuses as to why Jesus wold not rebuke them. It is like we have no moral backbone anymore, we make excuses, we turn a blind eye, we bite our tongue when we know we should speak up, we even give into political correctness and incorporate sinful behaviour into the church.

    What we lack is strong leadership, we lack leaders who understand what is going on, why it is happening and who is behind it and how they are achieving it. Our leaders are oblivious to current events and never speak out on them in the way that is required. Why? Either they don’t care, don’t know what is going on, are lazy, are cowards or care more about protecting their tax exempt status and so do not get involved in politics. Their total inaction brings shame upon them, the church and prevents Jesus from living n the midst of all society. Our leaders are in dereliction of duty and need to start protecting the sheep, they way Jesus commanded any who loves Him and would be leaders in the Church.
    John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
    The leaders of the church are called to look after the sheep, even at the cost of their own life, something very, very few are willing to do. Most aren’t willing to risk losing anything. And that hypocrisy is killing the church, which no longer stands for anything, or speaks with any authority.

    So to all the leaders in the church I rebuke you in the name of Jesus Christ and tell you now, get your act together right now and start using your positions to rebuke this sinful and depraved society.