Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 30, 2003
O Canada, we pray for thee
Canada Day is typically a day of fireworks and flag-waving - a day of celebration. We should celebrate our country. We should celebrate its peacefulness, its freedom, its high standard of living, its acceptance of people of every race and creed, and much, much more. Despite its flaws, Canada is a good country. It's also our home, our family, and, like any family, it deserves our loyalty.
But Canada Day should also be a day that we look to the future. All the hoopla is mere superficial gloss if Canada Day does not also provide an occasion for self-examination.
And one thing that ought to concern us as a people is the ebbing away of our democratic spirit. The "democratic deficit" has been a term to refer to the centralization of federal political power in the prime minister's office in recent decades and the drop in the percentage of people who vote in federal elections. It ought also to include the tendency for elected officials to abandon the setting of major social policy to the courts - a vacuum the courts have not shied away from filling.
All these things add up to a lessening of the power of the electorate and an increase in the power of small groups of people - elites, if you must. But this democratic deficit is also tied to a moral or spiritual deficit. It's not that the elites are not as good people as the masses or religiously fervent people or some other group. It's that our higher education system has long been favourable to secular relativism and has rejected, even mocked, the belief that some actions are always morally wrong. The disciples of that relativism are now in the commanding heights of the public intelligentsia - the government, courts, media and education system - and not only make the key decisions, but ensure that like-minded people get the key jobs.
This withering away of moral absolutes cuts away at the nation's bonds of community. If individual freedom is the highest good then there is a lessened sense of responsibility for the common good.
Lower voter turnout has been seen as leading to governments that care less about narrowing the gap between rich and poor. But there is more to it than that. Lower voter turnout is itself a symptom of a people who are less serious about their responsibility for what is common and shared.
So Canada needs political change. More deeply, it needs spiritual and moral regeneration. It needs a heightened sense of responsibility for those who are least among us. Typically, concern for the good of all grows out of a religious faith. It is branded deep in the Christian soul (though not deeply enough) that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is found in those who are marginalized by poverty, disability, imprisonment or other forms of powerlessness.
Unfortunately, things will likely have to get worse before they get better. It is the human tendency not to turn to God until there is some time of tragedy. On the level of a nation, it may take a widespread national calamity brought on by rampant individualism before the nation turns its heart back to God and again sees the importance of the common good.
Before then, it is entirely possible that Christians will face outright persecution for publicly proclaiming our faith. When we proclaim that society should respect moral absolutes we may be charged with spreading hatred by those who refuse to pay heed to those absolutes. When we condemn the wars and other violent practices of a military-industrial complex that puts its own wealth and power before all else, we may be condemned for undermining "economic growth."
Maybe such persecution will not take place. Maybe Canada will look to the future and see the dissolute direction in which it is headed. Maybe it will "repent and believe the Gospel," as we say every Ash Wednesday.
All we can do is offer the hope of change to society and reform our own lives so that our example will testify to the joy of living for something greater than oneself.
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