Declared health emergencies continue across Canada. Enforcement of health regulations violations against churches and church leaders escalate. The result is an increased concern for religious freedom, citizenship rights, civil disobedience, and persecution. Following is a sampling of inexpensive resources that you may find useful to better understand these topics.
I will provide amazon links (functional even if they appear broken) for the benefit of the Kindle look inside feature and availability in multiple formats, however the books suggested are often less expensive from another source. The e-resources recommended are accessible or downloadable for free.
The books recommended are well footnoted for those who find a point they wish to explore further. There are many more resources out there than you’ll find here, but this will provide a useful start on each topic for anyone with an interest.
Religious Freedom in Canada
My book Under Siege: Religious Freedom and the Church in Canada at 150 (1867–2017) is one of the least expensive and comprehensive texts on the subject of religious freedom in Canada. Written as a resource book for pastors, pew sitters, and lawyers, it is written in three parts. First, a setting of the context by a walk through the history surrounding development of the contemporary understanding of religious freedom and how Canadian courts interpret it. Second, a review of significant court decisions vital to defining parameters for religious freedom in Canada. Third, a consideration of how to apply our freedom in a biblical manner to engage with culture, including a statistical overview of the Church in Canada.
For those with more of an academic bent, and willing to spend slightly more for a still inexpensive book, you will wish to consider Janet Epp Buckingham’s Fighting Over God: A Legal and Political History of Religious Freedom in Canada. This book walks through the history and law with a topical breakdown into areas of interest: development of legal protection for religious freedom; education; broadcasting; religious expression; employment; religious practices; family life; religious institutions.
If you’re interested in a helpful free resource, Cardus has produced a downloadable report called An Institutional History of Religious Freedom in Canada.
Christian citizenship is foundationally rooted in the Bible and differently experienced based on nationality.
The third section of my book Under Siege has commentary on the issue of Christian citizenship. That theme is expanded to book length in Church in Society: First-Century Citizenship Lessons for Twenty-First-Century Christians. Church in Society is a primer for understanding the nature of the Church―people of the Word, many parts of one Body, persecution, and biblical use of citizenship to advance the Gospel―combined with practical application of biblical principles in relationships with society: the state; in business, politics, and through our use of media; and, generally with our neighbours. The book includes a look at the life of Paul, the only New Testament author known to have had Roman citizenship, and his exercise of citizenship for the sake of the Gospel.
For those desiring a deeper academic exploration on the topic, consider two books by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. In Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World, Stackhouse gives an overview of the writings of some of the twentieth century’s key authors on the topic of the relationship between the Christian and our fellow citizens. After reviewing themes developed by Richard Niebuhr, C.S. Lewis, Reihnold Niebuhr and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Stackhouse shares his own thoughts on living out Christian vocation in the real world. His follow-up book, Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World,explores the concepts of: shalom (the flourishing of all things); being the Church by making disciples; and, sharing our faith in our public life.
Free resources include: The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Being a Faithful Christian, Being a Good Citizen; and, the Association for Reformed Political Action’s Christian Citizenship Guide: Christianity and Canadian Political Life, a downloadable short book by Michael Wagner.
Both Under Siege and Church in Society have sections that address civil disobedience, including a series of questions to help the Church assess if engagement in civil disobedience is appropriate. In Under Siege you’ll find it in ‘Chapter Twenty-One―Freeze, Flight, Fortitude, Infiltrate, or Fight?’. It’s in ‘Chapter Twelve―The Church, Politics’ in Church in Society.
A helpful book that covers the topic in more detail is John H. Redekop’s Politics Under God. From an Anabaptist perspective, Redekop explores: biblical guidelines for church-state relations; God’s requirements for good government; the basis for Christian political involvement; civil disobedience; and, biblical direction on how to pray for government.
For a free resource, Redekop was the author of the background paper on Christians and Civil Disobedience available from The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Additionally, I have provided a portion of my writing on the topic in blog form as Church in Society – Civil Disobedience. And, here’s an on-point piece I wrote for Convivium Magazine, When Covid Constraints Come to Church.
As assertions of potential persecution circulate, it is imperative that Christians accurately state the situation in Canada. Gaining an understanding of persecution, whether rudimentary or theologically explored, will be important for each of us as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
I discuss the patterns and characteristics of persecution briefly in Under Siege, ‘Chapter Twenty―Just the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth’ and a more extensively in Church in Society, ‘Chapter Five―One Body, When One Part Suffers.’
Floyd Brobbel’s Trouble on the Way: Persecution in the Christian Life is an inviting read that weaves testimonies of people who have experienced persecution together into the story of a single fictional character, opening up understanding of the effects on the Christian soul of ridiculing words and discrimination as much as physical beatings, torture and imprisonment as persecution against his Christian faith develops in his community. (The Amazon look inside feature for the Kindle version may interest you for a preview, which includes “the persecution scale.” The best price for the paperback is at Voice of the Martyrs Canada, linked above.)
For an academic deep dive into the topic of religious persecution you will want to get a copy of Glenn Penner’s In the Shadow of the Cross: A Biblical Theology of Persecution and Discipleship, available from Voice of the Martyrs Canada. I am not aware of a comparable consideration of both the Old and New Testaments for understanding of human rights, suffering, and following Jesus the Messiah/Christ through persecution.
A helpful free resource on persecution of Christians is the Open Doors World Watch List, which is downloadable.
As I noted early on, there are more resources out there. The above are inexpensive and ought to whet your appetite.