One of the most reported suggestions in the recent Bouchard-Taylor report on reasonable accommodation was to remove the crucifix from the National Assembly in Quebec City. Their basic approach and idea is that all cultures and religions are basically equal and if we simply understand and respect this we'll all be able to get along in this province. The suggestion to remove the crucifix from the room where the government does business to another more "historic" place in the building would show that here in Quebec we don't "favor" one religion over an other. Premier Charest got it partly right when he refused to consider this idea saying that the crucifix represented 350 years of Quebec history and it was staying right where it was.
I say he got it partly right because he is correct to say that Quebec (and Canada's) history is bound up with the Christian religion in the form of Roman Catholicism. Catholic missionaries, churches, hospitals, schools, and social services were here 400 years ago along with the first explorers. So he is correct in saying that the Christian religion is bound up with the history of this nation and to remove the crucifix would be an act denying the very history of Quebec. Of course his argument is not complete because if he were to follow through and make the entire case for Christianity, he would be condemned and chased out of office in a week. You see, there are two arguments for keeping symbols of Christianity in plain view in this country:
1. The first is what Mr. Charest said, that it is undeniably an important part of our history and culture. For the Premiere this was a safe, popular, and patriotic thing to say and do. This was strictly politics and a smart and safe thing to do.
2. The second argument is that Christianity, as a religions system, is superior to others. In other words, not all religions are equal and of all the religions, Christianity is the best. This, of course, would have landed like a bomb if he would have said it.
Now I don't know if Mr. Charest believes this or not but when the crucifix was originally put up in the National Assembly by Maurice Duplessis in the 50's - most people in Quebec believed not only in the historical prominence of their religion, they also accepted that it was the religion of the true God.
What's surprising to me is not that sociologists and philosophers like Bouchard and Taylor believe in the equality of all religions - but that even many Christians buy into this fallacy also. Well, not all religions are equal and I'd like to give you a few reasons to believe that Christianity is well and beyond any religious system that exists in this province or the world.
Of course this view doesn't promote reasonable accommodation or easy relationships with non Christians but Jesus said that He didn't come to bring peace and safety between men but a "sword". He said, "I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household." Mt. 10:35-36
If Jesus said that division in one's own home and family would occur over belief in Him - imagine what would happen in society? Reasonable accommodation is the world's way of reconciling different cultures and different religions. It's the world's way of stripping away any differences between us and neutralizing religious power and zeal. If all religions are the same, then none have real value, including Christianity.
What they don't realize is that it is Christianity that has made this country what it is and reducing its influence by making it equal to all others will eventually lead to the ruin of the country. People from non Christian countries come here from all over the world to share in the advantages of this nation but don't realize that it's Christianity that has given this country its greatness, not Islam/Hinduism/Buddhism/Atheism/etc.
Even the ideas of tolerance, accommodation, fairness, hospitality to strangers all come from the Judeo-Christian heritage that built this country. Ever notice that there are not too many people trying to emigrate to Iran, Russia, Libya, Cuba, etc.
What I'm saying is that when we compare religions we see that some are better, more positively productive than others - and of these, Christianity scores the highest.We need to know this and know why this is true. This morning I'd like to give you 3 historical reasons why.
Three ways that Christianity has provided a better social foundation than other religions.
In his book, "What's so great about Christianity," author Dinesh D'Souza reviews how Christianity provided the basis for what is best in Western civilization. He mentions three areas where Christianity has been responsible for the advancement of society for the better throughout history:
1. Areas of Science
The greatest breakthroughs in science came about because of Christian base concepts. His point is that Christians were the first to envision the universe as following laws that reflected the rationality of God the Creator. These thinkers reasoned that these laws were accessible to man because man is created in the image of God and shares in that spark of divine reason.
The first universities and research establishments were started and sponsored by Christian churches for this reason. In other words, because Christians believed in an intelligent God who created the universe and blessed man with knowledge and the ability to reason - they set about by faith to de-code and discover what had been created.
The greatest scientists in the west (who are responsible for the greatest discoveries) from Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo to Pasteur, Mendel, and Lemaitre were Christians. Even the head of the human Genome project, Francis Collins, who led the team that mapped out the entire human DNA (some say the greatest feat of modern science) is a devout Christian.
2. Social Justice
The preciousness and equal worth of every human life is a Christian idea. Because we are created in the image of God, we are all equally valuable to God and society. The Greeks and Romans had no such notions in their societies which were built on slavery and conquest. Although Christianity tolerated slavery as a social evil at first - it was through the efforts of Christians that modern slavery was abolished in the West.
It continues to exist and flourish in non-Christian countries. Add to this the concepts of caring for the poor, aged, orphaned, widows, handicapped. These ideas grew out of Christianity's teachings to love neighbor as self and to forgive enemies. The benevolence work of Christian churches was the forerunner of all government social service programs of today.Until Christianity the weak and poor were enslaved not cared for and the sick and orphaned left to die.
3. Human Rights Laws
The modern notion of human rights:
- The right to freedom of conscience
- To own property
- To marry
- To be treated equally before the law
These and other notions enshrined in many Western nations' Bill of Human Rights/Human Rights Declarations are all based on the teachings of Christianity. The premise is that all human life has equal dignity because it's created in the image of God and all will be judged by God's word.
Some religions have some of these ideas but Christianity was the first to present these ideas in their fullness. Of course many religions don't have these ideas and the nations where they exist have societies that are repressed and without much freedom. I could go on and give you other reasons why Christianity is not just another religion - why it is not equal to others but better, for example:
- The fact that it has a better system of revelation contained in the Bible. Access to God's word.
- The fact that its leader and principle teacher is God Himself in the form of Jesus proven divine by His resurrection.
- The fact that the method that Christianity offers to save man from death and condemnation is far, far superior than any other concept in any religion or philosophy.
- Or the fact that the promises made to Christians are more valuable and worthy of our devotion than anything else that anyone has or will ever offer.
I could talk about these but you've already heard these arguments on the DVD in the Christianity for Beginners class. So I'll stick to the three basic reasons given by author D'Souza arguing that Christianity has provided a better social foundation to Western civilization than any other religion:
- A theological foundation that encouraged reasonable inquiry as the method to discover the vastness and beauty of God's creation.
- A basis of social consciousness that promoted defense and assistance to the weak and poor based on the Christian virtue of love.
- A framework of social justice that evolved into human rights laws supported by the notion that all were equally valuable before God and should be in society as well.
This is how Christianity was instrumental in establishing the western society we live in. No other religion has done this for our country and no other religion has enabled another nation to accomplish as much to the betterment of its people anywhere else - that's why not all religions are equal - when measured carefully they don't produce the same results!
So when people want to come to Canada, to Quebec - what they really want is not the weather - they want what Christianity has produced here - whether they realize it or not. As a matter of fact, if it wasn't for Christianity there would be no concept of freedom of religion which non Christian immigrants feel so strongly about.
So what's my point here? I'm not denouncing other religions or criticizing the government or even saying we shouldn't welcome immigrants - after all, we're all immigrants, just some arrived before others. I'm saying that what made Canada great is in large part due to its Christian heritage and foundation.
If we remove this foundation to make this a secular country or reduce Christianity to the level of every other religion - you will remove what made this nation what it is and it will cease to be.You can't have a Christian nation by ripping out the Christian foundation upon which it stands!
As a citizen there's not much I can do about this because there are no political leaders who see this. They all want to stay in power and will do what it takes to win votes. Even disengage us from the Christian heritage that made us who we are. As a Christian however there are some things that I can and must do.
1. Must Not Be Ashamed
"I am not ashamed of the gospel..."
- Romans 1:16
We need to stop having an inferiority complex concerning our faith. Peter said that Christ is the only name under heaven by which men can be saved. (Acts 4:12)
We need to become confident and bold in not only declaring that we are Christians - but also encouraging others to believe as well. We have something to offer - the very best actually - eternal life through Jesus Christ - nobody else has this.
2. Must Not Give a Poor Example
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
- I Peter 1:13-16
One thing I admire about Muslim women is their desire to give a good example as far as dress and conduct is concerned. I don't think you'll see a hijab wearing woman rocking out in a night club at 3AM.
I admire Sikh men's commitment to their religions heritage by wearing their turbans and allowing their hair to grow long underneath it (inconvenient). I've never witnessed a Sikh man guzzling a beer and dragging on a smoke on his balcony for all to see.
This is not to say that I agree with their religion - I don't.
But isn't it curious that people who follow lesser religions manage to give a better witness for their faith than many Christians do for a religion that promises so much more? Many don't believe in Christ or His power because of the weak or inconsistent example of His followers. God allowed foreign nations and foreign religions to take over Israel when she became sinful and unspiritual - there's no reason He wouldn't let that happen here as well. If the Christians don't live holy and committed lives, then who will speak for Christ?
- Surely not the government.
- Surely not Bouchard Taylor commission.
- Surely not the hundreds of thousands of non Christians who arrive here from foreign lands every single year.
3. We Must Stand Firm
Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!
- I Peter 5:12
Peter was writing to Christians who were living at a time of persecution, disbelief, wickedness, social immorality. Note that he doesn't say:
- Go march in the street
- Start a revolution
- Attack the government
No, he says to stand firm in the grace of God. Our task is not to eliminate evil, disbelief, or other religions. Our task is to stand firm/be steady/don't be moved. God is in control/God will preserve and save us if we do. And today in our generation in our lives this is where we stand firm.
We're not responsible for China or Europe, or the USA. Not even Canada or all of Montreal - just this place right here. This is where we must stand firm.
- Stand firm in our worship to the Lord
- Stand firm in our service
- Stand firm in our Holy living as a witness of our faith
The Muslims or Hindus or even Atheists in other countries may not be influenced by us - but those who live in Ville-Émard will, and the disbelievers in Verdun and the West Island will - if we stand firm in our faith. It begins and ends here for us.
The life and growth and effect of this congregation is the witness to our community that Christianity is not just another religion but as Paul says, "...the power of God for all those who believe." God bless you in Jesus' name.