“For people who don’t know, they don’t know that they don’t know what they don’t know.” My pastor said this on Sunday. I know he will appreciate that it’s not the only thing I remember from his message. But that sentence stood out because of some recent commentary I’ve read online from Canadian Christian leaders.
There have been some seriously off-the-mark statements made about the state of religious freedom in Canada, the federal government, a few provincial governments, and the response “demanded” of Christians.
Please consider the following as measured advice; my understanding of what is demanded of us.
First, the response demanded of Christians begins with prayer. There’s no way around it. Jesus said it. Peter repeated it. Paul wrote about it. Luke recorded it in both of his books. Here’s a concise summary written by James:
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. (James 5:13 NIV)
Start with prayer.
Pray for understanding. Pray for government leaders. Pray for the God of all creation to intervene. Pray to know what God wants you or me to do, if anything, in addition to prayer.
The second response demanded of Christians is to conform our behaviour, including our comments, to the pattern found in Scripture. As Henri Nouwen wrote in his book In the Name of Jesus:
Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice and guidance.
Prayer and biblical insight go hand-in-hand.
Drawing from Nouwen’s first sentence above, the third response demanded of Christians is to “have well-informed opinions.” There’s a lot of stuff circulating on the internet, and sometimes we post things on social media that we think are (or maybe just might be) true, but we don’t really know. If we don’t know, it’s probably best not to post. Even if we saw it in a trusted friend’s tweet, if we don’t know and have confidence in the reliability of the initial source, we actually don’t know, and it’s best not to post, retweet or quote tweet.
What I have read online suggests there are drastic misperceptions about the Canadian situation. They are being widely shared by a number of leaders in the Canadian Church. Among those misperceptions are misunderstandings (and thus, misstatements) about the extent of our religious freedom in Canada. As stated in Under Siege: Religious Freedom and the Church in Canada at 150 (1867–2017):
… we need to be prepared in our relationship with Christ, and the nation in which we live, to stand publicly in our faith as witnesses to Him whom we live for. One key to that preparation is engaging fully our commitment to Christ, His Church, and His Word (the Bible). Another is being accurately aware of how Canadian courts are defining what the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms refers to as the “fundamental freedom” of freedom of religion.
One of the many things I appreciate about my pastor is the knowledgeable simplicity of his biblical teaching. Some preachers complicate the understanding of Scripture. My pastor makes it straightforward and down-to-earth. Of course, with understanding comes the challenge of meaningful and genuine life application. He explains that simply, too.
That’s the manner in which I wrote Under Siege. As someone who has been a pastor and focused on constitutional freedom of religion as a lawyer, the book is written for pastors and pew-sitters, all of us Christ-followers together. The uniquely Canadian context is established through a brief look at relevant history, a little political insight, and key decisions of Canadian courts on Canadian religious freedom. The application of that content to our current situation is then set in the framework of Scripture and contemporary culture.
As I cringed my way through some of the last month and a bit’s commentary on the church-state relationship in Canada, what repeatedly came to mind were various chapters and thoughts in Under Siege that would have been helpful to those authors, whether writing 140 characters, 140 words or more.
As awkward as I find it to recommend my own book, it would be more awkward if I didn’t trust that I could.
I know a journalist who keeps Under Siege by his desk as a reference book. A lawyer informed me that he gained an appreciation of the overarching context for religious freedom that he had not previously grasped. A pastor who moved to Canada from Nigeria suggested the book should be required reading in Canadian seminaries and for immigrating pastors. One amazon reviewer noted the book is written “in a way that makes the subject easy to understand and fascinating.”
You can assess for yourself. Take a look inside the Kindle edition at amazon.ca. If you’re looking for paperback, there are fewer than 140 of the special Canada 150 logo edition covers left in stock at donhutchinson.ca. There may also be some left at Chapters/Indigo and local Christian booksellers. These were produced under limited license from the federal Department of Canadian Heritage. The second printing does not have the Canada 150 imprint on the cover (although the content is just as good!).
Here’s what my pastor had to say about Under Siege.
In Under Siege Don has written an outstanding resource driven book which outlines not only our religious freedoms in Canada, and how our culture has arrived at this point, but how we might best engage today. Under Siege is recommended reading for all followers of Jesus, not just leaders.
– Jason Boucher, Lead Pastor, Lifecentre, Ottawa
You can read what others have said here. And you can check out some of the media reviews and interviews here. Thank you to those of you who have benefited from securing a copy of Under Siege. Let your friends and colleagues know this book is a useful and timely resource for today’s Canadian Church.
We still may not know what we don’t know. But about this, now you know.