Hot off the press! Introducing ARPA’s new Christian Citizenship Guide
I am thrilled to share ARPA Canada’s latest publication, the second edition of A Christian Citizenship Guide. It’s now available, and for a suggested donation of $20, we will ship a copy to you. Just fill out this form here.
Overhauling and updating the Guide was a huge project for the ARPA Canada team this year. The original publication, written in 2008 and published in 2011, consisted of four chapters. We wanted to update those chapters and expand the book by adding more constitutional history, develop a more fulsome legal analysis on human rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and also rework the book to be as readable as possible for our supporters. We also wanted to improve the font and layout to make the book look professional and polished. Many thanks to Chelsea Huebert (Third Floor Design Studio) for the beautiful cover design and the well-designed layout, including the various images and helpful graphs that accompany the text.
This was a team project. Many hands, they say, make light work. When those many hands are skilled and encouraging and when they belong to people who love to serve for the glory of God, then many hands make work not only light, but a joy and privilege. So, while I had the privilege to do the bulk of the research and drafting of the update, the finished product is so much better because of the help and support of others. Michael Wagner was a gracious encourager throughout the editing process and allowed me to not only add new chapters to the book (chapter 2 on Canada’s constitutional heritage chapter 6 on sphere sovereignty are entirely new), he also allowed me – again, very graciously – to remove some of his earlier work to make room for some new content. Thank you, Michael!
My colleagues at ARPA Canada allowed me to lock myself away from time to time this year to focus on this project. Theresa Wynia coordinated my schedule to make sure I met (most) deadlines and shepherded the book through to publication, including completing a copy edit before print. Anna Nienhuis served as editor on this entire project, completing careful edits after each chapter was drafted and then two other edits on the full manuscript. Daniel Zekveld reviewed not only the text but provided helpful assistance on the footnotes. Levi Minderhoud and Ryan Mans reviewed the entire manuscript and offered very helpful feedback on a very tight timeline. Mike Schouten also reviewed the script to ensure I wasn’t writing any heresy. Various board members also took the time to read the manuscript and offer helpful feedback. And beyond the ARPA team, the project benefited from aggressive edits by former colleague John Sikkema, who engaged with chapter 4 on the Charter and 5 on human rights . And my friend Andrew Vanderveen fastidiously examined the print copy for any grammar issues and for consistency errors in layout and formatting. Each of their revisions made the text more readable and the content more polished. Any errors or failures that remain are entirely mine.
I want to end by thanking my dear wife Karyn and my children Gabriel, Jazmine, and Malachi for their grace and patience as they allowed daddy to sleep at the office more than a couple nights to see this project through. Not seeing your dad at dinner time or bed time or on Saturdays is a type of sacrifice and should not be forgotten or overlooked. So, thank you Karyn and kids for your patience.
My hope and desire is to see many more Christians engaged in politics in order to improve this nation. When we pray that God’s will be done here on earth as it is done in heaven, it must include the political realm. And when Christians do engage in the public square for God’s glory, for the advancement of His kingdom, for the benefit of His church, and for to the good of this nation we call our temporary home, Canada will be better for it. Perhaps with the help of this book, you too might be equipped to contribute to a better Canada.
An Introduction to A Christian Citizenship Guide
What follows is a video discussion between the co-authors André Schutten and Michael Wagner, introducing the book to you, our supporters and readers. You can watch the video or read the transcript below.
André Schutten: So, I’m so pleased to be able to engage in a conversation with Dr. Michael Wagner about the new project that we’ve worked on together over the past year and that is the reissuing of the second edition of A Christian Citizenship Guide. It’s ARPA’s latest publication, a 256-page book on Christian citizenship specifically for Canada. So glad that we can chat about it together. Thanks so much for coming into Ottawa in order to have that conversation. Maybe let’s start with why a Christian citizenship guide?
Michael Wagner: Well, I think that Christians need to understand the political system from a specifically Christian perspective. I mean there’s lots of books out there about Canadian politics and how to participate in it but Christianity has its own worldview and so it has its own way of viewing government and politics and how to engage in politics and government. So we wanted a book that would instruct Christians about how to look at politics from a Christian perspective.
AS: The first edition had four chapters: we covered Canadian history, we covered the Charter of Rights, we covered human rights – particularly human rights commissions and human rights tribunals which was a really big issue in 2008 to 2010 – and then we also covered in the final chapter, how do you get involved as a Christian in politics. So, we’ve built on that, we’ve expanded on that and we’ve added a longer history chapter to understand how did we get the government we’ve got. We actually go back 800 years, and we look at the Magna Carta at the time of Robin Hood and we work at all the way up to today how do we get the government that we have. And when we understand that history, I’m hoping that those who read this book understand why it’s so important not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to also value the institutions that we have in place in the roles that they play in government as checks and balances on tyranny, on certain players or certain institutions taking over the role of other institutions.
MW: I mean it also shows the importance of Christianity in the development of individual rights and human rights as we know them today because that’s kind of what that history is. As the people struggle against absolute tyranny and then they need to reduce the power and scope of government that’s all about giving people more liberties, more freedoms in their own lives to live where they’re not under subjection to particular government. And that was in many respects, many of the historical instances, it’s motivated specifically by Christianity driving people to be involved.
AS: Another thing we expanded was we took the original chapter that was on the Charter and on human rights and we split it into two. So, we did a whole chapter on the Charter and we did another chapter on human rights. In the chapter on the Charter, we looked at the good and the bad, like there’s some bad that came with the charter in 1982. But the Charter just didn’t come out of nothing. It didn’t just appear out of the mind of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He’s actually borrowing from, some of his ideas anyway are borrowed from, Christianity from ideas that have come out of Scripture. So even things like equality before the law, equality under the law, you can see scriptural precedence for that. Or even like a lot of the legal rights about due process and careful examination of witnesses and so on, that’s embedded in Scripture. People pick up the book of Deuteronomy, they’ll see it there if they have eyes to see.
MW: The idea that Pierre Trudeau had about having a Charter of Rights, that certainly is in continuity with the western tradition, that comes out of Christian ideas of having a constitutional limitation on government. So, in that sense Trudeau was working within a kind of Christian general framework of developing constitutionalism by having a document that would limit [government infringements of] rights and freedoms. But he was already in the stages of having a different worldview than Christianity. So, although he was starting with that kind of basic Christian idea – that’s where it started from – he kind of started taking a different direction. And so, the Charter doesn’t continue the Christian tradition in the way that it should have. It starts to introduce new basic worldview ideas different from Christianity, using a Christian idea and taking it in a different direction which is why in many instances the Charter of Rights has led to outcomes that Christians cannot support or be favorable about.
AS: Take abortion – although abortion was first legalized by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – but greatly expanded by the Supreme Court, euthanasia was legalized by the Supreme Court, prostitution was nearly legalized by the Supreme Court, safe injection sites were legalized by the Supreme Court, a lot of policy work has been done by the Supreme Court of Canada under the Charter. And actually, one of the biggest, biggest cases that we talk about in the book is the Big M Drug Mart case, the first religious freedom case done by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1985. And what they did there is that they said, well, freedom of religion includes freedom from religion and therefore struck down the idea that any law could ever be passed that has any sort of explicit or overt Christian basis for it, and because I think they bought the idea that that somehow secularism or secular humanism is somehow more neutral. But, of course, secular humanists are just as religious as Christians are. And, of course, when we look at Canada’s history, we don’t glorify the past in the sense as if you say, ‘If only we were exactly like we were in 1867 then all would be well!’ Because we do point out some of the flaws back then as well and we talk about, for example, the residential schools as one of the case studies that we work through in the sixth chapter where we show how the government had – even if there were professing Christians within the government – too many of them had a flawed view of the role of the state verses the role of the family and the place that the church played in that particular episode of our history. And so, we talked through that I think in a nuanced way – a lot of the nuance that we talk about is missed in the mainstream narrative about residential schools – but I think our readers that if they pick up the book and they give it a read they might find that section actually quite interesting.
MW: Yeah, I think that’s really important, though, that we are not glorifying Canada’s Christian past. I like to talk about Canada’s Christian past and how important it is and it’s there and people need to understand it but I’m not saying that that was a better time, we’re not saying that there was a golden age of Canadian history that we want to return to. But we can see what was there and we can actually learn from history. We can see what they did wrong, like with the residential schools, and we can do better in the future starting with the same Christian worldview, seeing the mistakes that were made by the Christians in the past and making sure we don’t repeat those mistakes so the future can actually be better than the past.
AS: I think another really interesting theme that struck me as the book was being developed in this second stage or in the second edition was the idea of the Imago Dei and how often that came up. It came up in the human rights chapter, which is chapter 5, where we talk about a foundation or maybe even the foundation of human rights from a Christian or biblical perspective is this idea of Imago Dei, that you and me and every human being is made in the image of God. We get that straight out of Genesis 1 and 2, and that by that very fact, because every human being – Christian or not – is made in the image of God, they are therefore deserving of respect, they have inherent dignity, and that law must protect them in their life, in their liberty, in their property. And so that concept of Imago Dei makes sense right there in the human rights chapter but then it appears again in chapter 6 when we talk about not just sphere sovereignty, but we also talk about the idea of office. And then it reappears again, the concept of Imago Dei reappears again in the final, the seventh chapter about being engaged in politics as Christian citizens.
MW: Everybody is born into a family and as result of their position in the family has certain duties and responsibilities. Everybody’s also born into a political society and as a result of their birth into that political society they have certain duties and responsibilities there.
AS: What would distinguish Christians as citizens from other citizens? Is there something that’s unique about Christian engagement in politics? And when I think about that, I think there’s probably a lot of Christians who think, ‘Well the realm of citizenship, the realm of politics, it’s a neutral realm. It’s a part of the secular realm. So really, you know, Christians should be engaging just like any other Canadian. In fact, if we’re sticking out too much, then maybe we’re doing a disservice to Christianity.’
MW: Politics and government is about making laws and laws always say something is right and something is wrong. So, there is an ethical basis to every single law, every single policy that’s ever done. And that ethical basis cannot be neutral. There’s no such thing as a neutral ethical basis. It’s either from one perspective or another. So, if a law is not based on a Christian worldview, it’s based on a non-Christian worldview. So, anything that happens in law and politics is based on particular worldview. There is no neutrality. I mean, just ask yourself: ‘What is the neutral position on abortion? Is the neutral position to allow the babies to be killed or is the neutral position to prevent the babies from being killed?’ So, we’ve got to make sure that our minds and our thoughts line up with God’s thoughts on particular issues. So, we need to participate as Christians and not as some kind of a neutral citizen because that is absolutely impossible.
AS: The thing that Christians are striving for in political engagement is not self-interest but what is good for the public good, what is good for everyone in society. And so, does that come out of our own Christian worldview? Yes. But that’s because we have access to the Truth with a big capital T and we know that the Christian perspective, that the biblical perspective will be for the public good when it comes to the big questions of politics. Our approach is also seeing an elected representative as being an office bearer under God with responsibility to God for their office whether they recognize it or not but then being there to assist them. Say, ‘I know a better way, not because I’m so smart but because I have access to the Truth. And would you consider please supporting this better way on an issue like abortion or euthanasia?’ I think the how is different as well, that we not resort to fear mongering or that sort of thing but we engage confident in who our Lord, who the King is, and then out of that confidence try to engage our civic leaders and the rest of society to see the truth and to see the goodness and beauty of the Christian way of doing politics.
MW: There’s no reason for us to be angry at our politicians. Even though they’re doing bad things and we don’t like what they’re doing – I mean objectively some of the things are doing is evil – it doesn’t do any good to call them names, to yell at them, to participate in that kind of way. We still need to approach them meekly and humbly and tell them the truth.
AS: My hope is that many, many Christians pick up this book. You mentioned at the beginning of our conversation, this is a unique book. There’s nothing like it in Canada. It is unique to Canadians who are Christians, and it’s unique about civic engagement, about political action and engagement. So, any Christian who picks up this book should be able to not only read a little bit of history, read a little bit and learn a little bit about how Canada’s governments work, but then what their role is in all of that, all of course from a Christian lens. So, my hope anyway is that many, many Christians from across this country, from across denominations, federations, traditions would pick up this book, give it a read and be inspired by the words in there to get involved.